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Home of first night pro baseball game may be torn down - KOAM TV 7

Home of first night pro baseball game may be torn down

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A southeast Kansas baseball stadium with a rich history might soon be torn down and some people aren't too happy about it.

Some residents say the stadium in Independence, Kansas is an important piece in the city's history:  Mickey Mantle played there in 1949 and in 1930 the first night game in professional baseball was played there.

Others residents say it's time to demolish what's left of the stadium to make use of the space.

All that remains of the field are concrete bleachers and it sits in a small corner of the Independence High School football stadium.

Museum president Dan Dollison was a ball boy for the semi-pro team that called the field its home in 1949 and recalls spending time with Mantle.

"First night I saw him play I was in the bleachers, got there that evening," says Dollison.  "I'd ride my bicycle over there and he'd peddle me out to the ball park."

Norman Chambers is a museum board member and he remembers playing ball at the stadium and says he's sad to see it deteriorating.

"The first night professional baseball game and there is only one and when the first one is gone there isn't anything else," says Chambers.  "In my view that's significant enough to at least, explore all options to save it in some form."

"To do what we have to do is going to be extremely expensive, to replace the bathrooms and all, it would be cheaper to knock this down, build bathrooms and concession stands here and then build a room that commemorates such as the fact that, the night baseball game and Mickey Mantle played here and all of those things," says superintendent Chuck Schmidt.  "Right now there is nothing here to tell you that.  All that's here are bleachers that are deteriorating."

Once the city of Independence and the schools raise enough money, the decision of what to do with the field will be made.

But for some, reserving the memories of legendary players, tearing down the existing structure, means taking away an important piece of southeast Kansas history.

"A community's history is very integral to its foundation, it's holistic nature and maybe even some what, its future," says Chambers.

The school district has many plans for the whole stadium in the near future, including making it ADA accessible.

However, if the decision to demolish the historic ball park passes, demolition would start at the end of next football season.

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