Bill calls for preserving old ballparks


Classic ballparks would become national parks if they are ever abandoned by their owners, under legislation introduced yesterday by U.S. Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.)

Citing the need to keep the dwindling number of "great historic baseball parks" from dwindling even further, Bonior introduced a bill in Congress that would allow the government to acquire them to prevent demolition.

His bill mentions four pre-World War II parks -- Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Fenway Park in Boston, Yankee Stadium in New York and Wrigley Field in Chicago.

"I want to preserve these ballparks -- before it's too late," Bonier said during a panel discussion on ballpark design yesterday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. "These ballparks and the legends who played in them helped define our national culture and identity. They are truly national shrines that future generations have a right to inherit.

"There are a lot of warm memories that people have about baseball," Bonior said. "Baseball brings and draws communities together. It draws parents and children together."

Owners of teams in Detroit, New York and Boston have indicated that they would at least consider plans to move their teams to new ballparks, raising questions about the fate of the existing ones. Wrigley Field added lights for night play in 1988, and it is not considered endangered.

Bonior said his bill would set up a commission to run the abandoned ballparks, raise funds for their maintenance and recommend additions to the list.

He envisions benefits such as recreation, concerts, and open space in urban areas.

"People have asked me, 'If we preserve them, will they come?' I believe they will," Bonior said. "I believe people from all over will visit these great edifices."

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