Demolition on deck for Stengel Field

Sometime soon, venerable 65-year-old Stengel Field will be torn down.

Brick will be replaced with aluminum and permanent will give way to temporary.

The Jewel City athletic institution, built in 1949 and named in honor of legendary New York Yankees skipper and Glendale resident Casey Stengel, will have all but the field stripped away.

That much is certain.

When exactly the stadium will be rebuilt, however, remains a mystery.

The Glendale City Council approved the stadium's demolition at a council meeting Oct. 22, 2013 and will pick up the $450,000 tab for the work, which is slated to happen over the next few months, although the latest reports might put the final council decision back until October.

While the field will remain, both locker rooms, restrooms, showers and offices along with the bleachers, concession stand and equipment storage room will be dismantled.

"We are working on the schedule and it will be a little later," Jess Duran, Glendale Director of Community Services and Parks, said when asked if the demolition would take place in September.

The need to tear down Stengel Field was due to steady water damage that progressively worsened around 2011.

It was at that time that the two main tenants — Crescenta Valley High and Glendale Community College — cleared out their equipment from the locker rooms and storage area.

Two years later, 700 of the approximately 1,000 stadium seats were covered up and deemed unsafe, which left only the first two rows of the stadium available for spectator use.

As for the final baseball action at Stengel Field as it currently stands, it took place Thursday when St. Francis High and Glendale competed in a Connie Mack League game.

"It's been a wonderful privilege to have my teams play here and practice here whether that was Connie Mack or Babe Ruth or whatever," La Crescenta Babe Ruth League president Ralph Tapia said. "I would hope that our teams will get a chance to play back at a brand new Stengel sometime in the future."

Stengel is currently the home of Crescenta Valley and GCC baseball teams, while field access has also been made available to local Little League and Babe Ruth programs.

Up until last year, the Glendale Angelenos summer collegiate baseball team called the field home, as have other teams and players throughout the years.

The good news for the current tenants of Stengel Field is that the playing surface will be available after the demolition, as the city is prepared to install temporary seats.

"The city of Glendale is responsible for the demolition and for the installment of temporary aluminum bleachers," Duran said. "The ball field is very playable and there will be stands for spectators."

While money and planning have been secured for the immediate future of Stengel Field, long-term plans regarding the rebuilding of the stadium are not so clear.

That uncertainty led to speculation that Dr. Deb Rinder, the Glendale Unified School District Senior Director of Secondary Services, found somewhat surprising.

"I want to say that Stengel is here to stay," Rinder said. "Oh my God, I've seen things on Facebook and other places saying the stadium is going to be gone forever and that's simply not true. I was one of the first girls to play Babe Ruth baseball at Stengel. Of course the district wants to keep Stengel.

"Right now, the main goal is to demolish the current seating arrangement and put up temporary bleachers. Once we get there, then there will be some discussion on what will be our next steps."

Part of Rinder's duties as an administrator include overseeing Stengel Field after the city handed administration of Stengel over to the Glendale Unified School District.

The school district approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and itself after both the superintendent and the faculty advisory committee supported the transfer of power on Sept. 17.

The following week, the city council voted, 5-0, with two absentees to agree to hand over the management of Stengel to the school district for a two-year period, beginning Oct. 1, 2013 and ending Sept. 30, 2015.

While the memorandum wrested away scheduling from the parks department to the school district, the city retained its ownership of the facility, while the district was made responsible for all maintenance, operation and management, which includes taking the reins of any renovation project.

"The renovation, the stands and the ultimate funding of the renovation and rebuilding of Stengel is the responsibility of the Glendale Unified School District," said Tom Lorenz, Glendale Public Information Officer and city spokesman. "The city is committed to putting in the aluminum bleachers if that's the desire of the GUSD.

"Now, if GUSD has an interest in restoring Stengel to what it used to be and going beyond, that's their business. It's up to them to fund the renovation or work with non-profits to get them done."

Lorenz said he anticipates the temporary aluminum bleachers will be installed in December or perhaps later in the winter.

As for potential rebuilding plans, figures have ranged anywhere from $4 million to $10 million.

Such an undertaking has outgoing GUSD board president Mary Boger pining for a compromise with the city.

"We hope that the city of Glendale will consider either giving the land to GUSD or offering a very long-termed lease for the property," Boger said. "We then believe that we could invest in its refurbishment and renovation."

Board member Christine Walker added that cooperation between the school district and city was vital.

"I want to see this partnership maintained," Walker said. "It's my understanding that we're involved in the field maintenance, but obviously, the park is in the city's hands. It's their property."

Duran quickly downplayed any thought that the city would hand over the property.

"Right now, the city has no plans or ideas of ceding Stengel Field," Duran said.

Even so, Duran did hint that a long-term lease was a possibility.

"The school district and college would need to offer assurances of a long-term plan for the construction and renovation of Stengel Field," Duran said. "If the school district raises some money, I think you could see a long-term lease."

Outgoing Crescenta Valley Little League president Stu Meyer was thankful for the years in which Stengel was made available to the Crescenta Valley junior baseball team and believes that Stengel's future will hinge on city involvement.

"There's a budget to destroy the stadium and I wish there was one to rebuild it, too," Meyer said. "Maybe there can be some bonds from developers. It just seems like the burden of the rebuild has come back to GUSD and volunteers, who are supposed to raise the money. The city should kick in more."

Fundraising for Stengel isn't just an exclusive endeavor for the district.

The Stengel Field Foundation, which recently received 501(c)(3) charity status, is planning on taking an active role in raising awareness and money.

"The goal of our foundation is to raise enough money to build a stadium," foundation president Bryan Longpre, a Crescenta Valley High product and former minor league player, said. "It would be a shame to let that field become another [recreation] league type of field. We're talking about a lot of money, but it's not impossible."

Longpre said the foundation is currently developing its own set of plans for a possible stadium along with fundraising ideas. Donations are currently being accepted, though, on the foundation's website,

"We're looking for some support from the community and local businesses," Longpre said. "Down the line maybe we can sell a stadium brick with a family name. That's just me thinking out load. The big thing for us right now is that 501 status, where now we can provide tax write-offs."

For now, Rinder believes patience is best.

"I think once the temporary bleachers are up, then there will be some discussion on what will be our next steps," Rinder said. "We'll talk about what we want the new stadium to look like and who will fund it. We'll get the necessary parties, like Save Stengel, involved and I think there will be discussions between the city and the community about the next steps."

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