Many Tempe residents have memories of playing baseball at Tempe Beach Stadium, where the rock bleachers were built in the 1930s as a federally funded project.
But these days, the bleachers are fenced off and children who hit foul balls into the stands have to send in an adult to navigate the dilapidated area. After years of vandalism and deterioration, some of the bleachers’ cobblestones are missing, the mortar is cracking and segments are simply gone.
Today, the Tempe City Council will discuss whether to invest money into the bleachers or to let them continue to deteriorate until the city sees better financial times.
Estimates range from $150,000 to begin work on stabilizing segments of the bleachers to $1.2 million to completely restore the bleachers and a nearby segment of a historic Mill Avenue bridge.
Those are eye-popping numbers, but Councilman Ben Arredondo, who played at the stadium when he grew up in Tempe, said the city needs to do something, specifically seek out grants to help with the costs.
“It has some historical value and it’s an important memory for a lot of people in Tempe,” he said.
In 2001, Tempe started a three-year, $727,000 project to rehabilitate the stadium bleachers, one of 43 Tempe sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The project was stopped in 2002 when the city began experiencing financial problems.
The cost estimates might be high, but the city is unsure how much of the dirt under the bleachers is unstable, said city architect Mark Vinson. Some surveys have shown that at least part of the dirt is sinking, causing the bleachers to be unstable.
“There’s just going to be continual and gradual sinking and cracking,” he said.
Jim Clark, head of the Rio Salado Little League, said there are no bleachers for fans and parents who attend Little League games at the stadium. Still, the field is a favorite of Little League players and their parents, he said.
“I think it would be worthwhile to try and fix them up and keep them as long as possible,” he said. “It’s sort of the trademark of Tempe Beach.”
For more information on the history of the bleachers, go to www.tempe.gov/museum/hps190.htm on the Internet.