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'History Happened In This Stadium': Paterson Politicians Approve Development Project To Rebuild Historic Hinchliffe Stadium

PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- This year marks what would be the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Negro baseball leagues and one bit of history is being restored in New Jersey.

The amphitheater seating has been overtaken by nature, but Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson is more than just an oval of concrete. Inside the walls lives baseball history.

"It's such a sad reminder of where our city has been," said Mayor Andre Sayegh in an interview with CBS2's Steve Overmyer. "That's why we're taking so many resources to take this stadium where it needs to go."

Hinchliffe Stadium
Hinchliffe Stadium - Paterson, NJ (file / credit: Friends of Hinchliffe Stadium)

On Tuesday night, the city council approved a tax break for developers to rebuild the historic stadium. The mega project includes seniors housing, parking, and a restaurant.

"People will be working construction jobs in this stadium," said Sayegh. "They'll be working in this stadium after its constructed. There will be employment opportunities afoot here in Paterson."

It was the home of the New York Black Yankees and New York Cubans of the Negro Leagues in the 1930s and 40s. The 1933 championship was held there. Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and Larry Doby all played on the stadium's grounds.

"History happened in this stadium," said Sayegh. "When African-Americans were excluded from playing in Major League Baseball, they had a home at Hinchliffe Stadium. They played in Paterson."

FLASHBACK: Historic Hinchliffe Stadium Gets $300,000 Restoration Grant

In fact, it's one of only five Negro League stadiums still standing. For the past 23 years, the stadium has been silent. It has fallen into disrepair, become a haven for the homeless and an eyesore.

"This stadium has been in decay for generations. It's been a nightmare for families living around the 1st and 2nd ward," said Gilman Choudhury, a councilman from the city's 2nd Ward. "Right now is the most possible opportunity we'll have to give the families and people yet born to have the dignity they deserve."

The project to renovate the stadium will hope to look towards the future while honoring its past. Ground breaking is expected in October with a grand opening in two years.

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