The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Awards Grant to Support Hamtramck’s Veterans Memorial Park Master Plan
$807,200 grant includes community engagement process, new turf for Keyworth Stadium
HAMTRAMCK, Mich. – The Michigan Municipal League Foundation today announced an $807,200 grant from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation to create a master plan and community engagement process for Hamtramck’s 26-acre Veterans Memorial Park.
The planning work is a significant first step toward the renovation, maintenance, and activation of the park campus, which includes Keyworth Stadium and the historic Hamtramck Stadium. Specifically, the grant will involve the community in determining how best to revive Keyworth and Hamtramck stadiums and the surrounding campus to meet the changing community’s needs. The hope is that the work will lead to the creation of a safe area for children to play and make the entire site once again a source of community pride.
In addition, it was announced during a news conference this afternoon that more than half of the grant will be used to replace the turf at Keyworth, which is about a decade past its life span, and is where the community’s high school and middle school teams, and the Detroit City Football Club play.
While there has been planning work done to specific portions of Veterans Memorial Park, this grant will fund the first comprehensive master plan to encompass the entire 26-acre park area. This work also represents a special partnership between the City of Hamtramck, Hamtramck Public Schools, the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Municipal League Foundation, Detroit City Football Club, and the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium. Having these groups working together was important to the Wilson Foundation.
“The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is enthusiastic about supporting the Michigan Municipal League Foundation and partner organizations in this endeavor,” said Jim Boyle, vice president of programs and communications for the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “We’re particularly excited about how, through collaborative planning among several key entities, this work has great potential to benefit the youth of Hamtramck and the community in general for decades to come.”
The project will include meaningful community involvement on how to best develop the Veterans Memorial Park area. That could include updating the Historic Hamtramck Stadium, which once hosted the Negro League Detroit Stars baseball team, to include a cricket pitch, creating bike paths, and setting aside open areas for pick-up soccer.
It’s a vision that will inevitably create opportunities for play and attract visitors for games and other events, said Dan Gilmartin, the League’s CEO and executive director. The MML Foundation is the League’s fundraising arm.
“The League strongly supports the concept of placemaking and creating safe spaces for people to gather and enjoy,” Gilmartin said. “That’s exactly what this project does, and we’re pleased to be a part of it.”
Only 13 percent of children in Southeast Michigan get the recommended one hour of daily physical activity, said Magdalena Srodek, president of the Hamtramck Public School Board.
“Most children and their parents look to public facilities and school programs that offer organized teams or classes to play or participate in sports,” Srodek said. “The hope is that the new Veterans Memorial Park will provide necessary facilities to support the children in this community.”
The City of Hamtramck has the highest housing density in the region, with many children living in homes on small lots with little access to sports and other physical activities. Research shows regular exercise by children leads to greater cognitive function, positive mental health, better educational outcomes, and lower healthcare costs overall.
“The city of Hamtramck has adopted the saying ‘the world in two square miles,’” said Hamtramck Mayor Karen Majewski. “We expect this 26-acre Veterans Memorial Park area project to greatly impact the people and community in those two square miles, providing our youth access to after-school and sports programs and boosting our economy by drawing to our community sporting organizations across the region, including the Detroit City Football Club, Hamtramck Warrior adult and youth soccer teams, and more.”
The city of Hamtramck was previously awarded a $50,000 African American Civil Rights grant from the National Park Service to conduct a pre-development plan for the Hamtramck Stadium. They hired SmithGroup JJR and worked with the nonprofit Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium, who conducted research for the project, to develop a pre-development plan to determine what it will take to turn the stadium into a multi-use facility the whole community can enjoy.
The master plan is to include the following:
Design and management of a community engagement process to identify resident needs and priorities.
Development of a physical plan for Veterans park campus, incorporating the existing SmithGroup JJR recommendations for Hamtramck Stadium.
Suggestions for business models and governance structures for the maintenance and activation of the park, based on best practices from other cities.
Suggestions for processes to manage the use of the fields and stadiums to ensure accessibility for individuals and community groups.
Feasibility for the fundraising for the cost of renovating the park.
Replacing the turf at Keyworth Stadium will help the community attract more soccer teams and fans, while improving players’ safety, said Sean Mann, co-owner and CEO of the Detroit City Football Club.
“First and foremost, we're proud to work with these great partners toward further investment in Hamtramck's recreational assets,” Mann said. “We hope that DCFC is a catalyst, however small, for greater investment in the area, starting with Keyworth and spreading to Veterans Park and beyond. With our initial rehab work at Keyworth Stadium in 2016 and the new turf to be installed, not only will it help the Hamtramck community be able to enjoy a truly unique and safe facility, but our club will be able to bring more notable national and international opponents to Hamtramck. This will help raise the profile of this very special community in the region and the world.”
The planning called for in the grant will be essential to preserving the local history, said Gary Gillette, president of the Friends of Historic Hamtramck Stadium.
“The historical significance of this work cannot be understated,” Gillette said. “The history of Hamtramck Stadium, Keyworth Stadium, and Veterans Park is the story of Hamtramck and, in a microcosm, the story of the East Side of Detroit.”
The Michigan Municipal League Foundation will serve as a fiduciary for the Veterans Memorial Park area project.
“We see this project as a true collaboration between the city and the district to improve the quality of life of Hamtramck residents while creating a draw to drive additional visitors and investments to the city,” said Gisgie Dávila Gendreau, the League Foundation president. “It’s an important step toward restoring the two historic stadiums and providing more opportunities for children to play safely within the city.”
The Michigan Municipal League Foundation helps create and maintain vibrant communities in Michigan by funding placemaking projects and educating community leaders and advocates. We recognize that communities are economic drivers, so the Foundation plays a key role in connecting communities to opportunities to help them grow and thrive.
The Michigan Municipal League is dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services. Learn more at mml.org.