Apr 23, 2012

Small Victories

In the best case, molovinsky on allentown chronicles my efforts in community activism, in addition to being a source of analysis for local issues. Last week a small victory resulted from such efforts. Our local dignitaries broke ground for a new garage at Lanta. Several years ago, when the garage plans were first announced, it was to be built on the parking lot of Bicentennial Park. Allentown needed money, and Lanta had a grant to build a new garage. Lanta claimed that the ball park property was the only feasible location, and the City claimed that Bicentennial Park had outlived it's usefulness.
Bicentennial Park is virtually the history of baseball in Allentown. First opened in 1939 as Fairview Field, it was home to the minor league team of the Boston Braves; The Allentown Dukes played there through 1948, when Breadon Field was built in Whitehall, site now of the Lehigh Valley Mall. Over the years thousands of Allentown kids had the yearly thrill of playing "Under The Lights". In addition to hosting the Allentown Ambassadors, it currently serves women's fast pitch softball. In addition to the outrage in our park system, I will be adding the ballfield as a topic in my upcoming SPEAK OUT ALLENTOWN MEETING. from Lanta Mugs City, May 14,2009  
I conducted a meeting at a small local church, which attracted a couple members of City Council and the Hunsicker Family, who led the drive to build the park, decades ago. City Council went on to pass a resolution recommending that the park not be sold, and Lanta did eventually figure out an alternative space for the garage. Needless to say, I wasn't one of the dignitaries invited to the ground breaking, nor were my efforts mentioned in the newspaper article, but a small victory, never the less.

Baseball Memoirs, June 3, 2009


  1. Canary_In_CoalmineApril 23, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Thank you for preserving the park. I played in the UT league as a kid but was once named to an All Star team which played at Patriot's Park, it was a great experience to play under the lights.

    I'm surprised that anybody would argue the field has outlived its usefulness. I would think that Allentown's large Latino population, especially those from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, would love baseball and heavily utilize the field.

  2. @12:35, i think it's fair to say that I was a factor in saving it, but the hunsicker family was also soliciting support independent of me. the complaints used against preserving the ball field were that the outfield isn't deep enough, with home runs landing on neighbor's property, and the general shopworn condition of the facility. how many $millions would it now cost to replace it? i hope it's now secure for many years in the future.

  3. Sadly Bicen Park is way underutilized. I wish it wasn't the case, but it is. A single out-of-town 'for-profit' league uses it for tourneys. The 'victory' you got was for Lanta to squeeze it's expanded garage into the other side of its property that is right up against the bedroom windows of scores of apratment dwellers.

  4. @7:40, lanta could have built the new garage at the old mack 5C, there were numerous alternatives. if Bicen is currently under used, at least it still has the potential for greater usage in the future. had lanta built the garage where it wanted in 09, the stadium would be torn down by now.

  5. Canary_In_CoalmineApril 24, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    @7:40, since you seem to have more knowledge of the situation than I do, any thoughts on why the park is so underutilized? Perhaps it's difficult to get permission or there are high fees?

  6. I know nothing about permits and fees. I have, however, noticed a marked decrease in the usage of baseball fields throughout the Lehigh Valley. It seems proponants of other sports, egged on by scardicat 'soccer moms' have moved more and more kids into soccer and other 'safer' sports. Ever notice how football types brag about it being the most popular of all American sports? I only suggest that if the baseball season was only 16 games and played once a week one might create a more compressed 'excitement' than it does. What makes baseball great is that is it a game without a clock. Unfortunately it is now played in an era when everone is in a hurry to nowhere fast. But back to Bicen Park it is not a great venue for baseball. They had to erect a Fenway-like fence to keep balls from crashing through homeowners' windows. (Remember the Schmidt/Luzinski HR Derby?). It seems it would have been easier and cheaper to relocate those couple of dozen games each summer as opposed to forcing the bus company off its own property. I generally agree and appreciate MM's dedication to the preservation of Allentown landmarks, but Bicen is a 36-year old White Elephant that only carries the warm/fuzzies of having been constructed by vo-tech kids.


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