THE FIGHTING 63RD: Memorial Park History

Memorial Park History

MEMORIAL PARK HISTORY

 

The first Ottawa Memorial Park would be located east of Pratt Street and north of E. Fourth Street. Plans for the new park were unveiled in 1950 at a joint meeting of the Ottawa Kiwanis and Chamber of Commerce.  Co-Chairmen of the Park committee were R.E. Laudick and WC Toner. Norris Simpson was named the supervisor in charge of construction. The park would eventually include tennis courts, shelter houses, restrooms, playground equipment, and a lighted baseball field. Construction of the park was truly a community effort. Volunteers, young and old, cleared grounds of branches and trees. The local Ohio National Guard, led by Gale Bennett, joined forces with the Boy Scouts, led by Scoutmaster Ralph Reed. Weatherseal Inc.  pledged the material and labor to build a covered grandstand for the baseball field.

 

On June 21, 1965 Ottawa Mayor Ray Winkler informed the Village Council that Sylvania Electric had made a request to purchase the park site. Sylvania Electric proposed to build an 158,400 ft facility to manufacture color television tubes. Following some legal procedures, the property was sold for $16,000. A special farewell baseball game between the OG ACME team and Ottawa Legion was held at the park on August 1, 1965. Ottawa Legion Baseball GM Shorty Kreinbrink and OG Athletic Boosters president Bill Kruse organized the game and special closing ceremonies. Today, there is no trace of the old park, or ballfield on Pratt street.

 

NEW LOCATION

Memorial Park was moved to its current location on Locust Street in 1966. Members of the Athletic Boosters, volunteers, and village employees began to dismantle and move as much of the park equipment as possible. This would include playground equipment, shelter houses, and the baseball field lights and poles.

 

Since 1966 thousands of baseball games have been played at Memorial Field in the new Memorial Park. Lifelong memories and friendships have been made here. These games include Pony League, ACME, high school, and Legion Baseball. On June 22, 2001 The Ghost Players from the 1989 movie classic “Field of Dreams” came to Memorial Field. A crowd of over 1500 people jammed the ballpark to watch the Ghost’s one hour comedy show, “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” After the comedy show the Ghost Players took on a group of Ottawa Legion Alumni players. The Ghost Players won a hard fought game 8-7.  In 2002 the Ghost Players returned to Memorial Field for an encore performance, this time drawing a crowd of over 2000 fans. The barnstorming Ghost Players performed all around the world and United States, but the visits to Ottawa were were their only appearances in Ohio.

 

Windstorm of 2012

On June 29, 2012 a derecho windstorm hit Memorial Park damaging shelter houses and several trees. The fierce storm also damaged the lights. Upon inspection it was determined that the 56 year old poles were rotted, and unsafe.

 

A lighting committee was formed in June of 2013 which eventually became the Memorial Park Capital Campaign Committee. The committee reached its goal in the Fall of 2017. Once again the community had rallied and come together for a common goal. The new lights were installed in the Spring of 2018.

 

Dave Kersh

American Legion Post 63 Historian