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Boyertown American Legion Baseball

Boyertown American Legion Baseball

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Bear Stadium


Bear Stadium is home to the Boyertown Bears Senior Legion baseball team and the Boyertown Area High School varsity boy's baseball team. The field is located at 120 Monroe Street, Boyertown, PA, just beyond the northwest corner of the high school building.

Spectator amenities include a covered grandstand with chairback seats, a concession stand, and indoor toilet facilities. The stadium is handicapped accessible with a macadam parking lot and walking area.


Bear Stadium facade

History

Bear Stadium is the product of a community that has a long tradition of support for its storied baseball program. The stadium was dedicated on August 17, 1982, just in time for the Bears to host the American Legion World Series. The idea for the stadium was born years earlier. Contemporary news accounts attribute the original idea to a hotel room conversation at Mid-Atlantic Regionals in 1977. Boyertown had just won its fourth state championship and was on its way to winning its first Mid-Atlantic Regional. Someone asked the question - why not build a stadium capable of winning a bid to host a national or regional tournament?

The stadium project discussion was put on the back burner for a few years because it was deemed too expensive, but the idea resurfaced again in 1979, when Boyertown hosted Mid-Atlantic Regionals. Lacking sufficient facilities of their own to host the tournament in Boyertown, the Bears instead hosted the tournament remotely, in Reading Municipal Stadium. The 30-40 minute daily drive from Boyertown for all of the tournament volunteers over the 5-day tournament added to an already exhausting job. Although the Bears did not advance to the American Legion World Series that year, head coach Dick Ludy and Don Specht, who would later co-chair the stadium building committee, both traveled to the tournament in Greenville, Mississippi, where they were encouraged to submit a bid for the 1982 series. In a 1982 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer about the project, Specht recalls the moment: "I told him [Ludy]," Specht said, "'We ought to hold it in Boyertown. We've got to go back to the drawing board and see if we can come up with a viable stadium - and see if the townspeople will support us.'"[1]

before construction

Prior to the construction of Bear Stadium, both the Bears and the Boyertown High School team used to play their games on a field now occupied by the Cub Gym after the 2017 high school expansion. The concept was for the new stadium to be the new home for both teams, as well as other events such as the Boyertown High School graduation ceremony. A possible site for the new stadium was identified - just past the current ball field and on the other side of Monroe Street, in an area that historically had been used for the high-school's vo-ag fields but by this time was unused. The school board, since the school district owned the land, would be the first hurdle to clear.

The stadium building committee, co-chaired by Specht and Adam Surgeoner, first presented the stadium proposal to the school board in late 1979. The school board approved the project in early 1980 when the committee agreed to engage the Army Corp of Engineers for the large-scale earth moving required. The committee worked with the Corps throughout the summer to plan the details and make the official approval request for the project with Corps senior officers. After over a year of planning, the Corps rejected the project. Again, from the 1982 Inquirer interview: "It was probably the best break that happened for us," Specht said, "because we got together at the Legion post after saying, 'Bring as many contractors as we can get together - as private enterprise, a donation.' The school board bought it. Eight contractors showed up - some voluntarily, some by arm-twisting."[1]

Some historical perspective seems appropriate here. In the 1980 census, the borough of Boyertown had a population of 3,979, very close to today's numbers. However, the population of Boyertown School District was much smaller. In 1982, the total enrollment of Boyertown Area School District was 1,800 students, where in 2018-2019, that number had reached 6,784. Boyertown borough's entire 1982 municipal budget was $1.4 million, while the total projected cost of the stadium was $500,000. A baseball stadium of the magnitude of Bear Stadium was unprecedented for such a small town and small school district.

before construction

The magnitude of the project was not lost on the community, some of whom initially resisted the project. The Boyertown Times ran an op-ed against the project and circulated a petition against the stadium, gaining 472 signatures. A public hearing was held and Specht delivered a two-hour speech to persuade stadium detractors. Ultimately, this speech turned community sentiment (including the Boyertown Times) in favor of the project. The school board approved the amended plans in June 1981. The project could finally get underway in earnest. The challenge was that the clock was now ticking, since Boyertown's bid to host the 1982 American Legion World Series was already accepted in May of 1980. Everything had to be completed by mid-August 1982.

As planned, the community stepped up in a big way to make the project happen. Ken Ellis and Garber, both owners of separate construction companies, volunteered their equipment and recruited their friends to do the site work. Bill Levengood did the electrical work. Local plumber Bob Horn installed the plumbing. Ralph Talarico, owner of Talarico's Sandwich Shop, donated the entire concession stand kitchen, and Ed Gruber donated the playing surface. Met Ed installed the field lights. Countless other volunteers contributed in ways both big and small. In the end, the total estimated cost of the project was approximately $600,000, and yet only $75,000 of that sum was public money. The rest was donated in the form of time, materials, and sweat from many volunteers and community members.[2]

before construction

The stadium was completed just in time for the September 2 start of the American Legion World Series - the finishing touches were being put on the stadium when the Bears won the Mid-Atlantic Regional, qualifying for the World Series they were about to host. They went on to win that World Series, becoming the first (and still only) American Legion team to both qualify for and win a World Series that they hosted. The Bears also set an attendance record for the American Legion World Series at the time, with 34,000 fans attending over the 5-day event. The championship game attendance of 6,563 was also a record. Not bad for a small town.

After the 1982 Legion World Series, Boyertown hosted two more World Series in 1991 and 1994, as part of a 3-year, 3-site rotation. The driving force behind the selection was ESPN, who required enough lighting to televise world series night games. The press box was also expanded in this timeframe to accommodate the television presence.

The story of Bear Stadium is still being written. Since 1982 and in addition to the 1991 and 1994 World Series, Bear Stadium hosted numerous high school district and state playoff games, 10 Legion Mid-Atlantic Tournaments and 15 PA Legion State tournaments, as well as several collegiate tournaments. A dedicated crew of volunteers maintains the stadium playing surface, ensuring that it continues to be a top-notch facility. The stadium continues to be the home field for the Boyertown High School and Legion teams and a marquee destination for area teams.

[1] Reid, Ron. "Pride: Boyertown builds a ballpark to suit a winning tradition," Philadelphia Inquirer. 1 Sep 1982, p. 1-C.

[2] Seely, Don. "Dream Sequence," Pottstown Mercury. 13 Aug 2007, online ed.

Bear Stadium

Contact

Boyertown Area Youth Baseball LTD
PO Box 1982 
Boyertown, Pennsylvania 19512

Email: [email protected]

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