Wade Stadium celebrates 75 years
Several months before Pearl Harbor jolted the United States into war mode, Wade Stadium -- then known as the Duluth Municipal All-Sports Stadium -- opened as the Duluth Dukes and Superior Blues squared off in a Northern League baseball game.Seven...
Several months before Pearl Harbor jolted the United States into war mode, Wade Stadium - then known as the Duluth Municipal All-Sports Stadium - opened as the Duluth Dukes and Superior Blues squared off in a Northern League baseball game.
Seventy-five years after that July 16, 1941, contest, Wade Stadium is hosting its own birthday party as another tenant, the Duluth Huskies, play the Thunder Bay Border Cats in a Northwoods League game at
6:35 p.m. today.
The venerable stadium, built for about $230,000 by the Works Progress Administration in an industrial area in West Duluth, has been a city icon - and, at times, an eyesore - while hosting some of baseball’s all-time greats.
Through the Dukes’ years as a major-league affiliate for the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers, players such as home run king Hank Aaron, Roger Maris, Willie Stargell and Lou Brock all played at Wade.
Several stars of the Tigers’ 1968 World Series champions, including 31-game winner Denny McLain, played for the Dukes before heading to the majors.
But once the Dukes lost their status as a major-league affiliate in 1970 and the Northern League folded the following year, Wade sat dormant, except for Minnesota Duluth and high school games. Little upkeep was done on the stadium for the next 20 years or so, leading one author of a book on minor-league baseball to describe Wade as follows: “The concrete flooring buckled, wiring was exposed, the roof leaked, holes dotted the backstop and the stands were covered with pigeon dung.”
Professional baseball returned in 1993 with the rebirth of the Northern League and the Duluth-Superior Dukes. The Dukes claimed one Northern League title, but losing records, poor attendance and bad weather plagued the team until it moved to suburban Kansas City, Kan., in 2002 and became the Kansas City T-Bones.
The Huskies filled the void the following year as the collegiate summer-league Northwoods League came to town.
But renovations at Wade were still sorely needed, proof of which came to pass in 2013 when a portion of the stadium wall along the first-base line collapsed.
A one-time all-inclusive $8.1 million project was whittled down to $4.6 million that concluded in 2015 with artificial turf, a state-of-the-art drainage system, new brickwork, improved lighting and a new scoreboard among the renovations.