The planned demolition of Currie Stadium in Midland’s Emerson Park
is triggering memories.
It seems as if anyone who considers themselves a Midland kid, with little matter regarding the decade they were born in, has a memory of Currie Stadium.
The iconic softball “Diamond One” at Emerson Park is nestled along the Pere Marquette Rail Trail
just south and west of the intersection of Main Street and Currie Parkway, across the Tittabawassee River from Currie Golf Course
Currie Stadium hosted many softball championships.
For softball players, it was near hallowed ground over the years since its construction in 1942 in the newly developing recreation area, and it will always be home to national champions Dow ACs, McArdle Pontiac-Cadillac and Midland Explorers. Every fastpitch softball player who ever played in Midland, and probably most slo-pitch and modified players as well, were offered games at the diamond.
“We’re on One tonight,” was all a manager had to say to a team and the players would show up at Currie Stadium with cleats on. “What a beautiful place,” said Nels Cronkright, who began playing on “One” as a 14-year-old for the Homer Methodist Church just as the ‘60s decade took hold.
Construction was begun in 1941 at the behest of Dow Chemical Co. Attorney and philanthropist Gilbert A. Currie Sr., who envisioned a place where Midlanders could play softball, and those fans who liked other recreational opportunities could ice skate and sled there in the winter, enjoy the horseshoes, playground equipment and the shelters for larger gatherings.
Currie, according to Midlander Virginia Florey in her book “Midland: Her Continuing Story,” also contributed to the city owning the land on which Emerson Park was built. It formerly was owned by Capt. Isaac Emerson of the Emerson Drug Co of Boston. The 38-acre parcel of “wasteland,” as described in the book, was the site of a defunct bromine well and was converted into a family-friendly park, with Currie Stadium as its hub.
Marcie Post is the Assistant Director of Public Services for the City of Midland.
Marcie Post, assistant director for the City's Department of Public Services
says the stadium was an immediate draw, with the Dow ACs and many other teams. MIdland became the “softball capital of Michigan.”
Players and fans alike came.In the 1940s, the likes of softball legends Clyde Dexter, Al Linde, Jimmy Walsh, Bud Collins and others propelled the ACs to two national and a world title.. In the 1970s, three decades later, Tom McArdle put together a national champion.
Cronkright's biggest thrill was being around the players who comprised McArdle Pontiac-Cadillac national championship team in 1979, two decades later, and just being in the atmosphere all summer that the stadium and Emerson Park provided.
“People would come around, and they would bring their coolers and watch softball,” he remembers. “Their kids could play at the playground, and it was unbelievable. It was a gorgeous, fantastic park to play in and I still run into players from around the world who remember it.” Cronkright says, "What a thrill (to play at the stadium).”
Due to structural damage caused by several floods over the years, City of Midland staff made the difficult decision in 2020 to have the structure torn down. Dore and Associates Inc. of Bay City won the bid for the project which will begin in the near future.
Post says the city plans to repurpose some of the materials that were part of the original stadium before the 2013 renovation designed to prolong the life of the fading structure - including the support beam that has been notched over the years with Midland’s flooding levels. ”It’s so cool. It measures high up the beam how deep the water (from flooding) has been,” she says.
Currie Stadium was built in 1942.
The City and its partners, which include the Currie Family, are planning what will occupy the stadium’s space in the future. Already, she notes, the Currie Stadium letters from the front of the stadium have been given to the Currie Family and the wooden bleachers have been detached and turned into benches in the park. “And, “no, you can’t have the metal grates from the entryway for your garden,” she says jokingly. “They will be used to help commemorate the property, whatever the planners decide.”
In addition, the city plans on offering to the public mementos, such as bricks, in the spring.