ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Planning for the proposed Rockford Peaches museum at Beyer Stadium has hit a delay after claims that its location will infringe on the park’s athletic past, besides baseball.
Two groups presented their case to the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday.
The International Women’s Baseball Center wants to build a museum on a portion of the Beyer Stadium grounds, but the group Friends of Beyer Stadium is against the idea, saying other athletic sports, besides baseball, were played there in the past.
Specifically, constructing the museum at the north end of the park would cover the old Beyer football field and running track.
Beyer Stadium, 245 15th Ave, was the home of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League’s Rockford Peaches from 1943 to 1954.
“Way more people in town played football or ran track at Beyer than played baseball there, and we don’t want to see that history get wiped out,” said Friends of Beyer Stadium board member, Alex Gary. “In the last year, they’ve become fixated with the idea that it has to be built on Beyer Stadium property. And, if you know Beyer’s history, the Peaches only played there 11 years, but it was home to Rockford Public Schools football and track for more than 50.”
International Women’s Baseball Center President Kat Williams disagrees, saying, “While I understand playing high school football, or running track, on a piece of a field that is, really, not historically [significant]… It’s important [but], with all due respect, I don’t think we can compare high school football to the Negro leagues.”
Williams was referring to Rockford being home to a handful of Black women in professional baseball’s Negro leagues, which ran from the late 1880’s to 1951, including Toni Stone, Connie Morgan and Mamie Johnson, who were
The original plan called for the museum to be built across from the stadium, on Seminary Street, but Williams says that was altered after input from the community.
The new proposal would place the museum on the north end of the Beyer Stadium property, with parking and an activity center to go in across the street.
Gary says he hopes for another compromise.
“If it had to be a compromise, we’ll talk to them about building it on the southside, because then you can go down the historic walkway, you still got all that grass, you can see the field, and then you can have the center sitting right there overlooking the field from the south, and it would save the park for the neighborhood,” he said.
After hearing both sides, the Zoning Board of Appeals decided to hold over from making a final decision until next month.