Breese Stevens Field is located at 917 E. Mifflin St. and alongside East Washington Avenue.
Since 1926, Madison residents have gone to Breese Stevens Municipal Athletic Field on East Washington Avenue to see everything from baseball games to circuses to drum and bugle corps competitions. As the oldest city-owned and -operated athletic field, many officials consider the site an important asset to the community.
But it almost didn't survive. Ald. Ledell Zellers, whose district includes the field that's located at 917 E. Mifflin St., says in the 1980s the city budgeted $60,000 to tear it down. However, Madison residents came together and asked that it be restored.
"The citizens of Madison have a very personal relationship with the field," says Zellers. "It's very important for Madison residents."
Now, after nearly 90 years of continuous use, the athletic field is being recognized in the National Register of Historic Places. And after making further renovations, city officials hope that it will see more use.
Built by Claude and Starck, an important architectural firm in Madison in the early 20th century, the field was originally designed as a baseball stadium, Zellers says. The Civil Works Administration -- a Depression-era jobs program -- made several additions to the structure in 1934, including building the concrete bleachers that still exist today, according to the field's nomination form. This makes the Breese Stevens Field one of the few baseball facilities built or expanded by the short-lived CWA.
Beginning in the 1980s, the city began renovating the structure. It has restored the original 1925 grandstand, the stone wall that runs around the perimeter and the bleachers built by the CWA, says Kay Rutledge, the city's parks planning and development manager.
"All the work we've done on the site has been to restore the field to its former glory," Rutledge says. "It's all in keeping with the way the facility has been used over the years so it will be around for another 50 years."
The field also underwent a major change in recent months with the replacement of the original grass field with artificial turf.
The addition of the artificial turf was controversial, according to Zellers. However, she says new field will see more use because unlike its former grass counterpart, the field will no longer have to close occasionally to be restored.
Zellers hopes the new developments in the works along the East Washington corridor will bring an influx of new residents to the neighborhood -- and that Breese Field can be a focal point.
"By having the kinds of developments that we have [coming up] and the many families that are already within easy walking distance of the field, there will be more people that will be able to easily access Breese Stevens field to attend these events," Zellers says.
The field is currently used primarily for soccer and ultimate Frisbee games, Rutledge says, although it also hosts arts performances and competitions. There are other possible uses. Zellers says officials are hoping Madison's East High School will use the field as their home stadium in the near future.
"I'm optimistic that will happen," Zellers says.