Carson Park Baseball Stadium (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
Carson Park Baseball Stadium, side view (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
Carson Park Baseball Stadium, field (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
Carson Park Baseball Stadium, grandstand (E. Wheeler photo, 2002)
Carson Park Baseball Stadium
Eau Claire, Eau Claire County
Date of Construction: 1937
The Carson Park Baseball Stadium has a long association with baseball in Eau Claire. Carson Park was established as a city park in 1915, one year after an heir of William Carson, a wealthy area lumberman, donated the site. In the early 1930s the success of the Eau Claire Bears, a "farm" team affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, encouraged Eau Claire to apply to the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to fund recreational improvements in Carson Park. The centerpiece of these projects was the simple but elegant sandstone-walled stadium, built to seat over 1500 fans. The stone was quarried from a site in nearby Downsville, Wisconsin. Unemployed skilled laborers were given work on the stadium through 1936 and readied the ballpark for action by early 1937.
The first season of minor-league baseball at Carson Park was a resounding success. The Bears players liked the southwest-northeast orientation that mostly shaded them from the late afternoon sun. Both the fans and players enjoyed the bucolic surroundings of Half Moon Lake and the wooded park. From 1937 to 1962, the Eau Claire Bears called Carson Park home, winning the Northern League pennant three times.
In the early 1990s recognition of baseball legend Hank Aaron's connection to Eau Claire's baseball heritage renewed interest in Carson Park. Aaron played his first season of professional baseball with the Eau Claire Bears in 1952, where his talent was evident to local fans. Building on that awareness, in 1995 the City of Eau Claire proposed a $560,000 renovation project for the stadium. Completed in 1998, the project included new and improved seating in the grandstand, a completely remodeled area under the grandstands and new handicapped accessible approaches. The renovation project makes baseball at Carson Park a more enjoyable experience for fans and players, while retaining the character and distinctiveness of the stadium.
Today the tradition of Eau Claire baseball is alive and well in Carson Park at one of America's last surviving WPA stadiums. The historic stadium links baseball's past to the present and preserves a "field of dreams" for current and future fans and players. The building is open to the public during regularly scheduled events.