To the editor:
The past few weeks, I have attended two meetings on the city/school proposal regarding Gates Hall, a new proposed rec center, Billy Sunday Field, and soccer and baseball fields. My concerns were two-fold: That the intent of Mabel Gates Wadsworth was upheld and that wherever the Nevada baseball field was moved, the name, Billy Sunday Field, followed it. I simply could not sanction a Billy Sunday Soccer Field. Luckily, my fellow Nevada Community Historical Society board members were of the same mind.
We attended the meeting at Central Elementary, where we were told that community leaders had devised the Nevada Vision 2020 Capstone plan to sell Gates Hall to the Nevada School and to move the baseball diamond to SCORE Park. What is now the Billy Sunday Field would become the Billy Sunday soccer practice field. It became readily apparent that the NCHS board members were not considered “community leaders” and this plan was devised without any request for input or communication with the historical society.
After raising our concerns at the public forum, the city and school approached the historical society, where we could discuss our concerns. Our duty is to preserve Nevada’s heritage. Billy Sunday is a part of Nevada’s history. While not born here, he lived here and he is synonymous with Nevada history. Look in a single Nevada Representative of a certain age and his mention is on every front page. After his death, his wife returned for the Nevada Centennial to the town her husband called home and rode in the parade. He gained national fame as an evangelist, but was remembered here for his success on the baseball field and, when the field we now know as Billy Sunday Field was created in 1949, it was a natural choice to name it after our hometown boy who made his name on such a field.
While the Nevada Vision 2020 Capstone’s tagline is ironically enough, “Building Our Future, Preserving Our Past” I see little preservation of the past in this plan. Unfortunately, the city has a pattern of this type of oversight. I would not have been so alarmed at the plan had not Nevada’s heritage already been glazed over in three separate instances. Lest we forget: Patton Park, donated to the city by Elizabeth Patton to be “forever known as Patton Park” in 1893 without signage at all; Walker Park, donated to the city by Julia Walker to be “forever known as Walker Park” in 1897, later renamed Hattery Park without correct signage and Mabel Gates Wadsworth, whose large photograph (the only vestige of her memorial in the hall) totally disappeared when the hall was last renovated. Thank goodness there is homage paid to Josephine Tope in the foyer of the Tope Auditorium.
There is a part of me that says it is because these were all women and therefore, as with most history, their contribution was minimalized. But I am resisting that notion and would prefer to believe it is simply an disregard for the heritage our historical society is charged with preserving. Preserving the intent of use of Gates Hall as a community hall or banquet hall is a must. Retaining Billy Sunday Field as the name of the Nevada baseball field, wherever it is moved, is a must.
Vision 2020 Capstone, please preserve our precious Nevada heritage.