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Henry Aaron Field at J.P. Small Ballpark is undergoing a $9.6 million renovation. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

#AskJAXTDY | What is going on at J.P. Small Park?

Published on May 10, 2024 at 3:29 pm

Q: A Jacksonville Today reader, Adam, wants an update about Jacksonville’s oldest baseball field in the Durkeeville neighborhood.

“What is going on at J.P. Small Park now? There are massive dirt piles and construction equipment in the field.”

A: The corner of 8th and Myrtle is silent.

J.P. Small Park, the venerable city-owned baseball field that has been home to Hall of Famers and high schoolers, has been quiet this spring as it has undergone renovations. The clay and grass that was once patrolled by a 19-year-old Henry Aaron will be converted into a synthetic surface.

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The $9.6 million renovation also will install new lights, renovate the restrooms and upgrade the Black baseball museum under the stands.

Daryl Joseph, Jacksonville’s director of parks, recreation and community services, says the project is slated to finish by July.  

Henry Aaron Field at J.P. Small Ballpark is undergoing a $9.6 million renovation that will install a synthetic field surface, new lights and improved restrooms. The field has been in Durkeeville since 1912. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

The renovations forced Stanton College Prep and Edward Waters University to find temporary places to play. The Blue Devils played their home games at Sans Souci Baseball Park. Meanwhile, Edward Waters played its home games at Ridgeview High School in Orange Park or Florida State College at Jacksonville North in the College Park neighborhood.

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“Right now, the park has, almost, a single use for baseball,” Joseph says. “But, the goal would be to really help activate that space into more of a community facility and provide other experiences. … That artificial turf field will open up for a number of activities that take place there. We’re planning on a destination playground that will improve the park space.”

Previously, a jungle gym and play area sat behind the left field wall. That has been torn down to make way for a new play space that includes a water park.

Equpiment is piled at J.P. Small Park as it undergoes renovations. | Will Brown, Jacksonville Today

Today, weeds are growing unchecked inside gates, and the sidewalks that surround the ballpark are strewn with debris and former beer bottles.

Joseph says Henry Aaron Field at J.P. Small Park has a great history that the city is looking to tell in new ways. The field dates to 1912 and was the home of the Jacksonville Red Caps during the team’s tenure in the Negro American League in 1938, 1941 and 1942. The stadium is named after James P. Small, a longtime coach at Franklin Street Grammar School and Stanton High School.

This latest renovation comes after a $500,000 state grant helped provide lighting enhancements in 2018.

“With it being artificial turf, the community can be out there on that field pretty soon before a game and pretty soon after a game,” Joseph says. “(It’s) really opening up the time frames and the availability of when the field can be used is one thing we see as a great opportunity for activation.”


author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.
author image Reporter Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.

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