Before making a name for himself in Detroit and then New York, Curtis Granderson grew up in Chicago where he attended the University of Illinois at Chicago from 2000-2002. The university retired his number 28 last February for his services in a UIC Flame uniform. Now Granderson, who is in the university athletics Hall of Fame, has his name on something much bigger and will hopefully stand much longer. Curtis Granderson Statium.
That’s right, the former UIC Flame is now immortalized on the Chicago campus with his name attached to a brand new stadium. The $10 million dollar stadium was completed this spring and half of the money was donated by Granderson, who was part of the stadium’s five year development from start to finish.
“It’s basically been five years in the making, from talking, planning, getting ideas together, deciding what it was going to be, to ultimately seeing it physically be there,” said Granderson.
Les Miller Field at Curtis Granderson Stadium has 1,784 seats with room for around 500 more fans in the grass beyond the left and right field walls.
The park is located just west of the Chicago loop at the intersection of Roosevelt and Halsted. One of the most notable attractions of the stadium is the clear view of the Chicago skyline beyond center field. The new ball park will also serve as a field for high school and youth baseball teams in the city of Chicago
“Not only is this going to give UIC baseball a great facility to play — with a beautiful skyline — but we’re going to house every Chicago Public High School, all of which are going to get the chance to play here.” Granderson said.
The University of Illinois-Chicago is more than grateful for the generous gift as Granderson’s donation is one of the highest in UIC athletics history.
“We are going to be a tenant in this place,” UIC baseball coach Mike Dee said. “We’ve already had, I think, 10 (Chicago Public School) teams out here. And all of the CPS schools will play out here at least once during the course of the spring to play on.”
Being a UIC alumnus myself, this story is particularly special to me. Not simply because Curtis and I attended the same university, but because this act of generosity shows how great of an individual he is and I directly understand how much the stadium means to the university and city of Chicago.
Granderson, 33, is a three-time All-Star for the Tigers, Yankees, and Mets. The center fielder is also considered a class-act on and off the field. In a Sports Illustrated poll, which surveyed 290 players, Granderson finished fifth as the nicest player in baseball.
The new ball park gives an outlet to Chicago kids, who may be interested in baseball but may not have the necessary facilities to harness their interest.
“Without UIC I wouldn’t be standing here today,” said Granderson, a three-time MLB All-Star and UIC graduate. “When given the opportunity to give back and help those that have helped me, this was one of the first ways that we thought about doing it.”
The Flames christened the new stadium Thursday night in game one of a three game series against fellow Horizon League team Wright State. Even though UIC would go on to lose 11 to 5, they now have the proper facilities that makes their home field as good as any in college baseball. Thanks for your generosity Mr. Granderson. Let’s play ball!