City of AustinFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department received a Preservation Texas Honor Award on Thursday, September 21.
The City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) received a Preservation Texas Honor Award on Thursday, September 21, at the Central Texas Regional Preservation Summit ceremony held at Dunbar Recreation Center in San Marcos for the restoration of the historic grandstands at Downs Field, 2816 E 12th St. The award recognizes a major milestone in a decade-long effort to restore and promote the historically significant field, which has been the home of sports for Black athletes in Austin for nearly 100 years.
The site was first used in the 1920s by Samuel Huston College baseball and the Austin Black Senators, the first Negro Baseball League team in Austin. Baseball greats associated with the field include Satchel Paige, Willie Mays, Smokey Joe Williams and Buck O’Neil. Later, the site hosted the original L.C. Anderson’s Yellowjackets football team, which won the state championship in 1942. In 1954, Downs Field was established at the site and named in honor of Reverend Karl Downs (1912-1948), who was President of Samuel Huston College. Today, Downs Field is the home field of the Huston-Tillotson Rams.
The project included replacement of the corrugated metal roof and structural upgrades to the steel supports and wood framing, while replicating the original architectural characteristics. The grandstands restoration follows a multi-year effort to restore and enhance the field and has engaged nonprofit partners including the Rosewood Neighborhood Association, Six Square, Forklift Danceworks, and Austin Parks Foundation. The site was designated a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark by the Texas Historical Commission in 2015.
The Downs Field Grandstand restoration project was funded by the Historic Preservation Fund in partnership with the Heritage Tourism Division of the Economic Development Department. The fund, made possible through the Hotel Occupancy Tax, helps preserve and restore Austin’s historic treasures to be enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.