New Travs Home Named Dickey-Stephens Park

by Nate Hinkel  on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005 11:59 am  

The future home of the Arkansas Travelers on the North Little Rock riverfront will bear the name of a pair of baseball-loving brothers with deep ties to central Arkansas.

The taxpayer-funded stadium that will open on April 5, 2007, will be called Dickey-Stephens Park in honor of businessmen Jack and Witt Stephens and former Major Leaguers George and Bill Dickey.

"My father and uncle loved the game of baseball and cherished their relationship with the Dickey family," said Warren Stephens, who donated the land just east of the Broadway Bridge for the stadium's construction. "There are four good men smiling about this project and being able to keep baseball alive and well in central Arkansas."

Stephens announced the name of the stadium during a groundbreaking ceremony held Wednesday morning at the site of the new park.

North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays, who scrambled for more than a year to finalize a plan to fund the stadium, raised a ceremonial shovel to generating the sales tax that will pay the park's tab.

"Here's to Christmas shopping in North Little Rock to help generate more of the sales tax to pay for this thing," he joked as city officials and members of the Stephens and Dickey families broke ground.

North Little Rock voters approved the two-year, 1 percent sales tax to raise money for the new ballpark for the Class AA Travelers on Aug. 9. That day also was the birthday of Jack Stephens, who died the week before the vote.

"Jack is certainly smiling right now," Hayes said. "It was no coincidence, in my mind, that the voters approved the tax for this park on that day."

Warren Stephens said his father and uncle were at their best when talking baseball with the Dickey brothers.

"There was something pure about their love of the game and the relationship they shared," he said. "I knew what we wanted to call this park before there was any certainty we'd be able to get it done."

Bill Dickey was a Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees from 1928-43, while George "Skeeter" Dickey was also a catcher in the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox organizations. The brothers worked with the Stephenses after they returned to Arkansas.

Bill Valentine, longtime general manager of the Travelers, said the team will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year and will play its 74th season at Little Rock's aging Ray Winder Field in 2006.

"There's no doubt we hate to say goodbye to the grand old ballpark," he said. "But there comes a time for everything when you have to make a decision to look to the future. It's now guaranteed that baseball will have a presence in central Arkansas for the next 50, 100 and hopefully more years."

The Travelers will open their inaugural Texas League season in the new ballpark against the Springfield Cardinals on April 5, 2007.



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