The Coop Has Flown – Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

The Coop Has Flown – Cooper Stadium in Columbus, Ohio

Cooper Stadium (“the Coop”) was a minor league baseball ballpark located at 1155 West Mound Street, in Columbus, Ohio.

A Red Bird Stadium postcard
Night View, Red Bird Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Postcard C.T.Art Colortone, Curt Teeich & Co, W.E. Ayres, Columbus, Ohio

Christened Red Bird Stadium when it was opened on June 3, 1932, the ballpark originally was home to the American Association Columbus Red Birds. The Red Birds were the top minor league affiliate of Branch Rickey’s St. Louis Cardinals. 

Red Bird Stadium postcard showing a match
Red Bird Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Home of Columbus Base Ball Team, Postcard C.T.Art Colortone, Curt Teeich & Co, W.E. Ayres, Columbus, Ohio

Notable St. Louis Cardinal farm hands who played at Red Bird Stadium include Paul “Daffy” Dean, Joe Garagiola, Harvey Haddix, Max Lanier, Enos Slaughter, Harry Walker, and Sammy Baugh (Football Hall of Fame quarterback for the Washington Redskins).

The exterior of the Cooper Stadium from the parking lot
Exterior, Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

When the Red Birds departed Columbus after the 1954 season, local businessman and former Red Bird clubhouse boy Harold Cooper brought an International League franchise to Columbus in 1955. 

Ticket windows of the Cooper Stadium
Ticket Windows, Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

The new team was named the Columbus Jets and the ballpark was renamed Jets Stadium in honor of its new tenant. For the first two seasons, the Jets were an affiliate of the Kansas City Athletics. From 1957 to 1970 they were an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

Cooper Stadium dedication plaques
Cooper Stadium Dedication Plaques

The name “Jets” was a nod to the city’s notable connections with aviation history, including the Wright Brothers and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The stadium break between first base grandstand and souvenir shop
Stadium Break Between First Base Grandstand and Souvenir Shop, Cooper Stadium

Professional baseball was not played in Columbus from 1971 to 1976. In 1977, Mr. Cooper, then a Franklin County Commissioner, brought baseball back to Columbus and a newly-renovated Franklin County Stadium, which opened as the home of the Columbus Clippers. 

A 1930s era concession stand
1930s Era Concession Stand, Cooper Stadium

The Clippers were an affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first two seasons at Franklin County Stadium and, from 1979 to 2006, were the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees. In 2007 and 2008, the Clippers were an affiliate of the Washington Nationals. 

The entrance from concourse to sections 107-109
Entrance From Concourse to Sections 107-109, Cooper Stadium

Renovations to the stadium included the addition of sky boxes and a new press box above the grandstand roof.

Some mesh screening behind home plate
Mesh Screening Behind Home Plate, With View of Sky Boxes Above Grandstand Roof, Cooper Stadium

The 1930s metal bracing for original grandstand roof was left intact and incorporated into the renovations.

A 1930's metal roof crossbars
1930’s Metal Roof Crossbars, Cooper Stadium

The concourse behind the first and third base sides remained largely in tact as well.

Food stands in the Cooper Stadium
Concourse, Cooper Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

The original wooden grandstand seats were replace with yellow-painted steel and aluminum seats.

The stadium behind the home plate area
Seats Behind Home Plate, Cooper Stadium

In 1984, the ballpark was renamed Cooper Stadium, in honor of Mr. Cooper, who also served as President of the International League from 1978 to 1990.

A view of the Cooper Stadium in field
View of Infield, Cooper Stadium, From Behind Home Plate

The dugouts at Cooper Stadium were true dugouts, placing the players on the dugout bench at eye level with the playing surface.

A Cooper Stadium dugout
Cooper Stadiums Truly Dug Out Dugout

Fans sitting in the box seats along the first and third base sides of the stadium were likewise close to the action.

Columbus Clipper Frank Menechino holding a bat
Columbus Clipper Frank Menechino in the On Deck Circle, Cooper Stadium

Cooper Stadium was located along I-70 and I-71, sandwiched between a residential neighborhood to the north, and Greenlawn Cemetery to the south.

Columbus Clipper Will Nieves shown on the scoreboard
Columbus Clipper Will Nieves Lights Up the Scoreboard at Cooper Stadium

Once inside the stadium, however, the view was almost bucolic, with trees surrounding the outfield fence

The Columbus Clippers take on the Louisville Bats
Columbus Clippers Take On The Louisville Bats at Cooper Stadium

The final game at Cooper Stadium was played on September 1, 2008.

A view of the Cooper Stadium post game
Cooper Stadium Post Game

The Columbus Clippers moved to a new ballpark located three miles northeast, closer to downtown Columbus.

A view of the Columbus Skyline beyond the left field
View of Columbus Skyline Beyond Left Field, Cooper Stadium

The new ballpark, Huntington Park, opened on April 18, 2009.

A Huntington Park ballpark opening advertisement
Banner At Cooper Stadium Advertising Huntington Park Ballpark Opening 2008

After the Clippers departed, Cooper Stadium sat vacant for several years while a local development company negotiated with the city of Columbus to purchase the ballpark site. Arshot Investment Corporation currently is in the process of converting the Cooper Stadium site into a multi-use Sports Pavilion and Automotive Research Complex (SPARC). In April 2014, demolition of Cooper Stadium began, with the removal of the first base grandstand.

The former first base grandstand of Cooper Stadium
First Base Grand Stand, Cooper Stadium, Now Demolished

However, the third base grandstand of Cooper Stadium is being preserved and incorporated into a portion of the paved half-mile race track. Thus, Cooper Stadium will follow in the footsteps of Westport Stadium in Baltimore, the former home of the Baltimore Elite Giants, which in the 1950s was converted into Baltimore’s first NASCAR-sanctioned racetrack.

The Westport Stadium in an old picture
Westport Stadium (Bob Williams photo from the Larry Jendras Jr. Collection)

SPARC will also include a technology center, lodging, conference and exhibition space, and restaurants.

Cooper Stadium at night
Cooper Stadium at Night

Although Cooper Stadium is now a lost ballpark, like Braves Field in Boston a portion of it remains, repurposed, allowing future generations the opportunity to experience at least a portion of what made Cooper Stadium a great place to watch a ballgame. Thanks to Arshot for having the vision to keep a part of Cooper Stadium, and baseball history, alive in Columbus, Ohio.

Byron Bennett