Untapped Cities contributor, Rachel Fawn Alban, recently shared images of the abandoned Ironbound Stadium, a former 4,500-seat concrete bleacher stadium that is currently undergoing restoration. Located on 26 Saint Charles Street in Newark, New Jersey, the football arena had fallen to a state of decay, until city officials, in partnership with chemicals company Celanese, agreed on terms to clean up the contaminated site in 2015.
The decision came nearly 30 years after the field was shut down in 1987, when toxic levels of PCBs and other chemicals were discovered by workers at the corner of St. Charles Street and Rome Street in the early 1980’s. According to NJ.com, the source of the chemicals came from a former plastics factory.
Prior to recent restoration efforts, it may have been difficult to envision the stadium as thriving gathering place for locals, particularly for high schoolers from East Side. Following the discovery, the federal government declared the stadium a Superfund site — and while a recreation complex and sports courts have sprouted up in the area since then, the field itself still remained largely neglected. In 2015, however, Celanese agreed to pay approximately $2.3 million to finally cap the field and drain it of its dangerous toxins.
Fast-forward to present day and the stadium has taken on new life — thanks largely to the Ironbound Stadium beautification project, which was created and carried out by Ironbound USA, a Newark-based nonprofit that provides students with social, professional and enterprise skills.
“Everybody thought we were crazy to take on and fund a project like this….and we are,” said Gary Bloore, the founder and director of Ironbound USA. Since May, the organization has partnered with high school students from St. Benedict’s Prep, boxers from the Ironbound Boxing Academy (housed underneath the Stadium and part of Ironbound USA) and various artist partners to carry out the grand clean-up endeavor. Some of the work you can now see come from artists like Spidee, Risky, Benk, Ziren, Check GT, Torchfuego, Soco Uno, Seoz, Ajae, Nab and other members of The Artchitectz Collective.
For nearly a month, the students worked from 9 AM to 2:30 PM every week day to restore the stadium. Now with a new paint job, Ironbound is finally being prepped for seasonal festivals: the first of which is Paint for Pink, a breast cancer awareness event, which takes place on Sept. 30th. The event is being held in honor of Lisa Byron, Bloore’s partner, who passed away from breast cancer back in December.
In the meantime, check out the video below to see a time lapse of the stadium’s slow, but steady progress:
Time lapse video of St. Benedict’s Prep students, Ironbound Boxing Academy boxers and the talented artists beautifying the Stadium. Video courtesy of Ironbound USA.