Take Your Seats at East Wheeling Field

Photo by Casey Junkins At a cost of nearly $300,000, bleachers are nearly ready for use at the J.B. Chambers Memorial Recreation Park in East Wheeling.

Watching youngsters play lacrosse, soccer and football at the J.B. Chambers Memorial Recreation Park in East Wheeling, it seems difficult to believe that eight years ago, the same block featured dilapidated buildings that sometimes served as hideouts for drug dealers.

After years of work and more than $3 million spent, parents and fans will soon be able to sit in the bleachers to watch games. Work to install the seats on the north side of the park, largely funded through a $250,000 donation by philanthropist Gary West, is nearly complete. They will allow seating for about 600 spectators.

“I think it has been a great success story,” said City Manager Robert Herron. “There are lacrosse games going on. There is always something happening.”

The park opened in 2014 in the block between 15th and16th streets to the east of Wood Street. It sits in the shadow of the former Clay School building in East Wheeling.

The park features an artificial turf playing surface, restroom facilities, lighted basketball courts and a variety of playground equipment. Funding sources for the project included $1.25 million in private sector donations; $1.2 million from city taxpayers; and $600,000 in state and federal grants, most of which came from federal Community Development Block Grant funding.

Fans must sit on the sidewalk on the north side of the field and look through the fence during sporting events. Spectators are not permitted on the field during events, which caused some issues at some point. Thanks to West, this will not be the case for much longer.

“The generous donation by Mr. West will greatly enhance the experience of the fans,” said Herron.

Wheeling Councilman Brian Wilson, who lives in and represents East Wheeling, said the only complaint he has about the field is that the field is free for the public to use during periods when children are in school.

Herron said it is a misconception that the field is locked through the day. A schedule he provided for the week of April 15-21 shows open use from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, along with 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Friday.

“It is not locked,” Herron said during the open use times.

Herron and Mayor Glenn Elliott said they are not certain of when the bleachers will open, but likely will hold an official announcement when they do.