Tag Archives: track

Bush Stadium

Bush Stadium

Photo (source): A postcard of the stadium in its prime.


Photo (source): Bush Stadium after years of decay.

Social conditions in early 1900’s America saw a massive shift in the way the working class lived. Electricity, automobiles, health and safety laws, worker’s rights legislation, improved public education, and government funded infrastructure afforded the working class the opportunity to thrive. Progress meant that the American public gained more time for leisure activity. Many Americans sought to occupy their free time devoted to baseball.

Baseball was a package ripe for entrepreneurs to capitalize upon. The drama of the game had its winners and losers, heroes and villains, its loyal followers, and content perfect for radio and print media transmission. The stadium became a cathedral where the faithful throngs could worship the game whilst owners reaped the economic rewards. A team worthy of reverence is, therefore, deserving of a stadium demonstrative of its glory.

Photo: The main gate turnstiles at the abandoned stadium.

During the golden age of baseball stadiums were erected as a testament to the game. In 1931 the Art Deco stylized stadium Perry Field opened its gates to fans of the minor league Indianapolis Indians. The name held until World War II when the field was rechristened to the patriotic Victory Field. Once the field was sold to the city of Indianapolis in 1967 it was renamed to its current namesake Bush Stadium.

In its prime Bush Stadium was the template for what other baseball stadiums should aspire to. The red brick lined outfield was covered in ivy. During gameplay the scoreboard had to be manually changed to reflect current statistics. Unobstructed views meant that there was not a single bad seat in the house. The venue played host to American Association, Pacific Coast League, International League, and Negro League games.

Take Your Seat
Photo: Cold empty seats without the warm presence of adoring fans.

Baseball games continued at the park until 1996 when the Indianapolis Indians moved to the more modern Victory Field. For two years the stadium had an identity crisis as the infield was ripped out to make a dirt racing track known as the 16th Street Speedway. For nearly a decade the stadium fell into disrepair. For a time the once beloved venue became a graveyard for vehicles traded in for the government “cash for clunkers” incentive program.

Once the cars were cleared away Indianapolis began to stoke development interest in the neglected property. The stadium is currently being renovated into an apartment complex that will preserve much of the aesthetics of the original field. The project is part of a larger urban renewal plan to reinvigorate the area into one that fuels America’s new leisurely pastime: consumerism.

Video (source): Plans for the apartment complex built upon the ruins of Bush Stadium.


Abandoned USA – Photos of the stadium

Ballpark Digest – Report that the stadium is being converted to apartments

Develop Indy (PDF) – Synthesis Incorporated rendering of the stadium renovation

Develop Indy (PDF) – Press release signaling the start of the renovation

Ecolaborative – Seats from the stadium are being reused as bus stop seats.

Historic Indianapolis – Photos of the stadium.

Indy Star – Gallery with photos of the stadium in its prime.

Jalopnik – Article on the stadium being used in the Cash for Clunkers program

Minor League Parks – Entry for Bush Stadium

Queen City Discovery – Extensive walkthrough and photos.

Steve Hardin – Photos from the 16th Street Speedway.

Wikipedia – Entry for Bush Stadium.

Wikipedia – Entry for the stadium’s current namesake Donie Bush.

WTHR13 – States that demolition has begun.

YouTube – WISH-TV report on the apartment complex development.

North Wilkesboro Speedway

North Wilkesboro Speedway
Photo: The starting line of the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Nestled in the undulating hills of rural North Wilkesboro lies a dormant behemoth. Its vehicular roar shattered the natural ambiance to the cheers of thousands of spectators. For five decades, the North Wilkesboro Speedway offered racing fans a chance to see racing greats up close and if fans want to bet on them, they can trust sites like slot.

During Prohibition moonshiners in the Appalachians modified their vehicles to outrun the authorities. Even after the disastrous social experiment with Prohibition ended, some Americans developed a taste for illicit liquor.  Thus a thriving demand for tax-free moonshine continued to spur automobile innovation. Moonshine “runners” continued to push automobiles well past their factory specs well into the 1940’s.

The hilly forest countryside of Wilkes County and its geographic proximity to the large urban centers of Charlotte, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem made it an ideal location for runners. The raw power of these heavily modified vehicles attracted the attention of the public whenever they gathered to race. These unregulated races were rife with safety hazards for drivers and spectators alike. The rules were often treated merely as suggestions by participants. Unscrupulous race organizers sometimes made off with the proceeds before the conclusion of the race.

The Road
Photo: Grass growing through the cracks in the track.

William France, Sr., having been burned one too many times by shady race organizers, decided to legitimize these races by the creation of a self-governing body. In the mid-1940s France met with race organizers all over the American south to build his vision. Wilkes County residents Enoch Stanley, Lawson Curry, and Jack and Charlie Combs purchased farmland in 1945 to develop a track. Funding for the project ran short, which resulted in an unintentionally abnormal track design. The .625-mile length of dirt track was not a perfect oval, ran downhill on the front stretch, and uphill on the back. Despite its peculiarities the public came out in droves. Races began in 1946, with official NASCAR races shortly thereafter. Driver Robert “Red” Byron won the final race of the 1949 season at North Wilkesboro Speedway to become the very first NASCAR champion. 

Over the next few decades NASCAR shifted gears. Engineering feats produced faster vehicles that required larger tracks. With larger venues came increased media exposure, marketing opportunities, and expanded audiences. To keep pace North Wilkesboro Speedway CEO Enoch Staley introduced a number of amenities to keep the track relevant. Expanded grandstands, air-conditioned viewing boxes, an electric scoreboard, and other attractions kept race fans coming to the short track. By the 1990s, however, the track’s position in the NASCAR lineup began to fall too far behind the competition. On September 29, 1996 driver Jeff Gordon won the final Winston Cup race to bring an end to NASCAR at the track. 

North Wilkesboro Speedway
Photo: Notice the proximity of the grandstand next to the track.

In the period following the final NASCAR race there have been other minor events that have paled in comparison. After protracted disagreements about how to reinvigorate the track and several public gestures that ultimately amounted to nothing, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. has yet to determine the fate of the track. Despite the apparent neglect ardent grassroots support is evident as devoted racing fans try to resurrect the decaying venue. In 2008 fans petitioned North Carolina to place a historical marker signifying its cultural significance. Ongoing efforts by Save the Speedway are resolved to bring awareness to die-hard racing fans connected by social media.

Urban exploration, or in this case rural, focuses largely on abandoned buildings. This track is not abandoned. It is in that painful state just before total abandonment or demolition. Reminders of a glorious past still adorn the speedway. A fading Winston Cup mural at the main gate. The rusting electric leaderboard bearing a Tyson sponsorship. The giant sun-scorched orange Union 76 ball. The luxurious viewing boxes are painted with mold. Wild grass has broken through concrete track. A racing fan who has fond memories of the track in its prime would be sorely disappointed. 

Video: ESPN footage of the final NASCAR race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.


NC Markers – M-56 historical marker for the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Racing Reference – NASCAR race results for the track.

Save the Speedway – An effort to revitalize the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Save the Speedway – Andrew J. Baker – When The Engines No Longer Roar: A Case Study of
North Wilkesboro, NC and The North Wilkesboro Speedway.

YouTube – ESPN coverage of Jeff Gordon winning the final NASCAR race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Wikipedia – Entry for the North Wilkesboro Speedway.

Wilkes Journal-Patriot – 2012 article on the effort to revive the sparsely used track.