Pierce Athletic Complex
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Under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a New Deal agency of the Federal Government, many public works projects were completed in East Providence during the 1930's. Among these was Pierce Memorial Stadium. Formerly an abandoned gravel pit owned by the McCormick Construction Company, the 20 acres of land were acquired by the town council and approval was granted by the WPA to construct a football field. Work began in 1934 with workers being paid the Depression wage of 65¢ per hour. Completed in November of 1939, the stadium cost $300,000. The field bears the name of one of East Providence's most prominent residents, W.B. Pierce who had bequeathed a trust fund to the town specifically for recreational use. Additional plans for the recreational complex called for an outdoor skating rink and toboggan slide, playground and public park area with fireplaces for outdoor cooking, and several tennis courts. One project not realized was a two story field house complete with a central recreation room, shower and locker facilities, office and living quarters for the resident caretaker.
On November 30, 1939 Pierce Memorial Stadium opened to the public in time for the traditional Thanksgiving Day football game between East Providence and La Salle Academy. Headlines in the December 1, 1939 issue of the Providence Journal read: "Townies Tumble LaSalle, Captain Bullet Bentley East Providence Hero". The reporter continued to say "that a team that won't be beat can't be beat, and that's the way it was with East Providence High's Townies...as they wrapped up a neat 10-0 package and handed it to LaSalle's Maroon Juggernaut at East Providence's grand new recreational centre, Pierce Memorial Stadium. The occasion was the official dedication of the sports field for which East Providence has waited for so long. An estimated 8500 were on hand."
In 1941 Pierce Stadium was the site of two baseball hitting demonstrations; one by Babe Ruth on September 2nd and the other by Ted Williams the following day. A plaque commemorating the event is located just inside the memorial gate which is flanked by two bronze tablets at the entrance to the stadium. Erected with contributions obtained from alumni, faculty, students and supportive individuals, it honors the 2125 students and alumni of East Providence High School who served in World War II and the 76 war dead. Dedication of the gates took place on June 6, 1948 in a small ceremony conducted by James E. Bates, principal and Louis Faber, football coach. Mr. Farber noted that East Providence was the "first community in the state to have within its borders a living war memorial."
Since 1939 Pierce Memorial Stadium has been the site of numerous and varied recreational events including rodeo and circus shows, boxing bouts, professional soccer and Independence Day fireworks displays. The facility is home to both Townie and area university athletics. It is host to the annual Heritage Festival which boasts a thirty year production history of regional, national and international talent in the music industry as well as many cultural events.
Pierce Stadium and Athletic Complex continues to serve East Providence well by maintaining past recreational traditions while inspiring expansion and preservation of recreational areas and initiating new directions in this community's pursuit of leisure activities.
The Pierce Athletic Complex is open to the public year round with the exception of Christmas and New Year's Day. Tennis and basketball courts are available with lighting provided until 9:30pm from mid April to mid November. The rubberized walking track is open M-F from 7:15am to dusk and 8am to dusk on weekends.