American Legion Memorial Stadium is one of my favorite Mecklenburg County venues. Constructed with WPA funds and opened in the late 1930s, the stadium has hosted football games, motocross events, professional wrestling matches, and concerts. I have two Memorial Stadium stories to share. In October 1996, the rock and roll band Pearl Jam played at Memorial Stadium drawing almost 30,000 fans.
I worked for Mecklenburg’s park and recreation department and was responsible for management of the stadium. Truckloads of trash were hauled away after the show, but the football field was still littered with tiny pieces of paper, plastic shards, and cigarette butts. With a football game scheduled the following week, one of my staff suggested calling a street sweeping company about the potential of cleaning the playing surface. When presented the challenge, the sweeping company owner simply replied “how tight is the grass in the ground?” The next day, street sweeping trucks vacuumed the stadium’s football field leaving only the grass with roots sufficient enough to keep from being sucked out of the earth.
The second story doesn’t involve an event. My office was as the Grady Cole Center adjacent to the stadium. I received a particularly unusual inquiry one morning. The caller asked “what permits are necessary to allow human ashes to be spread on Memorial Stadium’s football field?” The inquiry was made by a man whose father had recently passed away and was cremated. His father played football at Memorial Stadium while attending the old Charlotte Central High School. He was also a Shrine Club member, and the annual NC-SC Shrine Bowl football game was held at Memorial throughout the father’s lifetime. The son wanted his father’s ashes spread where his dad had so many fond memories. Inquiries with County legal and health authorities were made. There were no regulations or health risks prohibiting the spreading of ashes. A few days later, on a quiet and sunny weekday morning, I watched from my Grady Cole office window as the son spread his father’s ashes in the Memorial Stadium end zone.