Watt Powell Park in Charleston hosted professional baseball and all levels of amateur baseball, and some high school football games, for more than a half century after its opening on April 28, 1949. The city built the steel-and-concrete structure for $250,000 and named it for Walter B. (Watt) Powell, who died shortly before the park’s opening. Powell, who grew up near Hot Springs, Virginia, had come to Charleston in 1915. He managed the Charleston Senators of the Class C Middle Atlantic League in the 1930s and ran the billiards room in the Kanawha Hotel downtown. It was Powell who convinced city officials to build a new ballpark. At the time, he worked as chief of the Division of State Parks and served on city council.
After its opening, Watt Powell Park was used for professional baseball every year except for the 1965–70 seasons and the 1984–86 seasons. In its early years, the park seated about 6,000 fans, but a reduction in the left field bleachers in the 1980s dropped capacity to about 5,000. Watt Powell Park occupied the former site of Kanawha Park, a 3,500-seat wooden structure built in 1916 to accommodate professional and amateur baseball. Kanawha Park burned in the 1940s.
On opening night in 1949, a crowd of about 8,000, including Governor Okey L. Patteson, attended the city’s inaugural game in the Class A Central League. Season attendance was 183,352. From 1952 through 1960, Charleston played in the Class AAA American Association, joined the AAA International League in 1961, and played in the Class A Eastern League from 1962 through 1964.
After a six-year absence from professional baseball, the park was given a refurbishing, making way for the city’s return to the International League in 1971. The city continued in the I. L. through the 1983 season and in 1987 joined the Class A South Atlantic League, where it continues as a member. A favorite with generations of baseball fans who relished the cool evening breezes from nearby Mission Hollow, Watt Powell Park was replaced by the city’s new Appalachian Power Park after the 2004 season. The old ballpark was demolished in 2005. The West Virginia Power held its first game at the new park on April 14, 2005.
This Article was written by Mike Whiteford
Last Revised on November 12, 2010
Whiteford, Mike. Alley Cats to Celebrate Park's 50th Anniversary. Charleston Gazette, 3/24/1999.