After restoring the baseball field at Burley Middle School and redoing the bleachers, the team behind that project is gearing up for its next project — a walk of fame.
“To date, we’ve either raised or have pledges for almost $1 million dollars to go into this particular facility,” said Jeff Burton, president of H3 Baseball, at Thursday’s Albemarle School Board meeting.
The money would go toward painting a mural, building an entryway to Burley’s baseball field and laying a 380-brick medallion memorializing students who attended Jackson P. Burley High School, according to the presentation. In a second phase, Burton said they want to build the walk of fame and complete a major rework of the baseball field.
“There are a lot of folks who use this baseball field,” he said. “This is the only open-access lighted baseball field in either Charlottesville or Albemarle County. … So this field is a cherished place for the community. We want to make it a world-class facility. We think we can actually attract people to Charlottesville if we do this thing right.”
Burton said they are hoping to start the approval process for the first phase in the next couple of weeks and expect approval in early fall. Under that timeline, construction crews could start building this year.
H3 Baseball has led an effort to restore the baseball field, which was the former football field for Jackson P. Burley High School — an all-Black school that was open from 1951 to 1967. The school reopened as a middle school in 1974.
The Burley Varsity Club started raising money to improve the field and the bleachers in August 2019. At the time, the field had fallen into disrepair with grass growing over the wooden bleachers.
Burton and H3 Baseball got involved in fall 2020 and the two have worked together to lead a large collective of local organizations, including the Equity Center at University of Virginia, to update the facilities and come up with a broader vision for the area.
So far, this group has restored the playing surface, redid the bleachers and the buildings around the field have been repaired and repainted, according to Thursday’s presentation. With the help of goats in June 2021, the team cleaned up the woods surrounding the facility.
The upgrades were highlighted during an open house last fall.
After Burton and H3 Baseball got involved, he started working with Ben Allen, the director of the University of Virginia’s Equity Center.
“What I really saw was the power of the current students being able to take this history that is still living and being able to have students learn about it and co-create with community partners,” Allen said.
Allen then worked with the UVa’s School of Architecture and Burley students. The Architecture students had Burley students brainstorm their ideas for the field spaces. Their ideas included playgrounds, baseball fields, sidewalks, a chill-out area and a pond.
The idea of the walk of fame came out of those brainstorming sessions. Allen said. One student envisioned an arch held up by two columns that would feature the colors of the high school — green and gold — and the current colors of the middle school — blue and white.
Allen said that the Buckingham County NAACP has donated the Buckingham slate for the columns’ foundations. The same material was used to build the Rotunda and Academic Village at UVa, Allen said.
“So we see this intersection of the community, Charlottesville and the county,” Allen said.
The walk of fame would honor the school’s past, present and future through three arcs and could also serve as a connector to the nearby Washington Park, according to the presentation.
Allen said the team wants to add different images from Burley graduates on the walk to make it a learning experience for students.
“We’re setting it up so teachers and students can use it as an outdoor classroom,” he said.
Local filmmaker Lorenzo Dickerson is talking to graduates in order to make sure that history is documented correctly, he said.
For more information about the project or to get involved, go to burleyrestorationproject.org.