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The Courthouse Is Gone

February 26, 2012 - Al Stephenson
When you drive through downtown Tiffin these days, there is a big empty spot. The historic Seneca County courthouse is gone. People's reactions to the situation run the gamut. From those who don't care, to those who are glad, to those who are sad - everyone has some kind of feeling about the demolition of the once proud structure.

My belief is that most people didn't really care whether the building was torn down or restored. The issue was just not that important to them. I understand. A small group of people wanted the "eyesore" to be removed. The building was beyond repair. It had served its purpose for a long time, and like everything else that ages, it was time to get rid of it. Again, I understand their viewpoint.

The small core of people who fought valiantly to save the structure is the group that I most closely identify with. Many of those people, like myself, are getting a little long in the tooth. We remember when the courthouse was in better condition, alive and bustling with activity. People going from office to office. Smiles and greetings everywhere you went. We long for those old days as people our age often do. We felt the structure could be saved. History would be preserved for future generations. Alas, it was not to be.

My feelings toward the courthouse closely mirrored my emotions when I heard the Cleveland Indians were going to abandon Municipal Stadium for new digs. I was among the few that didn't want to see that happen.

For those of you who had the opportunity to attend a baseball game in Municipal Stadium, you are probably wondering what is wrong with me. Fair question. Municipal Stadium was cavernous, seating some 80,000 fans. On most game days the crowd would be around 5,000 - slightly below capacity as the Tribe was woeful for years. Try moving two rows nearer the field and an aged usher would waddle down and chase you back to your seat. You had to step around broken glass in the parking lot to get into the place and steel girders could block your view of the action on the field.

So why would I be opposed to building a brand new park? Because I remember walking up the ramp as an 8-year-old and seeing the greenest grass I had ever laid eyes upon. The sounds of the bat striking the ball, the chit chat of the players and the buzz of the crowd after the umpire yelled "Play Ball" was mesmerizing for a little kid. It was my first big league park and I didn't want to see it abandoned. Kind of like the courthouse.

My love affair with Municipal Stadium has sent me on a trek to other major league baseball stadiums. In fact my wife and I will drive to Florida in April to attend a game at the new Miami Marlins state-of-the-art ballpark. It will be my 55th major league stadium. I've even visited the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. There I played catch, took some batting practice and ran the bases with total strangers. Yes, I even walked out to centerfield and entered the cornfield!

The movie Field of Dreams was not really about baseball. It was about family. Which brings me to my point.

The courthouse is gone. We cannot bring it back. The citizens of Tiffin will have to decide what to do with the empty spot however. It is time to stop the finger pointing. We must come together as a family and make the best of the situation. Let your thoughts be known and then support whatever is done.

The view from my seat suggests that we will always have our memories of the courthouse. Now we should look forward to what lies ahead. The "family" of Tiffin will be better served if we cooperate for a better future.


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