These forces left older industrial cities like Paterson, already hemorrhaging jobs and ratables, to face the needs of a new wave of urban pioneers with no easy way out of poverty. That great economic synergy of factory jobs and a stable working class whose weekend patronage Hinchliffe had counted on, and whose property taxes helped maintain it, was rapidly disappearing.
Yet like many similar towns, Paterson also lacked alternatives for school athletics. Over the period 1950-1990, while Paterson's ethnic character changed, the city actually saw no net loss in general population, and actually gained in numbers of children in the schools. A stadium whose first reason-for-being was school athletics might not thrive on such a statistic, but it could survive-for a time.
Arguably no single agency could take on major public reinvestment without a citywide vision. This was not even available to the preservation revival that launched the Great Falls Landmark District from 1970-76, and defined the "significance period" for the district as ending in 1914, effectively sidelining the troubled 1932 stadium. School athletics and graduations went on, and '70s Great Falls Festivals brought in the occasional fancy auto show or used the empty oval for launching fireworks. Duke Ellington even played one of his last major concerts here in 1971. But an increasingly troubled school system found it hard to justify serious upgrades, and general urban triage left no one who could-or would-take Paterson's golden albatross off its hands.
As if to speak its own despair, the infield's old sinkhole returned, and a new one in the extended outfield slowly but insidiously deepened. By 1994, with the entire school system in State receivership, the stadium was threatened with demolition. An outcry of protest encouraged the City's own Preservation Commission to ask that the stadium be named to the"Ten Most Endangered Historic Places" on the list of the statewide group, Preservation New Jersey.
These were the first signs of a new "Stadium Movement," this time to save the beleaguered stadium, a movement that came alive even as the stadium itself was closed to all athletic use in late 1997, and thieves all-too-symbolically stripped out the bronze plaques honoring young athletes of Paterson's past [see The Federici Plaques], even as Hinchliffe's reason for being, to serve the youth of a struggling city, no longer seemed to justify its continuing existence.