Just up the road from Centralia and Chehalis, Grays Harbor is known for its logging history and abundant natural beauty. It also happens to be the home to one of the last remaining, all wood, New Deal-era grandstands in the country. The Hoquiam Olympic Stadium is a historical treasure and a shining icon of community pride.
Situated near the Hoquiam and Aberdeen border along Cherry St., the stadium is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is nationally recognized for its historical importance. Since its construction, the stadium has played an integral part in celebrating the community, hosting festivals, music concerts and sporting events. The stadium even had the honor of hosting a rally for a presidential candidate. Join me in taking a closer look at the history of the stadium and see how it’s iconic past continues to inspire the present.
Making use of Grays Harbor’s booming logging industry, the stadium was constructed from local old growth fir, much of which was donated by the Polson Logging Company. Architects wisely designed the stadium grandstand to form an L shape that is enclosed on the Western side, protecting spectators from encroaching storms from the Pacific Ocean. The structure houses both a baseball and football field, a unique feature of the era’s grandstands.
Funded through President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal WPA (Works Progress Administration), the stadium officially opened to the public on November 24, 1938. Notably, this was the date of the big game between Hoquiam and Aberdeen, the longest running rivalry in high school football in the state. During construction of the stadium, crews recognized that they would not be able to complete the project before the game. So they hired a night crew, working around the clock to meet their deadline. There was even a naming contest open to the public for the stadium, with the winner receiving a free three-year pass to all stadium events. With a current capacity of approximately 7,500 and an original capacity of over 10,000, the stadium was able to house nearly the entire population of Hoquiam when it was built.
The WPA constructed 48 grandstands, stadiums and bleachers across the country, however none where as large as the Hoquiam Olympic Stadium. A testament to local community stewardship and foresight, the stadium is the largest and best-preserved all-wooden structure of its type in the country and perhaps the world. This type of prideful ownership has guided the stadium through the years, as it has become an important symbol of the community.
The Hoquiam Olympic Stadium has played an important role in hosting a vast range of events. Beginning in the 1940s and continuing through the 1990s, the stadium has been home to numerous professional baseball teams and leagues. The Industrial League kicked things off in the 1940s, with the Harborites playing through the 1950s and ’60s. The Grays Harbor Ports, Loggers and Mets played during the 1970s as part of the Northwest League. In 1978 actor and comedian Bill Murray fulfilled his dream of playing professional baseball when he joined the Loggers for a game. In 1995 the stadium welcomed the Grays Harbor Gulls, who played in the Western Baseball League.
Enjoying the Stadium Today
With such a rich history, it’s no wonder this stadium is an attraction for locals and visitors alike. From the beginning, the stadium has supported the local youth sports community, hosting Hoquiam and Aberdeen High School football and baseball, along with youth baseball and youth football. The stadium is also currently the home of the Grays Harbor College Chokers baseball team. Be sure to check out each team’s schedule so you can attend a game in this historic structure.
The stadium also hosts the Hoquiam Logger’s Playday annually in September, where those in attendance can celebrate the region’s logging history, partake in various events to support the community, and enjoy the logging show and competitions.
Planning a Visit
While visiting the Hoquiam Olympic Stadium you might enjoy a visit to the Polson Museum and Aberdeen Museum of History, which each offer extensive collections about the area’s history. Since you’ll be in town for a little while, here are a few excellent places to grab a bite. For fine dining, consider a visit to Rediviva Restaurant in Aberdeen, Ocean Crest in Moclips, the Salmon House in Quinault, and The North Cove Bar and Grill and Tokeland Hotel and Restaurant in Tokeland. If you’re looking for a casual dining experience, check out the 8th St. Alehouse and the Grizzly Den in Hoquiam, Breakwater Seafoods and Chowder and Billy’s Bar and Grill in Aberdeen, and Savory Faire and the Fishin Hole Family Restaurant in Montesano. For locally-crafted drinks, stop by Steam Donkey Brewing in Aberdeen and Hoquiam Brewing Company in Hoquiam.
Nearby accommodations can be found at the Best Western Plus Aberdeen, A Harbor View Inn bed and breakfast in Aberdeen, and the Econo Lodge Inn and Suites in Hoquiam. For those destined for the beach, consider a stay at one of the many hotels and resorts in Ocean Shores and Westport.
Plan a trip to the Hoquiam Olympic Stadium to enjoy its historical charm and soak in the rich nostalgia of this Grays Harbor gem.