TRACY (CBS13) – Hundreds of kids have learned to play football on a field in Tracy, but the city is considering selling the land to developers unless a 68-year-old handshake agreement gets in the way.
It was a field of dreams for Grandpa Ritter when he sold it to the city for $10 with the promise they’d keep it for the kids.
A handshake was considered as good as gold, especially in the 1940s, when a man’s promise could settle any score.
“They were pretty honorable men and your word was everything you had,” Paul Ritter said, “and I hope that’s still true to today.”
Paul Ritter says his late grandfather Carlton asked the city of Tracy to keep the 11 acres a park. They even shook on it.
“He would like what’s happened,” Paul said. “He would like to see all this.”
After all this is where stars are made.
Now, the city’s considering swapping teams for homes.
“Would it be wise to consider developing it? I want to emphasize consider. We’re just talking about options right now, Tracy Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel said.
But many people at the ballpark say any development here is a Hail Mary pass that falls short.
“Now you want to make money on it?” a youth football coach said. “I think it’s best to leave it here for the kids.”
A new ball park is being built north of town, and the city is expecting that kids will want to leave the old field for the new one. Parents aren’t so sure.
“I don’t think this’ll be left empty,” Vivian Freeman said. “We’re always looking around for fields for every sport.”
Is the city willing to let that promise behind the handshake slip?
“I still think we need to honor the spirit of the agreement in some way,” Maciel said.
They suggest perhaps including a piece of the park and developing the rest.
But the Ritter family calls that a foul play.
“I think it would be a shame,” Paul said.
The city doesn’t want to get the fans all fired up. They won’t be tearing down the stands any time soon. They wanted to get people’s opinions and they sure got an earful.