Dayton, NFL won’t build field at park after Native American remains survey

The city of Dayton and the National Football League have decided not to construct a new turf field at Triangle Park after a survey of the site found possible evidence of American Indian artifacts or remains.

The city and NFL are working together to try to find another location for the professional-sized turf field the NFL wants to donate to celebrate Dayton’s contribution to America’s most popular sport, according to a city statement released Wednesday afternoon.

The NFL wanted to donate a $440,000 field at Triangle Park because the site was home to the first professional football game. But there is a chance the soil contains human remains or other artifacts dating back to prehistoric times, officials said.

In March, the NFL Foundation announced it would build a new turf field in recognition of Dayton’s significance to the sport as the site of the first ever NFL game.

The field’s groundbreaking was supposed to take place last month as part a NFL Draft celebration at Triangle Park, during which Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and others made draft selections for the Cincinnati Bengals. Thousands of people still attended the Dayton draft party that weekend.

But the groundbreaking was called off after American Indian leader Guy Jones raised concerns that the site could be a burial ground. Jones could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

“Look we take seriously the issue around burial grounds. It’s my understanding that there were some things found and we don’t want to disturb anything. We’re really excited that the NFL is still going to invest in the city,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said Wednesday night.

Researchers at Sunwatch Village confirmed that their information and maps reaching back 100 years show the possibility of two American Indian burial sites in or near Triangle Park.

The city hired Gray & Pape Heritage Management to investigate the possibility.

Between May 8 and 10, Gray & Pape used ground-penetrating radar to survey 2.6 acres of the southern portion of Triangle Park.

The survey identified four “anomalies” in the proposed project area, two of which were attributable to native soils being replaced with sandy soils to create the baseball infields, the report states.

Another anomaly is believed to be surface wheel ruts that cause excessive reflection.

But one anomaly appears to be a shallow basin that is about 0.3 meters below the surface of the ground, and measures about 10 meters long, 6.5 meters wide and 0.5 meters deep, the report states.

The basin has an oval shape and could be a natural feature, but it is possibly man-made and the age is unknown, the report said. The report says its depth below the surface suggests it predates the park and could be prehistoric.

Historical maps dating back to 1885 and aerial photos dating back to 1920 suggested Triangle Park was used for agricultural and recreational purposes, the report states.

The historical photos showed the Dayton Triangles football stadium with baseball fields at the southern tip of the park.

The Dayton Triangles played the Columbus Panhandles on Oct. 3, 1920, in what is recognized as the league’s first game.

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