Watt Powell Park was named for its primary benefactor, pro baseball player Watt Powell. Powell, a Hot Springs, Virginia native lived in Charleston and served on the Charleston City Council, as well as heading the Division of State Parks. The first ballpark was Kanawha Park, built in 1917, and funded by Powell and Charles A. Beers, a local businessman. The wooden stadium, erected on the corner of 35th Street and MacCorkle Avenue seated 3,500 people. The stadium was damaged by fire in 1939. But after hosting games for 27 years, the structure was totally destroyed by fire in 1944.
A government bond, along with a generous contribution from Watt Powell enabled the construction of a new steel and concrete ballpark on the site of the old Kanawha Park. The new stadium held 4,474 fans. Known for its scenic setting, the outfield was framed by a ridge of hills. The stadium was known as a ‘pitchers field’ because of the depth of center field at 420 feet. Left field was 340 feet and right field was 330 feet deep. The outfield walls were 12 feet high along the entire perimeter of the outfield, which was higher than most other stadiums walls. The depth of the field and the height of the walls denied many a hitter of an out of the park homer. The right field elevation was above the height of the wall behind the stadium and many fans sat in lawn chairs along the adjacent railroad tracks to watch the games.
In addition to minor league baseball, Watt Powell Park also hosted college games, high school tournaments, and community softball events. Over the years, the park was home to several minor-league franchises:
- Charleston Senators 1948 – 1951, Class A Central League Cincinnati Reds farm team
- Charleston Senators 1952- 1955, AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox
- Charleston Senators 1956-1959, AAA affiliate of the Detroit Tigers
- Charleston Senators 1960, farm team for the Washington Senators
- San Juan Marlins 1961, AAA affiliate of St. Louis Cardinals (relocated after losing their stadium to a hurricane)
- Charleston Indians 1962 -1964, AA Eastern League
- No Baseball club 1965-1970
- Charleston Charlies 1971-1983, AAA International League, Pittsburg Pirates affiliate; league champions in 1973 and 1977
- Charleston Charlies 1978-1979, Houston Astros affiliate
- Charleston Charlies 1980, Texas Rangers affiliate
- Charleston Charlies 1981-1983, parent club Cleveland Indians
- No baseball club 1984-1986
- Charleston Wheelers 1987-1989, Chicago Cubs affiliate
- Charleston Wheelers 1990-1994, parent club Cincinnati Reds; won South Atlantic League title in 1990
- Charleston Alley Cats 1995-2003, affiliate of Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays
- West Virginia Power 2004 to present
Several players of note at Watt Powell Park were Chad Fox, Trevor Hoffman, Pokey Reese, Brett Tomko and Dan Wilson, and Mike Mendoza.
Watt Powell Park closed in 2005 after the construction of the Alley Cats new home, Power Park, in downtown Charleston. Renamed the West Virginia Power, they continue the tradition of baseball in Charleston. Watt Powell Park was sold to The University of Charleston, who in turn sold two-thirds of the property to Charleston Area Medical Center. The old stadium was demolished in the latter part of 2005. CAMC constructed a cancer center on the site which opened in 2015.
Watt Powell, a true lover of baseball, first as a player then as a benefactor, passed away on November 6, 1948, a few months prior to the inaugural game. He never saw a game played in the stadium that would carry his name.
Looking Back remembers the Hotel Kanawha next month.