Caswell Park History
In 1916, Col. William Caswell, a confederate veteran of the Civil War, donated land in East Knoxville to the City for the purpose of a community park. The land was near his 5th Avenue home, and it included a playground and other park amenities. The park was best known for basebal, softball and track and field.
The Evans-Collins facility was originally built in 1940. It was dedicated to W.E. Evans and Wilson Collins. Evans was the principal of Knoxville High School from 1917 to 1951. Collins was a well known football coach at Knoxville High School; he died in 1941.
During 1950 and 1951 new high schools were built in the areas outside Knoxville, so the centrally located Knoxville High School was no longer needed.
In 1952 Evans became the first principal of the new East High School.
During the early years of the new high school era, the high schools could not afford to have their own football facilities. Because of that, the Evans-Collins facility, once located where the Caswell Park softball complex now resides, became the home football field for East High, Fulton High (until 1965), Central High and later Catholic High.
During this time all high school track and field events took place at the Evans–Collins facility. Also, the Tennessee State High School Track and Field Championships meet at Evans-Collins field.
Because UT did not have a full standard size track on campus until the completion of the Tom Black Track & Field facilities in late 1966, UT’s track meets were held at the Evans-Collins facility during the 1963-1966 era.
Throughout its history, the site now known as Ridley-Helton Field has held three stadiums. The first was named for Col. Caswell. The second was named for City Councilman W.N. Smithson. The third stadium was named for the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Knoxville native and big league star Bill Meyer. Coach Meyer was able to visit Bill Meyer Stadium several times before he died in 1957.
The ballfield itself was named "Ridley Field" after Knoxville Baseball owner, Neil Ridley.
The 50-year-old Bill Meyer Stadium was demolished in 2003. The City began planning major changes for the Bill Meyer Stadium area after the Smokies built a new stadium in Sevier County and became the Tennessee Smokies. Though the stadium was demolished, the field was kept in place.
After the City of Knoxville renovated the site, then Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam renamed the field "Ridley-Helton Field," honoring Knoxville native Todd Helton, who had a very successful career in Major League Baseball playing first base for the Colorado Rockies. Helton had contributed funds to the 2003 renovation of the field.