Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, will invest up to $7.5 million in the redevelopment of Campbell’s Field in Camden.
The Rutgers Board of Governors approved the proposed project, which envisions the creation of a multi-purpose athletic facility that could include fields for baseball, lacrosse, and field hockey to be utilized by Rutgers University–Camden’s NCAA Division III and club teams as well as by the larger Camden community.
The complex would be built on the site of Campbell’s Field, which currently is owned by the Camden County Improvement Authority (CCIA). The Rutgers Board of Governors resolution represents Rutgers’ contribution toward the overall project.— funded by public money —
Upon completion of construction, the complex would be owned by the City of Camden. Rutgers would enter into a usage agreement with the city to ensure that Camden youth and families, as well as Rutgers students, enjoy open access to the playing fields.
Currently, the Rutgers University–Camden men’s baseball team plays its homes games and conducts its practices at Campbell’s Field, which it has done since the professional baseball stadium opened. Rutgers manages the Rutgers–Camden Community Park, a city-owned facility featuring softball and soccer fields utilized by Camden community groups as well as by Rutgers–Camden’s softball and women’s and men’s soccer teams.
“I thank the Rutgers Board of Governors for its commitment to Rutgers–Camden’s growth,” says Phoebe Haddon, chancellor of Rutgers University–Camden. “These playing fields are important to Rutgers students as well as to the health of Camden’s families. We look forward to advancing this project, as well as other key projects – such as a new Business School Building and a revitalized Rutgers presence on Cooper Street – that will serve our students and contribute to the ongoing Camden Rising movement that’s energizing our city.”
“The new landmark facility will be the home for Rutgers athletics and city youth sports becoming a haven for children to thrive on the waterfront,” says Camden County Freeholder Louis Cappelli Jr. “Since the CCIA took ownership and control of the property, we have consistently talked about ensuring that whatever use continues at the site will be one that directly benefits the city. In short, this redevelopment plan will provide Rutgers with the ability to grow their campus and for Camden’s children to have a world-class facility to play in throughout the year.”
Cappelli added, “That said, and despite our best efforts, we were stymied from bringing a Major League Baseball-affiliated organization to the city based on MLB rules and regulations. Our original objective was to bring baseball back to the city, but seeing all doors close in front of us, it was important to reengineer the mission. Furthermore, we view this to be the single best option for residents, who will now have access to a college-level athletic facility to serve their community.”
“Although it will be disappointing to see Campbell’s Field gone, change is sweeping through the city,” says Camden Mayor Dana Redd. “This is an opportunity for Camden to reimagine the site in a positive way that will benefit the community. I am confident the proposed development will result in a superb waterfront amenity which our Camden youth and residents can enjoy for decades to come. The City of Camden, Camden County, and Rutgers University have a long history of working together to facilitate similar projects of this scope and scale. Rutgers University is an ideal partner for this type of venture, as they continue to grow the Camden campus. Rutgers University has not only been a socially conscious neighbor, but also has done a great job of engaging Camden stakeholders. The proposed athletic fields will further connect our residents to the Camden Waterfront and Rutgers University, while providing a state of the art collegiate-level facility. I cannot think of a better scenario.”
Camden County purchased the property in 2015 to save it from foreclosure by paying off the $3.5 million in outstanding debt just four months before the Riversharks minor league baseball team folded.
The 6,700-seat ballpark on the Camden Waterfront, opened across from the Philadelphia skyline in 2001 for a now-defunct minor-league baseball team, will be demolished and replaced with three Rutgers University athletic fields under a deal reached by the university’s board, the city government and the Camden County Improvement Authority.
“Unfortunately, the state, in its lack of wisdom, built a baseball stadium for an unaffiliated, independent league (team) that folded and $35 million disappeared,” he said George E. Norcross III, the South Jersey political boss.
During the 1990s, then-Gov. Christie Whitman committed New Jersey taxpayers to spending $127.4 million to build stadiums in six towns, including Camden. The investments have not been home runs.
TD Bank Ballpark is a 6,100-seat baseball park in Bridgewater and home of the Somerset Patriots, who play in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.
Arm & Hammer Park, formerly known as Mercer County Waterfront Park, in Trenton, is home for the Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League. The official seating capacity is 6,150.
FirstEnergy Park in Lakewood Township, has 6,588 seats and is the home field of the Lakewood BlueClaws, the single A minor league baseball team affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Riverfront Stadium is a 6,200-seat baseball park in Newark, that is home to two baseball teams, the Rutgers-Newark Scarlet Raiders, and the NJIT Highlanders. The stadium’s intended minor league baseball team, Newark Bears, played there from 1999 until 2013, before the team folded.
Surf Stadium is a 5,500-seat baseball stadium in Atlantic City that opened in 1998 and has been mostly closed since 2009.
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