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Atlantic City baseball unlikely in 2019

Atlantic City baseball unlikely in 2019

Surf stadium 2

Surf Stadium in Atlantic City

ATLANTIC CITY — Negotiations to bring baseball back to Surf Stadium are continuing, but the prospect of seeing a team on the field next summer is unlikely.

Frank Boulton, who was authorized in May by City Council to find an ownership group willing to bring baseball back to Atlantic City, said a deal is not in place and “there’s a few things that still need to happen.” He said he is “cautiously optimistic” a team could be playing in Atlantic City by summer 2020.

The city’s governing body gave Boulton, who is a founding member of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and former owner of the Atlantic City Surf, a 90-day window to facilitate a deal on its behalf.

“We’re not looking to bring this back for a couple of years,” Boulton said Tuesday. “We’re trying to bring this back for decades to come. We need to do it right, so it’s going to take a little time.”

Boulton said one of the avenues being explored is bringing in corporate sponsors, including a naming-rights partner for the 5,500-seat stadium on Albany Avenue.

“That’s a must for the long-term viability” of baseball in Atlantic City, he said.

The stadium has been used sparingly since the Surf played its final game there in 2008. As such, repairs and upgrades to the facility are a central point of the negotiations, City Council President Mary Small Sr. said. In addition to the locker rooms, clubhouses, scoreboard, executive offices and grass field all being in “disrepair,” Small said discussions with any potential ownership group should include the installation of new stadium lights, which are estimated to cost $1.4 million. The addition of lights would allow the stadium to be used for other events, such as concerts and festivals, with the city skyline providing a backdrop, Small said.

The terms of a lease with the city are still to be determined, but Small believed the prior agreement was in the neighborhood of $75,000 annually.

“This makes sense for the city,” Small said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Surf Stadium was completed in 1998 and cost $14.5 million to build, $11.5 million of which came from the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and $3 million from bonds issued by the city. The stadium is part of a larger parcel of city-owned land that includes Bader Field and the Flyers Skate Zone.

The Surf ceased operations in March 2009. New Jersey has five minor league or independent league baseball teams, including the Lakewood BlueClaws, the single-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Trenton Thunder, the double-A team for the New York Yankees. Defunct teams include the Newark Bears and the Camden Riversharks, both of which were members of the Atlantic League at one point.

Contact: 609-272-7222 Twitter @ACPressDanzis

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Staff Writer

I cover Atlantic City government and the casino industry since joining The Press in early 2018. I formerly worked as a politics & government reporter for NJ Herald and received the First Amendment: Art Weissman Memorial NJPA Award two years in a row.

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