ATLANTIC CITY — Since Atlantic City Surf played its last game at Sandcastle Stadium in 2009, the stadium has remained empty for the most part.
The future of the stadium appears to be up in the air as the city seeks to redevelop Bader Field, state officials said.
The city is considering a proposal from Deem Enterprises to build a $2.7 billion motorsports destination on the site. The stadium is located on the approximately 141-acre site of Bader Field.
“At this point, the future of the Sandcastle Stadium site is subject to a decision on the proposed Bader Field redevelopment,” said Lisa Ryan, spokeswoman for the state Department of Community Affairs, which oversees the day-to-day running of the city. “If the proposal does not move forward, the Sandcastle site will continue to be used as a ballpark.”
The proposal calls for the construction of a 2.44-mile Formula 1 circuit, ‘car-centric’ townhouses and condos overlooking the intra-coastal waterway, affordable housing and energy facilities renewable. Additionally, the city is also exploring the idea of building pickleball courts at the Bader Field site.
People also read…
Bader Field served as the city’s municipal airport for more than 80 years, hosting airplanes, seaplanes, and airships in the early days of aviation. Since its closure in 2006, the city has tried to sell the site in the hope that it will be redeveloped. Although the site was not sold, it was used for various festivals, concerts and other events.
The $15.5 million, 5,500-seat ballpark opened in 1998 and has been largely closed since 2009, though renovations were completed in 2011 and 2012.
For a decade, the Surf, an independent league team unaffiliated with Major League Baseball, called Sandcastle Stadium home, but in 2008 full-time baseball left the resort. The Surf folded due to lagging ticket sales and a struggling economy.
City officials said they are committed to bringing another professional baseball team to the area.
“We have had discussions with minor league owners and are aggressively seeking a tenant. We have also considered using the stadium for other sports, such as football tournaments in the future,” said Andrew Kramer, city spokesperson. “In the meantime, the stadium has seen heavy use as a venue for various family events, as well as adult and high school baseball tournaments, and we look forward to continuing to use the stadium in this way for the immediate future.”
In 2017, former Surf owner Frank Boulton expressed an interest in bringing an Atlantic League team back to the resort, but the deal never went through.
And it looks like the Atlantic League has no plans to return to the resort just yet.
“The Atlantic League has a proud history in Atlantic City, where AC Surf has fielded some exceptional teams,” Atlantic League president Rick White said in a statement. “At the moment there are no plans to return to the community. If there was a group of owners who wanted to put a team in AC, we would definitely consider it.”
For the past two years, the stadium has hosted the Atlantic Cape Community College baseball team and various baseball tournaments, but for the most part has remained unused.
Although used by the college, the stadium needs about $1 million in repairs to the scoreboard and lighting system, city officials have said in the past. In 2012, the streetlights and dashboard were removed, deemed unsafe after Hurricane Sandy.
Residents of the Chelsea Heights section of town, which is adjacent to the ballpark, would like to see something done with the site.
“I feel like all of Atlantic City needs to be fixed,” said Aurely Shope, 26, of Egg Harbor Township, as she visited her parents at her childhood home.
Shope lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and remembers when the stadium was packed for surf matches.
She believes the stadium needs to be revitalized to help the city capitalize on its tourism industry, which is primarily focused on adult games and entertainment.
“I think it would be prettier,” Kiersten Garcia, 27, said of rehabilitation and more regular use of the ballpark.
Garcia and her mother have lived in their townhouse for nearly a year, after moving from Mount Holly, Burlington County. Garcia and her mother aren’t too bothered that it’s nearly empty.
But, she said it would be good for the area if it was repaired and used regularly again. She said her mother’s friends felt the same way.
“I think they all agree that having things that aren’t vacant improves the value of the property and the overall aesthetic of everything,” Garcia said.
Some residents of the neighborhood have just learned to manage the empty stadium.
“We don’t mind,” said Mohammad Shamsuddin, 43, who lives on a ranch about a block from the ballpark. He said he would like to see the city address the neighborhood’s concerns about patrons of a bar across the street littering the construction sites.
Contact Nicolas Huba: