As the Turk’s Head Stadium Alliance continues to work on state funding for a new West Chester (Pa.) ballpark, details about the scope of the project and its funding sources emerge — but its location may cause some issues in Minor League Baseball unless the Philadelphia Phillies are part of the mix.
The actual plan for the ballpark and surrounding complex is ambitious, to say the least: besides a 5,000-seat ballpark, the alliance is pushing for an auditorium/classroom space within the ballpark and a 7,500-seat convocation center, complete with basketball floor and indoor track, adjacent to the ballpark. Also part of the mix: the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society. The whole shebang would be located on the former Wyeth Laboratories site at the corner of South Bolmar and East Nields streets.
The price tag for all this: $40 million. The city can come up with $11 million on its own through bonds, and there’s the potential for up to $20 million over time from the state (although, with Gov. Ed Rendell leaving office, there’s some doubt about a new governor spending so much on ballparks that Rendell did). That’s only $31 million, which leaves a gap in funding.
And then there’s the territorial issue. The Turk’s Head Stadium Alliance keeps hinting that the Phillies are on board, but we were told unambiguously the team isn’t on board with anything — yet, anyway. There’s a big reason why: unless we’re misreading the map, Chester County — which contains West Chester — directly adjoins New Castle County in Delaware, which contains Wilmington, home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks (High Class A; Carolina League). This, of course, raises a territorial issue. The Phillies could move a NY-Penn League team to West Chester (MLB teams can do pretty much what they want when it comes to territories), but someone else would have issues. Which is one more reason why the participation of the Phillies is key to the deal. We’re told the independent Atlantic League and Can-Am Association have expressed interest in the project as well, but we’re guessing that won’t cause nearly the excitement about the project in City Hall that the Phillies did. (Fans responding to our earlier stories on the subject were stoked about the Phillies, not so much the ballpark.)
Now, having said all this, it makes a lot of sense for the Phillies to buy one of the available NY-Penn League teams and move it to West Chester; that’s a scenario we heard discussed years ago. But we’re guessing the Phillies won’t take this move until a new ballpark is approved. And we’re guessing one of the roadblocks to public funding of a new West Chester ballpark is the lack fo public support from the Phillies. Chicken, egg…which breaks first?
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