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West Chester: We need serious ballpark proposal before proceeding

Proposed West Chester ballpark

West Chester (Pa.) officials sound enthusiastic about the prospect of a new MiLB ballpark, but the Borough Council is running into a huge obstacle: there’s no actual ballpark proposal on the table and no official documentation that land for the project is actually for sale at an affordable price.

The ballpark, which could potentially house a NY-Penn League team affiliated with the Philadelphia Phillies, certainly has engendered a lot of enthusiasm in the Philadephia exurb. But it’s increasingly looking like ballpark proponents, led by Howie Bedell and the Turks Head Stadium Alliance, may have let their enthusiasm run a little ahead of the financial realities — which city officials are now discovering.

The price tag for the ballpark project: $40 million. The city can come up with $11 million on its own through bonding, 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 every indication is that the land acquisition won’t be easy. The proposed site for the ballpark is owned by Pfizer, a former Wyeth Labs location at South Bolmar and East Nields streets. Pfizer has indicated it will sell the land, but the transaction may be a little complicated: as part of the deal Pfizer wants to see its annual $775,000 sewage payment eliminated. Now, West Chester is not that large a municipality, so the average homeowner would see their bills go up 27 percent to cover that shortfall.

Of course, nothing about a new-ballpark project is easy. Basically, the project has gone nowhere since it was first announced: there’s nothing for the Borough Council to consider (a proposal to send the project to the local Redevelopment Authority was denied because of the lack of specificity from ballpark enthusiasts), and the potential of state funding will probably decline considerably in 2011, as a new governor probably won’t be as likely to approve state funding as ballparks as soon-to-be-former Gov. Ed Rendell was. That could change by the end of the year, but the window of opportunity for a new ballpark just might have ended.

RELATED STORIES: Details emerge on proposed West Chester ballpark; Phillies: Not so fast on the new West Chester ballpark; Phillies, West Chester agree on new ballpark

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