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New Bakersfield ballpark plans collapse

Bakersfield BlazeFinancing for a proposed new ballpark for the Bakersfield Blaze (High Class A; California League) fell through, leading team owners to call a halt to development efforts.

The plan called for the Blaze owners, Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway, to work with a developer on Bakersfield Commons, a 255-acre retail, office and residential project at Coffee and Brimhall roads. The Blaze ownership was attempting to raise $30 million for a ballpark to replace antiquated Sam Lynn Ballpark, but they only could raise $18 million. After hitting a wall, they called quits on the project.

The move also means D.G. Elmore could exercise an option to buy back the franchise at the same price he sold at if the ballpark effort collapsed. From the Bakersfield Californian:

The former owner, D.G. Elmore, wrote in an email that he has made no decisions but that he had been expecting the current owners to build the stadium.

“There is no plan B for a ballpark and professional baseball in Bakersfield,” he wrote. “Gene and Chad’s plan was the only plan.”

Monday’s announcement that the stadium “appears to be very unlikely” disappointed one of the project’s biggest supporters, Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy. He has tried for more than a decade to attract a new stadium to the city, and had applauded the Blaze’s efforts to build one with strictly private financing.

One possible solution: more than one team owner has suggested to us a dormant plan to shift two Cal League teams to the Carolina League could be revived. As you’ll recall, there was a plan floating around two years ago that would have MiLB and the Carolina League facilitate the purchase of two Cal League teams, which would be resold and relocated under new ownership in the Carolina League. With the demise of public-financing tools in California — the state eliminated community-redevelopment funding two years ago, a tool used to finance ballparks across the state — there’s simply no way for communities to finance ballpark construction unless they dip into general funds or find private financing. The loss of redevelopment funds killed a proposal for new ballparks in Escondido and Chico, and it also forced the Blaze owners to seek private financing for a new ballpark. Now, with it unlikely we’ll see public ballpark financing any time soon in California and several communities (Columbia, Hagerstown, Kinston) seeking to keep or bring in affiliated baseball in the Carolina League footprint, the shift could be a practicable and profitable solution to the ballpark issues faced by owners in Bakerfield and High Desert.

RELATED STORIES: Bakersfield Blaze unveils plans for new ballpark; Is Bakersfield on cusp of new ballpark?


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