Riverfront Stadium, former home to independent Atlantic League and Can-Am League Newark Bears teams and once touted as an economic-development tool, has been sold to a developer for $23.5 million and will be torn down to make way for a mixed-use, high-rise tower.
Lotus Equity Group has purchased the site and the ballpark from the city of Newark. The reconstituted Newark Bears got off to a strong start with former Yankees catcher Rick Cerone spearheading the new independent Atlantic League team in 1998, and the $34-million ballpark opened in 1999. The team drew well in the early days, with the likes of Jose Canseco, Rickey Henderson and Jose Lima donning Bears uniforms in attempts to return to the bigs. But after Cerone sold the team in 2003, subsequent owners never made baseball work at Bears & Eagles Riverfront Stadium, and a 2010 move to the Can-Am League didn’t stop the slide. The final version of the Bears folded after the 2013 season, and the assets liquidated. The city was stuck with an asset with $14 million in debt, left only hosting high-school, Rutgers University, Newark and New Jersey Institute of Technology baseball.
The plan for Lotus Equity: to develop a high-rise tower designed to bring more residents to downtown Newark. It also has the advantage of wiping the debt from Newark’s books, as it was increasingly clear there was little chance of pro baseball returning. From NJ.com:
Both the city and Lotus hope to market the apartments as both eco-friendly and part of a thriving transit-oriented district, in hopes of attracting millennials and other young professionals to Newark. The current stadium is just a short walk from the city’s light rail and NJ Transit’s Broad Street station.
“We have the ability to create a vibrant, multifaceted downtown destination for residents and visitors,” said Ben Korman, founder of Lotus Equity Group.
“As longtime investors in Newark, we understand this is a unique opportunity to harness the city’s incredible energy to build an enduring economic driver for generations to come.”