The city of Bridgeport is putting a lease to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard out to bid, and the three options include a Bridgeport Bluefish (independent; Atlantic League) renewal, conversion to pro soccer, and a Live Nation plan for a concert/event amphitheater.
The Bluefish have been tenants at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard for 20 years, but the relationship between the team and the city isn’t the greatest, and the team is operating in 2017 under a one-year lease extension. The city did let the lease out to bid last month, but confusion over where the bids should be submitted led City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer to decide to begin the bid process anew, with submissions set for two weeks from now. At least three bids are expected. Bluefish owner Frank Boulton says he wants to stay at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard. Developer Howard Saffan and concert promoter Live Nation are pitching a conversion of the ballpark to a concert venue. And a third proposal has the facility converted to a pro soccer facility. From the Connecticut Post:
Bluefish owner Frank Boulton, who purchased the team in 2008, in prior interviews has expressed interest in keeping the team in Bridgeport. He has had a prickly relationship with [Mayor Howard] Ganim, who built the ballpark in the 1990s during his first go round as mayor. The two clashed last year over ballpark finances and rent before reaching a settlement.
Boulton has not commented on Ganim’s pursuit of other possible ballpark tenants. But on Tuesday Jamie Toole, the Bluefish general manager, issued a critical comment on Twitter: “Instead of putting out bids 4 alternate tenants @CityofBptCT needs 2 fix the ballpark 4 the current tenant & actually support their team!”
Although the Bluefish have struggled over the years to fill seats despite creative promotions, an amphitheater is not necessarily a sure thing. There are questions about how the site could be turned from a ballpark to a music venue — particularly with the Metro North train tracks running past — and also what impact it would have on the neighboring Webster Bank Arena’s bottom line.
Between AHL hockey and major concerts (Bruce Springsteen, Elton John and Chris Brown have played there), Webster Bank Arena is an important financial venue for the city.