Over the weekend, the Somerset Patriots (independent; Atlantic League) celebrated a major milestone with the 20th anniversary of their home, TD Bank Ballpark.
The Patriots began play in 1998 as a founding member of the Atlantic League, but spent that season on the road while awaiting the completion of their new ballpark in Bridgewater, NJ. That facility opened as Somerset Ballpark on June 7, 1999, marking the beginning for what has ultimately become one of the most recognizable facilities in the Atlantic League.
Over their years at the ballpark, the Patriots have had plenty of success on the field, winning a total of six league titles. The organization has also received steady fan support, and has been given credit for providing a solid game day experience at TD Bank Ballpark. The venue’s 20th anniversary was celebrated during the Patriots’ home game on Saturday, giving many the chance to reflect the planning for TD Bank Ballpark’s and how it facilitated future success. More from MyCentralJersey.com:
Somerset Ballpark, as it was known at the time, was designed by Clarke Caton & Hintz and SSP Architectural Group and built by Epic Construction, and was always supposed to be just that, a ballpark. Franchise owner and chairman Steve Kalafer was very specific in not only his vision in that regard, but that the ballpark not open until every little detail was finished properly.
“We wanted this to look like a ballpark. Not a stadium, not an athletic complex. This had to be a ballpark,” Kalafer said.
“What we did was we wanted to make sure all elements were there; brick, wrought iron, a wide concourse, easy access,” Kalafer said. “Most minor league ballparks at the time, everybody found a way to cheap it out. Everybody found a way to cut a corner. We said we were going to put our money up to the county and we’re going to finish it the right way. The team actually spent millions of dollars additionally to make sure that the ballpark was something that would be iconic, and it has.
“The most important thing that we felt was that the ballpark had to open the right way,” he added. “Your first impression is your lasting impression, and we were speeding towards deadlines. We decided that although the ballpark would be functionally finished, it wouldn’t be finished the way it should be on Opening Day. The Patriots said to Somerset County that we’ll pay the expense of the delayed opening. It’ll be on our dime, but we need to do this the right way. And we did. It was really the freeholders — along with Ray Brown, Tom Miller, Dick Williams, Mike Amorosa — that all said we’re going to do this the right way, or we’re not going to do it at all. They kept our feet to the fire, as they should have, and we’ve had a great partnership for 20 years.”