Sandcastle Is Reborn – Where Does A.C. Baseball Go Now?
Tom Morgan broke the news yesterday that The Sandcastle / Bernie Robbins Stadium is being renamed Surf Stadium - paying homage to the old baseball team's name in Atlantic City (and to the crashing waves along the beach up the road from the park). Now the question is who might call A.C. home in the future.
The first step to the return of professional baseball in Atlantic City will be some needed groundwork on the field inside the park. Caitlin Dineen reported for The Press of Atlantic City that city council approved the execution of a $227,000 contract with Georgia Golf Construction Inc. to install artificial turf at the stadium.
The next step will be a Labor Day weekend series with teams to be announced at some point soon, setting the wheels in motion toward the possibility of a minor league team invading Surf Stadium in 2013. Now who might be the right fit here?
The Atlantic League was once the home of the Atlantic City Surf from 1998-2006, featuring former Phillie Mitch Williams as their manager for a couple of seasons. The team had some success in this independent league, but is the future here going back to where they once came? Can Atlantic City support a Major League affiliate team? At what level?
The Phillies are strong with their Class A team in Lakewood (you may have gone to see Blue Claws in the past), and their AA squad out in Reading, Pa. The Yankees have a good setup as well, with the Trenton Thunder having fan success at AA. The Mets could have a need, and A.C. would be a great spot for their AA squad.
There is no rumors that this is even a possibility, but the facts are that the AA squad for the Mets in Binghamtom struggled to have the lowest average attendance in the Eastern League (where Reading and Trenton are in) - barely over 3,000 fans a game. The area in New York state has struggled with its declining economy - they have not recovered from the departure of IBM from their area. Rumors have surfaced that the owners of the B-Mets have looked to sell and have considered a move to Canada (Ottawa).
No doubt having a New York Mets minor league team near their fan base region would make total sense. There was speculation the Binghamton team could move out to Long Island, but nothing has transpired with a move to Nassau or Suffolk County.
There are factors that would have to play into this idea - will Trenton try to block this move thinking a team in A.C. may cut into their fan base? How would Lakewood react? With the target of a team at Surf Stadium being residents of Atlantic and Cape May counties, plus visitors to the casinos from out of town, it should not affect either squads attendance a great deal.
Could Atlantic City draw more that 3,500 fans a game for a mid-level minor league franchise? Yes, but ties to a regional base Major League squad like the Mets would only enhance fan interest. The move on paper would be a win-win for all involved, but just because I pontificate on the idea does not mean this will happen. Would you be receptive to this idea for Surf Stadium?