Macomb unveils plans for minor league baseball facility in Utica

Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Utica — County officials announced Monday the development of a sports stadium in the city for semi-pro independent league baseball that also would offer a venue for family entertainment.

The 2,500-seat, artificial-turf ballpark will be developed by General Sports & Entertainment of Rochester and have about 80 game days during the season. The project will cost $8 million to $10 million and include a 500-space parking lot.

“This isn’t just a Utica ballpark, this isn’t just a Macomb County minor league ball stadium, this is a major opportunity for southeast Michigan and the region,” County Executive Mark A. Hackel said.

The city of Utica’s Downtown Development Authority donated the property at 7001 Moscone Drive, north of Auburn Road, valued at $600,000, according to a press release. It will lease the property for $1 annually. The first pitch could come as early as May 15, 2015, or as late as May 15, 2016.

“We know that by developing these two brownfields, we will bring back a quality of life and an overall tax base to this city that is incomparable to any idea that has come along,” said Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan, who added the site used to be a dump for household waste.

Zain Masters of General Sports & Entertainment said there may be up to 18 suites in the ballpark — 12 that will be open-air, cabana-style. Six will be at the top of the stadium and others behind home plate. There will also be a party deck and picnic areas.

“We intend to start our own league, an independent league and run three or four teams out of this stadium,” said Masters, director of research and strategy. “They will play head-to-head against each other.”

The season will run from May 15 to Sept. 15, which Masters said are the best weather months in the Midwest. In addition to baseball, the stadium will be used for firework displays, an ice skating rink and soccer.

Noonan said the stadium will be a boon for the city and is expected to generate up to $70,000 in tax revenue.

She added that no general fund tax money was used because it is a private and public partnership consisting of the DDA, the City Council and General Sports & Entertainment.

The stadium will sit on 6.8 acres. The other brownfield that is also a part of the project is 7.9 acres and is home to dilapidated brownstones that will be torn down.

After the park is built, developers hope to add retail and condominiums to the site.

Supporters have dreamed of having a minor league baseball facility in Macomb County for the past 10 years.

In 2012, Hackel proposed a shoreline initiative that included a minor league baseball stadium, attracting professional fishing tournaments on Lake St. Clair and revitalizing marina districts.

In 2004, Mount Clemens decided it couldn’t help fund a 7,000-seat minor league baseball stadium at the site of the Comfort Inn on North River Road that also could be used for outdoor events such as concerts and high school sports.

There are a handful of minor league teams in Michigan, including the Great Lakes Loons in Midland, Lansing Lugnuts, West Michigan Whitecaps in Grand Rapids, Battle Creek Bombers and the Traverse City Beach Bums. There’s also the Mud Hens in Toledo.

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