Groundbreaking Tuesday for semi-pro baseball stadium in Utica
Utica — A groundbreaking for a sports stadium city officials hope will generate tax revenue and become an family entertainment hot spot for Macomb is slated for Tuesday.
Last August, county officials announced the development of the 2,500-seat, artificial-turf ballpark for a semi-professional independent baseball league by General Sports & Entertainment of Rochester.
The project will cost $8 million to $10 million and include a 500-space parking lot. The ballpark would have about 80 game days during the season.
The first pitch could come as early as June 2016 said Josh Hartman, director of sales and marketing at General Sports & Entertainment.
Hartman said a unique feature at the minor league baseball will be suites, six on each side, on top of the dugouts. They'll be private, patio cabana-type suites at field level about 12 feet from home plate.
The season will run from May 15 to Sept. 15. In addition to baseball, there are plans to use the stadium for firework displays, graduation ceremonies, an ice skating rink and soccer.
General Sports & Entertainment plans to start its own, independent league and run three or four teams out of the stadium.
The city of Utica's Downtown Development Authority donated the property at 7001 Moscone Drive, north of Auburn Road, valued at $600,000. It will lease the property to General Sports & Entertainment for $1 annually. The stadium is expected to generate up to $70,000 in tax revenue.
The stadium will sit on 6.8 acres. Dilapidated brownstones on another 7.9 acres slated for the project will be torn down.
The ballpark will also be environmentally beneficial to Macomb's waterways, county officials have said.
Earlier this month, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel touted how the sports stadium will contribute to the cleanliness of Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River.
"This ballpark is ... going to deal with some problems that we had with a landfill that leached into the Clinton River, had an impact throughout the entire county and out into Lake St. Clair," he said.
The location of the ballpark used to be a dump for household waste for 80 years, Hartman said.
"By us going in and taking out all that trash and cleaning up, obviously that won't be flowing into the river," he said. "We are also cleaning up the entire river bank."
The Clinton River, which runs through Macomb County to the lake, "was once classified as the most polluted river in the state," said Gerard Santoro, project manager of Land & Water Resources at the Macomb County Planning and Economic Development Department.
Jeffrey R. Lanier, senior project environmental engineer for SME, which is the brownfield redevelopment adviser on the project, said the landfill material extends approximately 18 feet down. It is estimated that there is roughly 150,000 cubic yards of landfill material on the project site.
"Removing all landfilled material would be cost prohibitive for any project," Lanier said. "This project plan is to remove roughly 10,000 yards of landfilled material to level grade the site, install engineering controls and construct the community entertainment complex."
He said the remaining landfill material will be capped and monitored.
General Sports & Entertainment in conjunction with the county, Hartman said, also plan to create a hike-and-bike trail along the Clinton River.
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.