Utica ballpark will break ground June 23

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 8, 2015

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UTICA — After several bumps in the road to a minor league ballpark slated for the corner of Auburn Road and Moscone Drive in downtown Utica, city officials and the ballpark’s developer are planning a groundbreaking ceremony that will be open to the public at 11 a.m. June 23.

Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan said that General Sports and Entertainment, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel’s Office, and the Sterling Heights Chamber of Commerce were coordinating to set up the groundbreaking. General Sports and Entertainment is the Rochester-based company responsible for building the ballpark.

Noonan said a lack of funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, unclear additional funding from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and exorbitant costs to mitigate the site — a capped landfill — have hindered the stadium’s progress.

She said she believes Andy Applebee, owner of General Sports and Entertainment, did not realize how tough brownfields, such as a capped landfill, are to develop, although the city knew, given the fact that the land sat vacant for approximately 80 years.

“We feel really confident that it’s all going to get sorted out,” she said. “But, as I said the other day, I don’t count my stadiums until they’re hatched. There is a lot of due diligence still to be done.”

Noonan said the MDEQ is in the bidding process to begin mitigation of the brownfield on the parcel east of the Clinton River, where General Sports and Entertainment said it would build residential and retail developments in a contractual ground lease with Utica. The cleanup should be done by August, and the development is supposed to be completed by 2017, a year after the stadium, she said.

If, in the case that the stadium is not completed by 2016, City Attorney Jim McGrail said that Utica included a performance bond in the ground lease.

“The performance bond requested in the ground lease is to pay for any subcontractors, if they don’t get paid, so the property doesn’t get foreclosed, or to demolish the building if the city so chooses,” McGrail said.

Applebee said the stadium, originally slated to cost $8 million to $10 million, would turn out to cost more in the vicinity of $12 million. He said he was confident that the ballpark would be complete in order for the first pitch to be thrown out next summer.

“We’ll be cleaning the land and doing all the site work and site preparation,” Applebee said. “That’s what we’re going to be focused on for the first two to three weeks.”

Afterward, he said construction crews would create the foundations of the stadium and finish the concrete pad portions of the project before Dec. 1.

“We’re just really looking forward to getting it started and focusing on the completion,” Applebee said. “We’ve been very, very pleased with the reception that we’ve gotten, especially in Macomb County. We’ve been getting lots of companies calling us every day for season tickets, suites and sponsorships.”

For more information about the ballpark or groundbreaking ceremony, call Utica City Hall at (586) 739-1600.

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