WILMINGTON – Salesianum School and the city of Wilmington have finalized plans for a renovated Baynard Stadium, nearly two years after the project first entered the public consciousness. The Baynard deal is part of an overall project that also will bring significant improvements to another city-owned facility, Eden Park.
The school will lease the park from the city for 50 years, with Salesianum holding an option for another 50 years.
The announcement was made Oct. 3 in the office of Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. He was joined by Salesianum president Brendan Kennealey, members of City Council and other interested parties. The mayor, who was elected after the original deal fell apart, hailed the public/private partnership and the upgrades to Baynard Stadium and Eden Park. The sides had been negotiating since June 2017.
“This proposal will vastly improve two important city assets while making the facilities more readily available for sporting events and public use,” Purzycki said. “Salesianum’s steadfast commitment to the city of Wilmington will not only bring about the renaissance of Baynard Stadium, but it also enables the city to channel much-needed resources to make the revitalization of Eden Park possible.”
Kennealey said the basics of the Baynard Stadium proposal are similar to what was offered two years ago. A turf field will be installed, and there will be a new track, restrooms, scoreboard, locker rooms, scoreboard, press box, concessions, office space and a community meeting space. The total cost, as was the case in 2016, is estimated to be $15 to $20 million.
“I think we’ve gotten to a place that’s even better” than it was two years ago, he added. “We’re really proud of what Salesianum is going to be able to do there.”
Access to the facility was one of the sticking points in the original deal. Under the terms presented Oct. 3, non-Salesianum users are contractually guaranteed a minimum of 360 hours per year, up from the current 130. Wilmington-based youth athletic leagues will have free access. An additional 90 hours of daylight per month will be set aside for public use in certain areas of the stadium.
“I think what’s different about this particular lease is that it codifies, it clarifies what that accessibility is, which honestly is good for us and good for the city. I think that’s the piece that’s a little bit different,” Kennealey said.
One of the key factors in the deal is that the youth leagues will be able to sell food and other concessions and be able to keep the funds raised. Salesianum will hold the naming rights for the stadium and its various parts, such as the track, field, and stadium drive.
Schools that currently use Baynard for football or other sports – Delaware Military Academy, Howard High School, St. Elizabeth High School and Padua Academy – will continue to have similar access. The calendar for Baynard will be publicly available.
The new stadium will not appear overnight, Kennealey cautioned. City Council will need to approve the project, and a lot of work needs to be done before demolition begins. Kennealey expects a 12- to 18-month period before that happens.
“We still have to master plan the site,” he said. “We’re going to try to stage it so that we can get people on there as soon as possible. I think we’ll get something past this football season before we do anything to it just because of the timing.”
Purzycki said it became clear that Wilmington did not have the funds necessary now or in the future to maintain Baynard Stadium. It is currently maintained by the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control at a loss of $100,000 per year.
“It is my belief that the issues that delayed us from moving forward in the past have been addressed in this plan. The reality is that without this plan, both of these city assets will continue to deteriorate, and in the case of Baynard would likely have to be closed,” Purzycki said.
The proposal will be presented to the city Finance and Economic Development Committee on Oct. 10, where the public will have an opportunity to weigh in. Once it gets through City Council, the ball is back in Salesianum’s court.
“We have our donors who are waiting to see how this all plays out. Then we have a period of time after that to go to our donors to get their confirmation before we officially sign on. But I’m optimistic,” he said.