WILMINGTON – Two years after the bleachers were removed from the south side of Baynard Stadium, there is still no public plan to renovate the venerable Wilmington sports venue, although Salesianum School and the city of Wilmington remain in negotiations over its future.
Neither side would comment on the record about the state of the talks, only that they are ongoing. With approximately a month to go before high schools can begin practice for fall sports, and less than two months from the beginning of football season, Baynard is in the same condition it was at this point in 2016.
Temporary bleachers remain on the south side, and those behind the opposite sideline remain. According to Ray Bivens, director of state parks for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which operates city-owned Baynard, the north-side bleachers received a passing grade after a safety inspection this past spring by Century Engineering. Moderate rust on the steel superstructure, he said, reading from the report, “does not appear to have advanced since the last inspection.” The foundation has “some deficiencies,” allowing some water to get in and erode the soil behind the concrete slope, he added.
“It is on a watch list for us to pay close attention to,” Bivens said. “It’s an older structure. It could stay the same for a lot of years.”
The stadium, which opened in 1922, is gearing up for another busy season of high school football, other football and various events. Nineteen regular-season high school games are scheduled for this fall, a number that could grow should any of the four teams that call it home reach the playoffs.
The schools that play home games at Baynard include St. Elizabeth, Delaware Military Academy and Howard High School, in addition to Salesianum. Howard’s schedule currently has just two games listed for the facility and three home games overall. The Wildcats are scheduled to play seven road games.
The current schedule includes two weekends with three high school games and several others with two. There have been occasions in the past when four games have been played over the course of a weekend.
Joe Papili, the president of St. Elizabeth School and outgoing athletic director, said the Vikings will play there as scheduled this season.
Salesianum has played soccer at Baynard in the past. The Sals have five home games listed for the fall. One, against national power St. Benedict’s Prep of New Jersey, will take place at the University of Delaware. Two of the other home games are scheduled for weeknights. Salesianum soccer has played its home games at a number of venues in recent years.
Plans for an improved Baynard Stadium were expected to be well under way by this point. In early November 2016, the city of Wilmington and Salesianum were all set to announce a public-private partnership to renovate and upgrade the facility. The all-boys school across 18th Street would provide approximately $20 million in funding in exchange for a 50-year lease, under which Salesianum would operate Baynard. It could be renewed for another 50 years.
The agreement between Sallies and Wilmington included a turf field and new bleachers, press box, concessions and bathrooms. According to the terms of that deal, any school or organization that had an agreement with the city to use Baynard would have been included in the new deal. The addition of a turf field would have increased access to the facility.
That union fell apart, however, at the last minute, when opponents led by state Rep. Charles Potter Jr. objected, claiming the negotiation process had not been sufficiently inclusive. Among Potter’s objections to the original deal was the ceding of control of a city property to a private organization. He has not commented since late 2016 and deferred comment to the city when reached via email a few weeks ago.
A task force formed by new Wilmington mayor Mike Purzycki in early 2017 developed five options for Baynard, one of which recommended a public-private partnership. Salesianum was the only private organization to express interest, and last summer the school began negotiations anew with the city.