By DAVID WEINBERG
Bader Field’s future has apparently been in limbo since Edward Bader himself was mayor of Atlantic City in the 1920s.
A century later, the discussion on how best to redevelop the country’s first municipal airport is still debated by various entities.
The latest proposal came a few months ago, when DEEM Enterprises unveiled plans for a $2.7 billion resort that would include a Formula 1-style driving course surrounded by 423 condo units and more 370 apartment buildings and 34 townhouses on Albany Avenue. Future plans also suggested a branded hotel as well as shops and restaurants.
About 15 years ago, two years after Bader Field airport closed in 2006, it was mentioned as a possible gambling destination, with Penn National Gaming spending over $800 million to develop a casino.
Some sportsmen in South Jersey have suggested using it as a hub for high school sports. Derryk Sellers, assistant director of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, recently floated the idea of finding a site to house the NJSIAA championships.
“Have a crazy idea,” Sellers wrote on Twitter on Saturday. “How about building a complex in New Jersey that could house ALL of our state championships. Every sport!!…And yes, there should be the ability to rent the facility for games, tournaments and parties. There may also be a hotel attached. …should be large enough to accommodate fields and parking. New Jersey Championship Complex NJCC!!!!!!”
Naturally, Bader Field came to the fore as the NJSIAA’s Field of Dreams – “Build It and They’ll Come” – for the vendors’ proposed project.
Sounds like a great idea in theory. A centralized location for state championships would be great, but I would also suggest using some of the other facilities near the area while using the Sandcastle for state baseball and softball championships, the Flyers’ Skate Zone for ice hockey and nearby rear bays for rowing.
For example, I would approach the University of Stockton and ask if they would be interested in hosting football, field hockey, lacrosse, track and field and cross country at their Galloway Township campus. It may be too small, but having the state basketball championships in Big Blue. Athletes, coaches and fans could all stay in a hotel at Bader Field.
Golf can take place at any of the nearby Atlantic County courses such as Blue Heron Pines or Seaview.
Above all, keep the State Individual Wrestling Championships at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. The arena has become synonymous with the event, with over 10,000 fans providing an electric atmosphere unmatched in any other high school sport.
The main sticking point is football. I’m not sure there’s a local high school field capable of hosting the state championships, given that most games are currently taking place at Rutgers University and MetLife Stadium.
Speaking of which, it might make more sense for Rutgers to house an NJSIAA headquarters. It is more central in the state and its facilities are top notch for almost any sport.
Even though the NJSIAA does not use Bader Field, I still hope the city will upgrade the Sandcastle to host more events there. There has been talk of bringing professional baseball back to the ballpark, which would be a great idea. It’s been 14 years since Atlantic City Surf played there – “Surf’s Up!” – and it’s time to bring in another franchise, either with the Atlantic Professional Baseball League or trying to find a way to add an affiliated minor league team.
For your information, baseball has interesting ties to Bader Field. Long before the Sandcastle, there was a minor league stadium on the grounds. The New York Yankees held spring training at Bader Field in 1944. Reportedly, 4,000 fans watched the Yankees take on the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 2, 1944. A year later, the Boston Red Sox held spring training at Ansley Park in Pleasantville and played the Yankees at Bader Field.
I think the sandcastle would be the perfect location for an outdoor boxing card, something that hasn’t happened in the area for 17 years. This last happened on June 24, 2005, when former heavyweight champion Ray Mercer edged out Mays Landing’s Darroll Wilson at Nikki Beach outside the resorts. There were also a few cards held at the Atlantic City Racetrack in the 1990s. I would love to see it back, either in Atlantic City or on the beach in Wildwood.
Derby at home
The Middle Township High School baseball team set some unofficial slugging records in a 36-0 win over Bridgeton on May 17.
The Panthers hit 11 home runs in the five-inning contest, setting a New Jersey high school mark for most home runs in a game, according to the National High School Sports Record Book. Mike Adelizzi hit four home runs, which at least tied the state record. According to the record books, no one from New Jersey has ever hit more than four in a game.
The records, however, were set under unusual circumstances. The game was played in Bridgeton on a field that would have had much shorter fences than a typical high school field. The two teams met again a day later at Middle, with the Panthers winning 13–0.