By Edward Cardenas
UTICA (CBS Detroit) – A pair of former landfills on the edge of downtown Utica will soon be home to a minor league baseball complex in central Macomb County.
Macomb County officials were joined by Rochester-based General Sports and Entertainment to break ground on the new 4,000-seat ballpark on the corner of Auburn Road and Mascone Drive, near the Clinton River.
“There are a lot of folks in a 10-, 15- minute radius of the ballpark,” said General Sports and Entertainment CEO Andrew Appleby, who has owned minor league team before and described the experience as affordable, fun and good fit for Utica. “They have a great community here and a great little downtown. I could see it fitting in so well here.
In addition to breaking ground for the new ballpark, officials also announced that Jimmy John’s is the official naming rights partner of the new stadium which will be named Jimmy John’s Field. It is scheduled to open in June 2016.
The ballpark will also be home to three new teams who will play in a newly formed United Shore Professional Baseball League, with Troy-based United Shore Financial Services the naming rights partner of the new league.
Each team in the newly formed independent league will play a 50-game season, for a total of 75 games per season.
“You are going to start to see more shops, more multi-purpose housing and development happening in and around this area. It is going to be an exciting place for people who want to come year around,” said Macomb County CEO Mark Hackel, who called the project as “transformational” for Utica and a destination within Macomb County.
He was also pleased that the project will clean up a contaminated land at the headwaters of the Clinton River.
“We are going to be cleaning up an environmental concern that has been plagued us for many, many years,” he added.
The land where the ballpark will be built is owned by the Utica Downtown Development Authority and will be leased to General Sports and Entertainment. It was a former unlicensed landfill in the mid 1900s.
Because the site is polluted, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality awarded $800,000 in DEQ Surface Water Quality Initiative Funds to conduct soil and groundwater remediation on the seven-acre ballpark site, and a second seven-acre abandoned housing site across the river that will be used for parking.
Officials with the DEQ also announced the award of a $1 million brownfield redevelopment loan to assist with the cleanup.
“It is enormously exciting and rewarding to see the two brownfields that I worried the most about over the years are finally going to be cleaned up, taken care of and end up being the most wonderful development I could have ever imagine,” said Utica Mayor Jacqueline Noonan, who has been led the central Macomb community for 28 years. “I love baseball. Having a minor league park right down the road from my office, oh my lord could it get any better?”
In addition to minor league baseball games, the officials stated the facility will host concerts; movie nights; Little League, high school and college baseball and softball games along with graduation ceremonies.