Bridgeport Bluefish will fold so city can host more Doobie Brothers concerts

The Bridgeport Bluefish, one of the founding members of the independent minor-league baseball Atlantic League, will cease operations after this season after 20 years. That in itself isn’t all that unusual: Indy-league baseball teams don’t have much of a shelf life, and only one other original Atlantic League franchise survives. (Bonus points to whoever can name them in comments.) The weird part here is the reason: The Bluefish are being evicted from their home stadium by the same mayor who built it for them in the first place, so that he can convert it into an outdoor concert amphitheater.

Yeah, you read that right:

Developer Howard Saffan on Monday night revealed — and the mayor’s office later confirmed — that his and concert promoter Live Nation’s competing proposal to turn the 20-year-old Harbor Yard ballpark into a warm-weather amphitheater was selected by City Hall over a new contract with the Bluefish…

He promised 29 concerts annually in a season running from May to October, and eventually hoped to include other events, from beer festivals to graduations. The amphitheater will open in spring 2019, Saffan said…

Saffan said he and Live Nation will pay for $15 million worth of renovations to the 5,000-seat ballpark, but added he does anticipate a public/private financial arrangement with the city.

This is crazy in many, many ways: The Atlantic League plays a 140-game season, so even if the amphitheater sells better than minor-league baseball, it’s going to be a tough push to bring more people to Bridgeport with 29 concerts than 70 ballgames; Harbor Yard is only 20 years old, and is a generally well-liked stadium, and furthermore is shaped like a baseball stadium so will be a weird fit for concerts; Bridgeport already has an indoor concert arena right next door to the ballpark; and then there’s that “public/private financial arrangement,” which means Bridgeport will be hit with an as-yet-undetermined bill.

The only way this makes sense is if Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, who had the city pay to build Harbor Yard during his first term as mayor and has now returned to the office [EDIT: after spending more than six years in prison for corruption (thanks, commenters)], got a sweet offer from Live Nation, which is entirely possible — the concert promoter is currently engaged in a war with rival AEG to dominate the summer-outdoor-concert market, so they could easily be throwing some money around to ensure their share of the lucrative Deep Purple/Alice Cooper concert market. Though not so much money that they’ll actually pay for the whole amphitheater conversion, goodness me, no.

And then there’s this:

Ultimately the City Council must approve the amphitheater deal, which comes as Ganim explores running for governor in 2018. The returned mayor wants splashy development news to grow the city’s tax base and impress Democratic primary voters.

And there you have it: A city mayor is trying to curry favor with voters by kicking out the local baseball team so he can bring in outdoor summer concerts for “development.” There’s a first time for everything.

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30 comments on “Bridgeport Bluefish will fold so city can host more Doobie Brothers concerts

  1. So considering one can hold concerts at a baseball park pretty easily why can’t Live Nation just rent out the ballpark as is?

    1. Concerts tend to tear up the grass, especially when they put the stage in the outfield. MLB teams only schedule concerts when there is a two week break in the schedule so they can resod the field, and even then there is usually a patch of dead grass from where the stadium sat. Going to an all-concert venue would allow you to avoid that expense.

      1. Hmm I learned something new today. TY.

        I kind of hope the Bluefish end up somewhere new in CT. The rivalry between em & the Ducks on LI is fun.

          1. Sorry I misread what you meant.

            Nah just the silly Ferry Cup series they did between the two teams was a derp fun rivalry.

            I have no problems with the New Britain Bees & am happy they were able to escape Camden NJ.

        1. Just announced here in High Point, N.C., that the Bluefish will be occupying our new stadium (when/if it gets built) for the 2019 season. Unannounced as to where they will be playing in 2018.

  2. MLB teams also host concerts. Ballpark’s usually have a great location with views and great access. Perfect for summer concerts. Finally a fly by night independent baseball owner gets what he deserves.

    1. Did you read the first sentence of what Neil wrote? The team’s been there 20 years (and the current owner’s been there since 2008). Definitely not “fly-by-night.”

      1. Only two of original teams exist. The rest of league and leagues across country are fly by night depending on how much they extort from the local town. Which is why the Goldfish stayed in business that long. Well guess the mayor decided enough is enough and took a better deal.

  3. I’ve been to concerts at ballparks — the sound and sightlines are pretty godawful. Best example of reuse along these lines that I can think of is Forest Hills Stadium, which is pleasant (and has good sound, at least), but suffers a bit from being built for tennis, not music: It’s hard to see over the crowd from the back of the floor, the seats in the seating bowl are angled the wrong way, etc.

  4. The Somerset Patriots are the other team who’s been in the league for 20 years (although they were a road team their first season as their ballpark hadn’t been built yet, IIRC).

    1. NHCC is the winner! The Patriots may actually have played their inaugural season in Bridgeport, as that was one of the only Atlantic League stadiums ready by then — I definitely remember a bunch of triple-headers with six different teams that first season, but Wikipedia is silent on who the “home” teams were.

      1. Yeah, they only had 2 stadiums ready that first season (Bridgeport and Atlantic City), and went into Nashua last-minute, where they ended up sticking around for a while.

        Per Wikipedia, Newark was the one which played its first season at Bridgeport…but Somerset may have played some games there as well.

  5. You forgot to note why Joe Ganim had a break between his terms in office: he took a 6 year vacation to federal prison on corruption charges. When you mentioned that Live Nation maybe gave Ganim a sweet offer, for a moment I figured they gave the offer not to the city, but to Ganim himself.

    It’s actually not a bad location for a outdoor concert venue, as it’s right next to the train station and right off I-95, and the closest outdoor concert venue is the old Meadows up in Hartford. And the unique railroad viaduct and oil power plant backdrop will at least make it more interesting than the normal run-of-the-mill place.

  6. I doubt that the NY metro area needs another amphitheater given that one opened at Coney Island last year and the Red Bulls announced plans to allow concerts again. PNC, Jones Beach, and Bethel Woods aren’t booked solid let alone the other venues.

    This puts the Atlantic League in a bit of a bind with only seven teams for next season.

    1. Enh, they can just bring back the Road Warriors. (I believe FoS correspondent David Dyte still has one of their jerseys.)

  7. Also, the mayor of Bridgeport has an interesting past having served seven years in prison on various charges involving contractors doing business with the city.

  8. See this is why when I grease a pol I always try to get something on him in case he wants to pull a stunt like this. It’s just good business.

    1. Piggy, one of the reasons the poor people stay that way is that they don’t know success is always about attention to detail (as well as corruption).

      How’s the campaign for another replacement stadium coming along? Your’s has been open a while now hasn’t it?

  9. We would all be remiss here if we failed to indicate that Mayor Ganim served a nine-year federal bid for corruption in his office. He had a private, secret door installed so his bagman could literally bring in bags of loot. This is the guy running for governor.
    And suing the state because it refuses to give him access to public campaign financing.

    1. The current president’s casino paid a $10m fine a couple of years ago for utterly failing to follow basic federal requirements to prevent money laundering (requirements were not new)… maybe Ganim just figures he can follow in the big guy’s footsteps?

      Apparently, the sky is the limit for politicians with questionable backgrounds and behaviours in this country.

  10. Bridgeport had an outdoor music festival, Gathering of the Vibes, that ran until 2015. Bridgeport sued the organizers for years of unpaid bills including police. Many of the vendors were reportedly not paid. It doesn’t inspire confidence that this will end well for the taxpayers.

  11. Regarding this point…
    “even if the amphitheater sells better than minor-league baseball, it’s going to be a tough push to bring more people to Bridgeport with 29 concerts than 70 ballgames”
    … I attended the game against the LI Ducks on Friday evening 7/28. Although another commenter here referred to this as a big rivalry, and the weather was decent, I’d guess attendance was only 2-300. So, bringing in more bodies probably won’t be hard.

    Also, somebody here referred to Bridgeport as part of the “New York market.” That might be true for stadium-sized events, but not so true at this smaller level. Southern Conn. has long been a separate stop for many theatre-size acts. It’s easy to get to and has population density. And also lots of money.

  12. I read two interesting items on this. This first is that the next door Sound Tigers have a no-compete clause in their arena lease which might prohibit concerts.

    The second is that the ballpark is next to a major rail line which might tend to diminish one’s enjoyment during a concert.

  13. You Fish fans will still be welcome on Long Island. I’m going to miss that occasional Ferry ride to Bridgeport. I really enjoyed them.

  14. Well, my hometown, High Point, NC is going to be the team’s new home. We’re told that if only we spend 100 million (or more) we will be the recipient of a core city revitalization that is almost unimaginable! I’m not so sure. If this was so great, why did Bridgeport let them go? I think we’re about to get “hosed!”

  15. thank you mr. Bolton. you have succeeded in killing another team from your league after you took over ownership (remember the AC Surf ?) Is anyone going to get wise to your dog and pony carnival show. This leaves Somerset as the only first year club to survive your torment.. Penn League games look good now.

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