The minor-league Newark Bears folded two years ago, going out in a blaze of bankruptcy auction (I still have my $5 game-worn Bears jersey, not to mention my souvenir Bears yarmulkes), and leaving the city of Newark with the stadium that it paid $30 million to build just 15 years earlier. And soon, it won’t have even that, as the city has announced it’s selling the land to a developer for the construction of a mixed-use tower.
Newark will get $23.5 million for the land sale, which at least takes some of the sting out of spending $30 million (in 1999 dollars) to revitalize part of its downtown with a team that was never exactly vital. (Though Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco both played there briefly, which helped draw at least a few gawkers.) Though even then, Newark could still be on the hook for more money with the new development:
While [deputy mayor Baye Adofo-]Wilson said [developer] Lotus will probably seek a tax abatement for the project, the details of what it will look like have not yet been ironed out. But, the tax break would be contingent upon the company hiring Newark residents during construction, and hotel staffing, he said.
“We require that you hire Newark residents,” Wilson said. “If you do that, we can grant an abatement.”
Depending on how big an abatement and how many hires would be required, that could certainly be a pretty awful deal — Newark might be better off just keeping the tax money and handing it out to residents on streetcorners — but we’ll have to wait and see. Regardless, it’s a sad ending to what was both a pretty nice place to watch baseball and a monument to the willingness of desperate cities to throw money at any sports franchise that offered a promise of a return to urban glory, regardless how faint. Don’t do this at home, kids.