Extra Points: Bader Field Still Up in the Air
The future of Bader Field has been up in the air seemingly since Edward Bader himself was serving as Mayor of Atlantic City in the 1920's.
A century later, the discussion over how to best redevelop the country's first municipal airport is still being bandied about by various entities.
The latest proposal occurred a few months ago, when DEEM Enterprises unveiled plans for a $2.7 billion complex that would feature a Formula 1-style driving course surrounded by 423 condo units and over 370 apartment buildings and 34 townhomes on Albany Avenue. Future plans also suggested a brand-name hotel along with shops and restaurants.
Approximately 15 years ago, two years after Bader Field's airport closed in 2006, it was mentioned as a possible gambling destination, with Penn National Gaming over $800 million to develop a casino.
Some South Jersey sports folks 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 an idea of finding a site to house the NJSIAA's championships.
"Have a crazy idea," Sellers wrote on Twitter Saturday. "How about we build a complex in NJ 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 can be a hotel attached also. ... would have to be big enough to accommodate fields and parking. New Jersey Championship Complex NJCC !!!!!!"
Naturally, Bader Field came to the forefront as the NJSIAA's Field of Dreams - "Build it and they will come" - for Sellers' proposed project.
It sounds like a great idea in theory. A centralized location for the state's championships would be terrific, but I would propose also using some of the area's other nearby facilities while using the Sandcastle for the state's baseball and softball championships, the Flyers' Skate Zone for ice hockey and the nearby back bays for rowing.
For instance, I'd approach Stockton University and ask if it would be interested in hosting soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, track and field and cross country at its Galloway Township campus. It may be too small, but having the state basketball championships at Big Blue. Athletes, coaches and fans could all stay at a hotel at Bader Field.
Golf could take place at one of the nearby Atlantic County courses such as Blue Heron Pines or Seaview.
Above all, keep the state individual wrestling championships at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall. The arena has become synonymous with the event, with 10,000-plus fans providing an electric atmosphere that is unmatched in any other high school sport.
The major sticking point is football. I'm not sure there's a local high school field capable of hosting the state championships, considering most of the games are currently held at Rutgers University and MetLife Stadium.
Speaking of which, it might make more sense for Rutgers to be the home for an NJSIAA headquarters. It's more centrally located in the state and its facilities are top-notch for almost every sport.
Even if the NJSIAA doesn't use Bader Field, I'm still hoping the city will upgrade the Sandcastle in order to bring more events there. There's been talk of bringing professional baseball back to the ballpark, which would be an excellent idea. It's been 14 years since the Atlantic City Surf played there - "Surf's Up!" - and it's time to bring in another franchise, either with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball or try to find a way to add an affiliated minor-league team.
FYI, baseball has some 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. A reported 4,000 fans watched the Yankees take on the Brooklyn Dodgers there 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 spot for an outdoor boxing card, something that hasn't been held in the area in 17 years. It last happened on June 24, 2005, when former heavyweight champion Ray Mercer outpointed Mays Landing's Darroll Wilson at Nikki Beach outside Resorts. There were also a few cards held at Atlantic City Race Course in the 1990's. I'd love to see it make a comeback, either in Atlantic City or perhaps on the beach in Wildwood.
Home run derby
Middle Township High School's baseball team set a few 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 book, no one from New Jersey has ever hit more than four in a game.
The records were set under unusual circumstances, however. The game was played at Bridgeton on a field that reportedly 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.