The Ball Park at Harbor Yard, home to professional baseball’s Bridgeport Bluefish, is cutting ties with the team to venture into live concerts, according to the CT Post. Mayor Joe Ganim saw the 5,300-seat ballpark built during his first administration in 1998. Now, some twenty years later, Ganim has returned to leadership in Connecticut’s most populous city, and bigger and better seems to be the motto of his new term.
The Bluefish’s contract with the city expired at the end of their last season. They and an unidentified soccer league submitted bids for use of the venue, but big-name bidder Live Nation was the winner. It’s been confirmed by the mayor- who has also announced a run for governor in 2018- that a proposal by concert promotion company Live Nation to turn Harbor Yard ballpark into a warm-weather amphitheater was chosen instead. Gamin says this decision is in the hopes that a renovated amphitheater will “bring in concerts and shows that will certainly put Bridgeport in the forefront as a destination place for family and friends”.
The renovation will be headed by Jim Koplik, regional president of Live Nation, and Howard Saffan, real estate developer and owner of the Sports Center of Connecticut. A CT Post profile of the pair reported that the two met when Saffan was the president of the Webster Bank Arena- also in Bridgeport- and Koplik was booking its concerts, and have remained friends ever since. Between Saffan’s long-time history of venue management in Connecticut, and Koplik’s experience overseeing all of Live Nation’s concerts across Connecticut and upstate New York, the two hope to bring to the state the next major music venue for fans.
Meanwhile, another Live Nation venue, Hartford’s Xfinity Theatre, has been making national headlines for overcrowded tailgates, underage drinking, and ER-worthy intoxication levels. Nonetheless, the 30,000-seat outdoor venue that opened in 1995 is still selling out shows. Given that the scale of this project would make it Xfinity’s biggest rival for live music between NYC and Boston, it begs the question of whether Ganim and those behind the project think it could compete with the existing venue, whether they’re worried about the same issues Xfinity has been facing, and if they have plans in place to combat such issues. Will the new Bridgeport spot be known as the safer and tamer Xfinity, possibly drawing in a slightly older crowd who fear the havoc wreaked by drunken teenagers? Will it go too far and develop a reputation as strict and un-fun? Or worse…will Bridgeport’s new venue become even rowdier?
1:2 HPD has made a high number of Underage Drinking Referrals. I'm told there was an extraordinary number of EMS transports of severe ETOH. pic.twitter.com/22oqv5OCUk
— D/C Foley (@LtFoley) July 22, 2017
Before we jump the gun, it should be noted that Bridgeport City Council does have to approve the amphitheater deal before it becomes official. However, most of those who’ve commented on the project did so with an air of confidence that the switch will go through as planned. George Estrada, vice president of facilities at University of Bridgeport, whose college baseball team leases the Harbor Yard for home games, remarked that he “would totally assume that they (City Hall) would go with something that would provide the city a greater benefit. And from a taxpayer’s viewpoint – this is my home, it’s not like I’m commuting here- how could you not support that?” Similarly, the Bluefish’s team owner since 2008, Frank Boulton, responded to Estrada’s comments that “if this is the last year for the Bridgeport Bluefish, it will be an exciting one”.
Saffan and Live Nation will pay for $15 million worth of renovations to Bridgeport’s Ballpark at Harbor Yard, but anticipate an additional arrangement with the city, as well. If all goes as planned, the new venue will open in the spring of 2019. Several requests for comment were made to Mayor Ganim’s office with no response.