Rumors of a new stadium to replace Sam Lynn Ballpark, built in 1941, gained steam when the Blaze were bought earlier this year by a group led by local businessmen Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway. The baseball organization said it plans to open the new stadium in 2014.
Plans call for the stadium to anchor a mixed-use development off Coffee Road between Rosedale Highway and Brimhall Road. The ballpark would be built on 15 acres at the northern end of the Bakersfield Commons project, which was announced more than two years ago.
Bakersfield Common, which appears to have new life thanks to the Blaze ballpark, would include shops and restaurants with a multiplex cinema, fountains, benches and landscaping tied to the stadium, according to the Blaze.
The 255-acre Bakersfield Commons property is owned by Coffee-Brimhall LLC, whose principals include brothers Robert and Steve Roth.
"Bakersfield Commons has the potential to be a transformative project for Bakersfield," Robert Roth said in a Blaze news release. "The Blaze stadium is the perfect catalyst to get this started. I can't wait to be there for the first pitch and for the opening of this welcoming retail district."
Coffee-Brimhall spokesman Steve Sugerman told Eyewitness News on Friday the ballpark is a good match for the Bakersfield Commons concept. Both will stress a quality, family-friendly atmosphere.
The design shows a "Main Street" leading into the stadium. Sugerman described those shops and businesses as "neighborhood servicing retail."
"We're looking at restaurants with outside cafes, we're looking to bring in a movie theater operator," Sugerman said. "Everything from a drug store and a bank, to clothing stores, as well."
Nearby on Coffee Road, the manager at a La Mina restaurant said he's glad to hear about the plans. "We're not afraid of competition, it's actually better," Noe Ocampo said. "More people are coming in, there's enough for everyone."
Jim Wilson lives in the area, and he was filling up at the corner gas station. He's a little surprised to hear about the baseball park plans, but he likes the idea of filling the big, empty lot with development.
"We need it," he said. Wilson also isn't worried about more traffic in the area. He thinks the Westside Parkway now under construction will handle things just fine.
As for why developers are getting Bakersfield Commons going now? Sugerman said the Blaze are ready for new digs, and his company thinks the timing is good. He notes there's a lot of development all around, and putting in more business is an opportunity for "urban infill."
The huge lot was used for an oil refinery and storage for a number of years. Those operations left some soil contamination, but Sugerman said that has been addressed.
"We're at the very tail end of doing remediation in the soil, but it's deemed a clean site for development," Sugerman said.
The company plans the development in phases. After the retail development, the next phase would include office space. They envision housing in the final phase, with plans for 85 single-family homes and 340 multi-family units. Total build-out of the project is estimated to take 20 years.
Sugerman says the company believes in the project.
"We think that not only will it bring great fun and benefits to the people of Bakersfield, it's also going to bring jobs, it's going to bring investment," Sugerman said. "Which is great news for the city."
He said more details will be released on the initial retail projects early next year, and construction on that is set to start in 2014.
But, it starts with the ballpark.
The planned 3,500-seat stadium would include luxury suites and special event space for groups and families, picnic areas and a children's playground, the Blaze said. In addition to being home to the Single-A Cincinnati Reds affiliate, the stadium could host college baseball and softball games, soccer matches and concerts, the Blaze said.
"This is a strategic location, especially when considering the new Westside Parkway, and provides tremendous access for residents from throughout the area," said Cindy Pollard, executive director of the Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, in the Blaze news release. "This is not just a home run for our community. It's a grand slam."