Minor League Baseball may be coming to Malden, though hurdles still remain.
Malden Field of Dreams CEO Alexander Bok told the City Council on Feb. 7 that construction on a 6,000-seat stadium in downtown Malden could begin later this year, with first pitch scheduled for spring 2019.
The update at the Senior Center followed a negotiating period that ended Jan. 31 to allow Bok to talk with Minor League owners about the possibility of moving a team to Malden. Bok said he could not disclose the details of those talks due to Minor League rules, but he did say that several owners in the New England region are interested in selling a club to him.
"We're where we need to be with relation to that," Bok said. "We are now in the process of securing a team and aiming to break ground later this year."
Perhaps the greatest challenge left for Bok is to reach sale agreements with the three abutting parcel owners: Spadafora Auto Parts, L&L Services, and Collex Collision. Those agreements proved elusive in recent years as Bok attempted to bring an Independent League team to the same site, an effort that ultimately fell short.
On Tuesday, Bok said he plans to provide an appraisal to the three businesses this month.
"We will provide written full market value offers, which include a premium, to each of the property owners by Feb. 17, along with a request to meet in person before the end of the month," Bok said. "We will do everything we can to negotiate private transactions."
Bok and his team must also re-negotiate deals with the City Council, Malden Redevelopment Authority, and National Grid, which owns most of the site where the ballpark would stand and continues to remove contamination from the soil.
Meanwhile, Minor League Baseball is reviewing information that Bok provided about his negotiations with team owners. The Boston Red Sox must approve any deal, as they are afforded veto power for new affiliates near Fenway Park. Bok said he expects to hear back from MiLB within about a week.
The project would cost approximately $60 million in private funds and $20 million in taxpayer money from the state, Bok said. Bok added that Eastern Bank and East Boston Savings Bank are interested in financing the stadium.
The City of Malden would not be asked to contribute any funding, although the city would serve as a financial backstop in the event that the franchise failed.
Bok noted that Division 4 soccer club Boston City FC, which plays its home games at Malden's Brother Gilbert field, would move to the new facility. In addition, the Malden High School baseball team would be granted use of the field.
During the winter months, Bok said, a "bubble" would cover the playing surface to promote year-round use.
Following Bok's lengthy statement Tuesday, the entrepreneur took several questions from councilors. Councilor Neal Anderson emphasized that he does not foresee the city using eminent domain to obtain the three abutting parcels.
Before the process of erecting a stadium could begin, Bok said National Grid would need to install a "cap" to prevent the public from being exposed to contaminants. Installing the cap would take 3-6 months, according to Bok, and building the stadium itself would take 10-15 months.
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