Camden Built It, They Did Not Come, Now The Ballpark Will Be Gone

Rutgers-Camden will take over the site.



If you build it, he will come, could have been applied to all of those in the 1990s who believed if you built a sports facility, fans will come and businesses will come to capture fans’ money and you would have an economic generator. A sports venue would be the center of an area redevelopment. That sounded good in theory but in reality, it is a failed urban public policy. The latest example of policy failure is in Camden, New Jersey just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Camden, which is one of those old northeastern cities that once thrived but lost manufacturing jobs after World War II, needed something to revitalize the city. The ballpark plan was born, build a small park near the Ben Franklin Bridge as the key to bringing back waterfront activity.

Municipal along with private financing was secured and $24 million was invested in building a small minor league baseball stadium with about 6,700 seats. The construction price would rise to $35 million. The construction began in 1999 and the stadium opened in 2001. Camden ended up with an independent league team that was not affiliated with Major League Baseball. The Camden Riversharks lasted 15 seasons, between 2001 and 2015. By 2015, the ballpark teetered on bankruptcy and the Riversharks franchise folded.  Soon the baseball park will join J. Eaverson and Sons, a soap manufacturer and two lumberyards, as failed business on the site. The ballpark was supposed to be the catalyst for a Camden renaissance. Now the ballpark is facing the wrecking ball. The Camden County Improvement Authority is seeking bids to knock down the park that has fallen into disrepair. The stadium will be replaced by athletic fields that will be used by Rutgers University Camden and public schools. Other riverfront projects have been built with taxpayers’ subsidies but the ballpark has failed.