Many San Rafael residents remain unconvinced that the plan for minor league baseball at Albert Park will bring enough benefit to San Rafael to outweigh significant potential negative impacts.
They are not opposed to baseball, indeed many are baseball fans. The fact is that there are many Marin County adult and youth baseball teams at the park which will be displaced, such as Speed Baseball Collegiate Summer Teams whose high school and local college players will no longer have a home field. Residents of four communities surrounding the park: Gerstle Park, Bret Hart, Southern Heights and Picnic Valley have come together as “Communities for Albert Park” (CAP) to ensure that the city does not compromise either the quality of life in these neighborhoods or the community character of what is, after all, a public park.
Centerfield Partners , one year, version of its original plan. This one will only minimally increase seating, stop playing amplified music at 9 p.m. and locate concession stands inside the ball park, instead of adjacent open space.
The improvements offered to the park will be less than those in the original proposal as well, while still requiring the city to pay for field maintenance from lease payments.
However, at 45 games a season, averaging three times a week that the field will be used for private commercial, instead of public recreational, use. That is still high impact use that leaves many concerns unanswered.
Here are a few:
Noise: Minor league ball will attract more fans, only 20 percent of whom will come from San Rafael, according to Centerfield’s own projections. Currently, the stands are rarely full. With the sale of food and alcohol, and the added noise from amplified music, the surrounding neighborhoods, especially those uphill from the park, will be regularly impacted.
Safety: Professionally hit balls are more likely than to leave the ball park unless fences are raised significantly. Already, balls often hit the doors and walls of the apartment building across the street. In addition, Centerfield Partners has offered pay for neighborhood security patrols, which suggests to residents that parking will occur in their neighborhoods and activity that could merit protection. It vastly changes the character of a neighborhood to need security patrols.
Economic viability: Centerfield has said they need the 1,500 seats originally proposed to break even. CAP questions how this new scaled down plan will be economically viable for them, unless they plan to come back after the first year for a longer lease for increased use.
Benefit to community: Because Centerfield Partners will sell food and drink inside the park, it's unlikely fans, arriving early to get a seat, will patronize local restaurants. And the company does not plan on using local restaurateurs as vendors.
CAP urges the city to require the CEQA process to go forward, even with this scaled down plan, because of the likelihood of significant impacts to the community, and because this is just the first step in a long-term plan for a full scale professional baseball project. Centerfield’s spokesman Mike Shapiro told reporters that “the community and opposition in the neighborhood will see that these are very, very beneficial events.” This makes the intention to remain at Albert Park clear and should trigger the CEQA process.
CAP also believes that Centerfield should pay a significant bond, to indemnify the city for any injuries that result from balls leaving the park. There is currently nothing in place to protect the city in the event this enterprise fails, as so many minor league teams have in recent years, and the city is left holding the bag.