Bakersfield Blaze: New ballpark opening delayed until 2015

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) The Bakersfield Blaze said Thursday that the opening of their new ballpark will be delayed a year.

The stadium was slated for a spring 2014 opening, when it was announced last fall. The team now says the stadium will open in spring 2015, saying construction will take a year once it begins.

"Design changes and the complexities of constructing a modern, privately financed stadium may have delayed us a bit, but we're more focused than ever on bringing a first-class fan and player experience to Bakersfield," Blaze co-owner Chad Hathaway said in a news release.

Rumors of a new stadium to replace Sam Lynn Ballpark, built in 1941, gained steam when the Blaze were bought last year by a group led by local businessmen Gene Voiland and Hathaway.

Plans announced in November 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 a few years ago.

Bakersfield Commons 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 in November. "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 last fall that 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 in November. "Everything from a drug store and a bank, to clothing stores, as well."

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.

"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."

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 the fall. 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 from late last year.