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Salesianum and City of Wilmington unveil plan to renovate Baynard Stadium

Wilmington’s Baynard Stadium is poised to receive a long awaited and much needed facelift.

The City of Wilmington and Salesianum School are proposing a 50 year lease deal that would had over management and maintenance of Baynard to the all-boys’ Catholic high school that sits just across the street.

As part of the deal, Salesianum will completely renovate the 94-year-old stadium – which last received a major upgrade in 1972.

Salesianum president Brendan Kennealy says school officials have watched what he calls a “cathedral-of-sorts” slowly deteriorate.  Now, they hope to step in.

"Our offer to make a substantial investment in this city asset is less about athletics and more about being an important community partner," said Kennealy. "We envision a renaissance at Baynard Stadium that will make it the pride of Wilmington once again."

Kennealy says the school approached the city years ago about finding a way to address Baynard Stadium's condition, but it wasn't until the south bleachers were condemned as potentially unsafe that serious discussion began.

"That brought everyone to the table." said Kennealy.

Wilmington City Council president Theo Gregory says its about time the stadium gets the attention it needs.

"We should have done this years ago.  The City of Wilmington should have engaged in a plan to do this years ago and engaged people in a capital campaign," said Gregory. "I'm just thankful the Salesianum community has stepped up and taken the lead."

Kennealy says Salesianum is set to spend $15-to-20 million to completely rebuild the complex over about 5 years.

It will include new artificial turf, [and] a new track, bleachers, bathrooms, locker rooms, scoreboards, lights, and office space and maintenance facilities for the state parks," said Kennealy.

The school plans to pay for the overhaul through donations and Kennealy says there's already indications the support needed is there.

"We've already begun sort of a quiet phase and talking to potential donors to get involved and we've gotten a great response so far," said Kennealy.  "With a public announcement like this, we expect we might get even more of a response.  People have a great affinity for Baynard Stadium."

Kennealy adds Salesianum will look to rental fees and advertising to cover the cost of ongoing maintenance and management. 

City and school officials say other schools that use the stadium, such as Howard and St. Elizabeth high schools and Delaware Millitary Academy, will be able to continue to do so  - along with other youth organizations.  The goal is to make Baynard even more accessible - which Gregory says is good news.

We should have a signature stadium in the City of Wilmington for youth sports.  That is very important to the viability of a city.  It tells a lot about the personality of a city.

The plan needs the approval of Wilmington City Council to move forward.  Gregory is optimistic City Council will give final approval of the lease agreement later this month.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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