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Salesianum withdraws from plan to renovate Baynard Stadium

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

A plan for Salesianum School to take the lead in renovating Wilmington’s Baynard Stadium is dead.


Salesianum announced Tuesday afternoon it’s withdrawing a proposed agreement with the city of Wilmington to overhaul the aging facility.

Under that plan unveiled two weeks ago, Salesianum would have raised private funds to renovate and maintain Baynard as part of a 50-year lease deal.
Salesianum’s move comes in the wake of a decision by city officials Monday night to create the task force to more fully examine how best to proceed with Baynard Stadium. The push for the task force was led by State Rep. Charles Potter (D-Wilmington North).

Wilmington City Council president Theo Gregory says the task force will seek alternative funding for the project – both public and private - so a single entity like the Salesianum doesn’t control the facility.


“The task force will have to come up with a concept and monies to raise for that concept," said Gregory.  "What was a definite now is a maybe.”


Public dollars – state dollars, more specifically - have supported the stadium in the past.


Salesianum president Brendan Kennealy said he was hoping to take the burden off state and city taxpayers by leaning on donations from its alumni and other community members.


Kennealy said he’d already received promises totaling $3 to $4 million for the project, and was working with a couple of donors on potential $10 million gifts.


But he noted he could not guarantee that kind of support would still be available when the task force’s work is complete.

“While they want to move a different direction right now, our offer to help still stands," said Kennealy. "I can’t guarantee the same offer will be on the table because I don’t know what they’re going to put forward. I don’t know what our donors are going to feel after all of this.”

Kennealy conceded it's a disappointing turn of events.


“They seem to think that the stadium makes a lot of money, I’m not really sure how they reached that conclusion," said Kennealy. "It’s definitely a losing money proposition which is why it’s not on the city’s books, it’s on the state’s books. The city could never cover the cost of operating the stadium.”


Kennealy is doubtful the state has the funds available to support the stadium, noting the facility hasn’t been a funding priority in recent tight budget years.


Kennealy added the school will support the process of looking at the stadium’s future and he hopes whatever plan is developed will provide as much community access to the stadium as the one Salesianum proposed.


One state lawmaker, Sen. Harris B. McDowell (D-Wilmington North), co-chair of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, is already criticizing State Rep. Potter and the city for passing on the deal with Salesianum, which he called good for all involved.

"This is the equivalent of looking a gift horse in the mouth and punching it in the jaw," saidMcDowell  in a statement. "Private donors pledged to put more into the stadium than I believe the state and city can currently afford, while still guaranteeing public access as appropriate, so clearly I disagree with City Council's decision not to quickly proceed.


Mc Dowell adds he will try to work with all the parties involved to work "on an agreement we all can live with - one that ensures the stadium will remain a centerpiece of our community for years to come."

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