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December 09, 2017

Rutgers approves plan to raze Campbell's Field, replace it with athletic facility

The ballpark opened in 2001 to house the now-defunct Camden Riversharks

Campbell's Field, once the home of the Camden Riversharks and the centerpiece of a plan to revitalize the city's waterfront along the Delaware River, will soon be gone.

Rutgers University's Board of Governors approved a $7.5 million investment to raze the 6,400-seat baseball stadium and build a multi-purpose athletic facility in its place. The new fields could house Rutgers-Camden's NCAA Division III baseball, lacrosse and field hockey teams as well as club teams, university officials said in a statement on Thursday.

The stadium, which offers picturesque views of Philadelphia's skyline and the Ben Franklin Bridge, opened in 2001 as the new home of the independent Camden Riversharks minor league baseball team.

The Riversharks brought in an average of just over 4,000 fans a game in the immediate years that followed, noted. The park even held a Bob Dylan show in 2005 and hosted popular hip-hop artists T-Pain and Flo Rida in 2009.

But the Riversharks fell into financial troubles and abruptly folded in 2015 when it failed to reach a lease agreement on the stadium. The park has since been the home of Rutgers-Camden's baseball team, the Scarlet Raptors.

The vote comes several weeks after South Jersey power broker George E. Norcross said the park would be razed at a business breakfast on Oct. 31. At the time, Camden County, which owns the park, cited ongoing negotiations with a prospective buyer and did not comment on Norcross' statement, the Courier-Post reported.

"Unfortunately, the state, in its lack of wisdom, built a baseball stadium for an unaffiliated, independent league (team) that folded," Norcross said at the time, according to the report. "You're going to see, in the not-too-distant future, that stadium demolished and in its place will be world-class athletic fields for Rutgers University in Camden and the public schools system and the renaissance schools in Camden, so they will have world-class athletic facilities to utilize."

The City of Camden will own the new complex and enter into a usage agreement with Rutgers to "ensure that Camden youth and families, as well as Rutgers students, enjoy open access to the playing fields," university officials said.

“Although it will be disappointing to see Campbell’s Field gone, change is sweeping through the city,” Camden Mayor Dana Redd said in a statement. “This is an opportunity for Camden to reimagine the site in a positive way that will benefit the community. I am confident the proposed development will result in a superb waterfront amenity which our Camden youth and residents can enjoy for decades to come."

George E. Norcross III is the father of PhillyVoice Founder and CEO Lexie Norcross.