BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Play ball!
The University of Bridgeport’s Purple Knights baseball team — as well as Little League and high school teams from around the region — will have a brand new field to call home, thanks to an agreement to renovate Seaside Park’s Diamond #1.
City and university officials broke ground on the project on Friday, noting the college’s team played its very first game on the same field 70 years ago.
“Contrary to some, baseball is alive and well in the city of Bridgeport,” said Rob Cottle, UB’s vice president of university relations.
Cottle referred to the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, home to the Bridgeport Bluefish for 20 seasons.
The Purple Knights played at Harbor Yard for all of those years, too, but that ended when the city decided to transform the stadium into an outdoor amphitheater concert venue.
Enter the new city-university partnership at Seaside Park, just across the street from the UB campus.
Under the plan UB will provide a 2:1 investment match for the design and development of the diamond, the first phase of which will cost under $1 million, Cottle said.
The improvements will include a synthetic turf infield, new irrigation, bullpens on both sides and dugouts, said Athletics Director Anthony Vitti. Future plans might include a grandstand for spectators.
UB also assumes future maintenance of the field.
“We finally have a home of our own,” Vitti said. “It brings pride, helps us with recruiting, player development…”
The first phase should be ready for the start of the team’s 2018 spring season.
The field will also be available for the school’s softball team, which plays at nearby Diamond #2, and youth groups and recreation leagues, such as the American Legion teen teams and the Bridgeport Caribe Youth Leaders.
Mayor Joe Ganim, a graduate of UB’s former law school, said the project is indicative of the city’s renewed collaborative spirit with the South End college.
“It’s not just symbolic,” he said. “It’s one step after another.”
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