Newark Bears Enter Liquidation

Friday, 18 April 2014 16:10 Local Talk News Editor



The current Newark Bears Professional Baseball team, which announced a liquidation sale and auction April 26, is entering either a prolonged or indefinite hibernation.

Current Bears owners, Aggressive Promotions, may be giving another individual or group a shot at reviving the 14-year-old minor league club. It and auctioneer T. Wilbert, of Millstone, are putting up the club, concession business and dance team's naming rights, logos, website and social media accounts to the highest bidder.

Aggressive and Wilbert, however, are putting other club assets on the block or priced to sell quickly here at Bears and eagles Riverfront Stadium. Those assets range from uniforms and groundskeeping equipment to office furniture and the team's bus.

It is to the understanding of "Local Talk" that the auction and liquidation proceeds would go towards satisfying the Bears' creditors. Those creditors include PSE&G - and had included some $800,000 back rent to the Essex County Improvement Authority as late as 2011.

Aggressive's owners, Douglas Spiel and Danielle Drionet, said on Nov. 29 that the Bears, a Can-Am Baseball League affiliate, will take to the field for a 15th season in 2014. Can-Am Commissioner Miles Wolff said on Nov. 28, however, that the Bears' owners would not be fielding a 2014 team. The independent Can-Am league includes the Little Falls/Montclair-based New Jersey Jackals team; it and the other three Can-Am teams have been merged into another minor league over the winter.

The ECIA arrears, which has since been settled, opens a question on Riverfront Stadium's future.
The $30 million, 6,200-seat outdoor stadium, which opened in 1999, is half paid for. Essex County and Newark property tax payers are required to make $1.2 million annual payments until the stadium's construction bonds are retired in 2029.

Riverfront Stadium remains the home field for the Rutgers Newark Scarlet Raiders and NJIT Highlanders baseball teams. Nothing can be found on the stadium's calendar, however, beyond May 15 - the college teams' last scheduled home games.

An April 14 phone call to the Bears' rental office phone number remains unanswered. The ECIA had allowed Aggressive to sublet stadium space.

There had been a doctor's office on site the last two seasons. There had been talk of converting meeting room space into a year-round restaurant.

It is not known whether the ECIA or the county will pursue another baseball club, another team or some other applicable tenant.

An April 14 call to the ECIA's Fairfield headquarters and to County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo's office remained unanswered as of deadline.

The ECIA, which also operates and develops the Essex County Airport in Fairfield and the Richard J. Codey Arena and Sportsplex in West Orange, became the stadium's developer in the late 1990s.
Riverfront Stadium's site - on the old Lackawanna freight yard and the Lincoln Motel/Abe's Disco site - was an alternate location. The original plan, to build adjacent baseball and soccer stadiums on the country's Riverbank Park, was scuttled when Ironbound residents questioned appropriate park use and the need for an environmental cleanup. The soccer arena plan moved across the Passaic River to Harrison as Red Bull Stadium.

Riverfront Stadium construction was part of Newark native and former New York Yankees catcher Rick Cerone's dream of returning minor league professional baseball to Newark.

Newark had been home to the Newark Bears of the International League 1926-50. The Yankees feeder team's home games was mostly played at Ruppert Stadium, on Wilson Avenue and Avenue K in the Ironbound.

Riverfront Stadium was also named to honor the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues. The Eagles, which also played in Ruppert Stadium, won its 1946 World Series and featured the likes of Monte Irvin and Jackie Robinson.

The revived Bears first played in the Atlantic League with a blend of rising talent and former Major League Baseball players. It won the leagues 2007 championship and hosted the Can-Am All-Star Game in 2011.

Bringing fans to Riverfront Stadium became a problem after the first few seasons. "Local Talk" remembers going to games in 2007 and 2012 where there were around 300 people in the stands.

The Bears went through a near-bankruptcy in 2000, at least three ownership teams, a switch to the Can-Am League, Attempts for a more family-friendly atmosphere, discounts, more social media postings and a Bears-Jackals County Executive Cup series were made.

There had been a discussion of making the Bears a Yankees affiliate. The Yankees, however, also have the Staten Island Yankees as a feeder club; clubs in Brooklyn and Rockland County, N.Y. also exist. There is also the need for the Yankees and Mets to approve any professional club within a 50-mile radius of New York City.

With each new ownership, however, publicity diminished.

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