New ownership group will make improvements to venue and attract other events throughout the year to help boost economy for the North Shore of Staten Island. On July 23, 2021, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced an agreement with Staten Island Entertainment, LLC to bring professional baseball back to the north shore, replacing the departed Staten Island Yankees. Staten Island Entertainment will bring an independent Atlantic League team to play at Richmond County Bank Ballpark beginning in 2022.
The Staten Island Yankees, played at the Staten Island Ballpark from 1999 until 2020. They were a Class A Short Season New York-Penn League team that affiliated with the Yankees. In November 2020, the New York Yankees announced the major restructuring of its minor league baseball system, ending its affiliation with the Staten Island Yankees and a number of other teams, as part of a sweeping league-wide initiative to streamline the system and reduce the total number of developmental teams.
The Yankees departure led to the City needing to find new tenants for the stadium. The newly formed Staten Island Entertainment LLC with an owner group that includes John Catsimatidis and Eric Shuffler will buy an expansion team from the Atlantic League and make Staten Island its home. The Atlantic League, was founded in 1998, and is about to enter its 24th season. The League offers an open classification of play, the highest level of professional baseball other than Major League Baseball. Atlantic League players are highly experienced professionals, having progressed through professional MLB minor leagues. More than 40% of Atlantic League players have major league service time. Over 950 of the league’s players have signed contracts with big league organizations and over 100 players have been transferred to Major League Baseball. The Atlantic League is the only professional baseball league in an active expansion mode. The league plans to expand to 12 teams over the next few years.
The Atlantic League clubs have collectively raised millions of dollars for local charities and provide hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars of local economic contribution to each Atlantic League community. The Atlantic League teams play around 60 home games a season. In the past, the Staten Island Yankees only played around 38 home games. The increase in home games is meant to further promote visitors to the new ballpark.
Prior to the 2022 season, NYCEDC and Staten Island Entertainment will make necessary upgrades to the current baseball field, which will include installation of synthetic turf, seating and concourse upgrades, and other improvements. The new team will be named following an engagement process with local elected officials, community members, and other stakeholders.
The hope is that the new and improved venue will be a destination for New Yorkers across all five boroughs, and the many tourists that visit NYC every year. The project is intended to boost visitors to local businesses and nearby cultural institutions around the ballpark, and to also attract young and professional athletes from a multitude of sports, not just baseball. Staten Island Entertainment plans to release an annual calendar of concerts and other community events to draw additional visitors to the facility and the borough in the near future.
Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “Baseball is back on Staten Island, this ballpark has the potential to unite Staten Islanders around the home team and attract visitors from across the city and the region. We’re proud to secure a long-term future for this venue and build a recovery for all of us on Staten Island.”
NYCEDC President and CEO Rachel Loeb stated, “We are ecstatic to bring professional baseball back to the St. George waterfront and to reactivate the facility as a destination for Staten Islanders and visitors alike to enjoy concerts and additional events.”
Staten Island Borough President James Oddo stated, “This is an opportunity to use Richmond County Ballpark to its fullest capacity, and to make it part of the lives of so many more Staten Islanders.”
John Catsimatidis, stated, “This is one of the most exciting ventures I have ever been a part of. We will bring family entertainment back to the people of Staten Island, boost the local economy and see our team conquer the Atlantic League.”
By: Alana Pepe (Alana is the CityLaw intern and a New York Law School student, Class of 2023.)