Promoters have canceled plans for a professional baseball series over Labor Day weekend in Atlantic City because they say the city has not committed to completing upgrades at Surf Stadium.
Mario Perrucci, who managed the Atlantic City Surf pro team formerly headquartered there, said Tuesday city officials will not let him see the field and 5,000-seat arena unless he signs a contract.
“There’s no way I can sign a contract if the facilities we need to operate are not completed. We were told everything would be done with the exception of the scoreboard — which we understood — and maybe the PA system, and we could have brought that,” Perrucci said. “With all due respect, what they feel is up and ready to go, and what I feel (meets) our needs, could be two different things. I hope they do continue to make repairs. I met with them on very good terms, and hopefully something can be done next year.”
Deputy City Solicitor Irv Jacoby said he could not comment because he is not handling Perrucci's contract, and was unable to provide more information Tuesday.
Perrucci started negotiations with the city late last year. Amateur Athletic Union youth baseball teams have started signing up for his seven-weekend-long tournament scheduled to start one month from now and run through November, according Perrucci and a schedule approved by Atlantic City Council May 18.
The field itself has been upgraded to professional playing standards, but local officials won't promise full use of third-level suites, a must for the Labor Day weekend series between the Camden Riversharks and Houston-based Sugar Land Skeeters , Perrucci said.
Perrucci said he also has not been guaranteed full use of concession stands, which he needs to recoup event expenses.
Tournament entry costs $900 per team, with between six and eight squads playing in each weekend tournament. That means registration would generate between $5,400 and $7,200 to cover the $5,000 facility rental fee each weekend plus costs to hire umpires, pay utilities and cover other expenses, according to Perrucci and city documents.
Concession stands operated during the Multicultural Festival held last weekend. If necessary, the top-floor boxes could be ready to go within the week it would take to paint and carpet them, City Public Works Director Paul Jerkins said.
"Public works has done a tremendous job in keeping to the schedule we've laid out. We're probably ahead as far as what we planned to do this year," Jerkins said. "Whatever is going on, no one has spoken to me about it with regard to (Perrucci's contractual) situation."
One problem, however, arose last week. A light pole collapsed, prompting inspection of the other five that surround Surf Stadium. Although those remain in working order, two appear to need their bottom portions rewelded or replaced, a condition Jerkins attributed to vandalism and weathering.
Although they aren’t displaying obvious signs of weakness, the remaining poles likely will need to be addressed relatively soon, so the city will refurbish all six. The city has not calculated the cost or timeline for that project, Jerkins said.
That could mean no night games for the rest of the summer — and more problems for Perrucci, who planned to offer a fireworks display at each event.
He and Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Inc. CEO Frank Boulton have described the three-game professional Labor Day series as a test that would determine whether Atlantic City could host a team in 2013.
The league is still “seriously contemplating” that plan regardless of games this summer, Perrucci said Tuesday.
Boulton did not return calls for comment Tuesday.
The Atlantic City Surf folded three years ago, and the stadium fell into disrepair. The city started its improvement project there more than a year ago. Since then, officials have spent more than $1 million and have hosted or scheduled more than a dozen events, including a rap concert headlined by Rick Ross last July and the Tom Joyner Morning Show broadcast that kicked off last weekend’s Multicultural Festival.
The city also overhauled adjacent Bader Field for the Dave Matthews Band Caravan last summer. The three-day festival went well and this summer the 140-acre former municipal airport will host two weekend-long concerts in June and another two in September.
Contact Emily Previti:
Follow Emily Previti on Twitter @emily_previti