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news release

P.O. Box 004
Trenton, NJ
Contact: Jayne O'Connor/Gene Herman

RELEASE: June 15, 2000

Office of the Governor

Governor Breaks Ground for
Ballpark; Unveils Battleship New Jersey,

"Welcome to New Jersey" Sign on
Admiral Wilson Boulevard in Camden

Gov. Christie Whitman today demonstrated her commitment to the revitalization of Camden when she broke ground for a new Camden baseball stadium and unveiled the new Battleship USS New Jersey, "Welcome to New Jersey" sign on the city's gateway, the Admiral Wilson Boulevard.

"This ballpark will be another step in giving this city, which has seen its share of tough times, a 'second chance,'" the Governor said at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new ballpark. "I'm very pleased to be here for the groundbreaking of another stadium in what has become a long list of outstanding baseball parks across our state."

"What a lineup we now have: the New Jersey Cardinals from Augusta, the Newark Bears, the Somerset Patriots, the Atlantic City Surf, the Trenton Thunder, and the New Jersey Jackals of Little Falls. Of course, New Jersey has a long and colorful history of amateur and professional baseball. In fact, the first minor league baseball team in this city was called the Camden Merritt -- named for state senator Albert Merritt," she said.

"That team later became the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers. Coincidentally, here in the county that gave the Dodgers the pitcher Orel Hershiser, a public private partnership has formed another winning team. The Quaker Group, Rutgers University, the Delaware River Port Authority, and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority have pooled their resources and expertise to help provide another installment in Camden's recovery," Gov. Whitman said.

"These partners have heard the message from the movie, Field of Dreams: 'If you build it, they will come.' Of course, that movie was about giving ballplayers a second chance of playing the game. Well, soon we will see a field of dreams right here in Camden, and my prediction is 'they will come,'" the Governor said.

The stadium, which is located on Delaware Avenue near the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, will be home to the Rutgers University-Camden baseball team as well as a Camden minor league baseball team. Ground preparation began in May. Construction, which is being performed by the Quaker Group, will begin this month and be completed in time for the team's first home game in early May 2001.

The stadium's seating capacity will be 6,425, including seating in 19 suites, one skyline suite, a restaurant club, an upper club and a picnic area. Ticket prices will range from $4 to $10, with discounts for groups, children and seniors. The cost of construction will be $17.5 million. Funding will be provided through a $2 million loan from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority; $6.5 million loan from the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA); $2 million grant from Rutgers and $7 million in private financing obtained by Quaker Construction.

During construction, the stadium will be owned by the Cooper's Ferry Development Association. Upon completion, the facility will become the property of Rutgers University, which will sign a lease with Camden Baseball, LLC to operate the stadium in conjunction with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Camden Baseball LLC is the corporation, which owns the Camden Baseball Team. The team will play in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

The name of the team will be announced on July 13, following a contest run by the team in the Camden schools to select a name.

Following the groundbreaking for the new stadium, Gov. Whitman unveiled the new "Welcome to New Jersey" sign that is located on Admiral Wilson Boulevard (Route 30 west) one half mile east of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. The 16 by 24-foot sign, which is maroon with gray lettering, is titled "Welcome to New Jersey." The Battleship USS New Jersey is pictured in the center of the sign, which is clearly visible to motorists traveling to and from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

The USS New Jersey theme will be repeated on other welcome signs at the three other DRPA Bridges -- the Commodore Barry, Walt Whitman and Betsy Ross to signify the fact that Camden was chosen by the Navy to be the site where the Navy's most decorated battleship will be docked permanently. The sign was constructed by the Department of Transportation (DOT).

Gov. Whitman pointed out that the sign was another milestone in the state's ongoing efforts to improve Admiral Wilson Boulevard. The Gateway Project, which the Governor announced in March 1999, is transforming the roadway into an attractive gateway to both Camden and New Jersey. The project includes roadwork, demolition of buildings, new sidewalks, bridge painting, utility pole relocation, landscaping and park development. It is being funding by the DOT, DRPA, Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Community Affairs.

"The New Jersey lies berthed just a short distance away at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, getting ready to take her place as just the latest reason to visit Camden. I am proud that in the 15 months since we made a commitment to clean up this gateway into our state, we've seen a true transformation unfold," the Governor said.

"In the coming weeks, Camden will be welcoming thousands of visitors from all over America, who will be attending the Republican Party convention in Philadelphia and over the course of a year, we expect more than 20 million people will visit the Penn's Landing/Camden waterfront area. Because of this Gateway Project, this area will truly be a fitting tribute to Camden's proud history and its bright future," she said.

"To help visitors as they cross the Delaware, we are erecting signs that will remind visitors of that proud history and bright future. What better to do that than by putting a picture of the Battleship New Jersey on these signs? Through four wars, this magnificent ship earned a proud place in American naval history. Now, in its retirement, it will help anchor the bright future that I know Camden has ahead of it," Gov. Whitman said.

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