BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — Imagine polishing off a delectable Timothy’s ice cream cone while grooving to the tunes of Bob Dylan or Stevie Wonder in downtown Bridgeport.
That’s the vision developer Howard Saffan has for the Ballpark at Harbor Yard, which he plans to turn into the new Harbor Yard Amphitheater ready to open for business in Summer 2019.
“Today is truly a dream come true,” Saffan said at a press conference announcing the plans Thursday afternoon.
Though the story broke Monday, Saffan and his partner in the venture, Live Nation’s Jim Koplik, offered more details on the $15 million renovations to the 20-year-old park and plans for the future.
The future of the Bridgeport Bluefish, who’ve called Harbor Yard home for 20 seasons, was unknown, though they will not play at the stadium after the end of the 2017 season, Mayor Joe Ganim said. He said they are likely weighing options to move to another location.
Ganim called the new project “one of the most exciting things in Bridgeport history” and said the outdoor amphitheater — coupled with the existing Arena at Harbor Yard next door — could become “the center for entertainment for Connecticut and beyond.”
The new amphitheater, which will only operate in the warmer months, will host 25 concerts a year, Saffan said. He also expects to bring in events such as home and flower shows, high school graduations, Greater Bridgeport Symphony events and more.
The site will have 6,500 to 8,000 seats, 21 luxury suites, three VIP lounges and an outdoor barbecue area.
The area that now houses dugouts will offer space for local eateries to set up shop, including Timothy’s, Donut Crazy, Two Roads Brewing, sushi from Fairfield’s Wild Rice, Rita’s Ices and Fairfield Cheese Company, Saffan said.
The project is privately funded, though the city will likely pay for some of the planned renovations, he said. The city will remain the property owner.
Saffan estimated the project will create 1,250 jobs and could have an annual impact of more than $50 million on the city’s economy.
Koplik, who has promoted concerts in Connecticut for 45 years, said boutique amphitheaters are all the rage and it will be the only one of its kind in Fairfield County.
He, Ganim and Saffan said they did not expect their events to adversely impact the arena because they will all occur in the summer months when the arena rarely has any events. In fact, he believes the second venue will make acts more aware of Bridgeport as a tour stop.
“What we’re going to have here is hard to put into words, Koplik said. “It puts Bridgeport on the map.”
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