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Atlantic League franchise in Camden ceases operations, effective immediately

STAFF
YorkDispatch

CAMDEN, N.J. — A minor league baseball team that has spent 15 seasons playing in Camden says it failed to reach a lease deal for its stadium and will cease operations.

The Camden Riversharks, of the independent Atlantic League, announced Wednesday that they will leave Campbell's Field, which is owned by the Camden County Improvement Authority.

The York Revolution has been a member of the Atlantic League since 2007.

In a statement, the Riversharks said they did "everything we could to keep affordable family entertainment alive and well in Camden." The team says it's having a sale on remaining team merchandise.

"The general sense is, just in terms of their financial future, it's the best step to take without going through other options," Atlantic League president Rick White told The York Dispatch. "They basically, at the moment, don't have a home, and without having a place to play, we have to contemplate alternatives and, so, while we're doing that, this was the best alternative amongst very poor options all the way around."

In September, the director of the Camden County freeholders board said other teams have contacted the county about playing in the stadium, near the Ben Franklin Bridge. Since then, there have been plans for a $1 billion development of offices, homes and retail spaces on lots adjacent to the stadium, a factor that would likely make the stadium a more attractive place for a team to move.

Because of it's close to Philadelphia, the Phillies would have to give their approval for a team affiliated with any other major-league franchise to move in.

A spokesman for the Camden County government did not immediately return a call seeking comment on plans for the stadium.

Back in September, the Atlantic League conditionally approved play to begin in New Britain, Connecticut, in 2016. White confirmed that with Camden ceasing operations, the eighth team in the league for the 2016 season will be a team in New Britain, but he isn't sure if the team will take over any remaining assets from the Riversharks franchise.

This past season, Camden finished tied for last in the Atlantic League with the Bridgeport Bluefish with a 56-83 record. The Riversharks also drew the second-fewest fans in 2015, with a total attendance of 216,639 in 68 openings, or an average of 3,186 fans per game.

Local connection: Losing Camden is also a blow to York.

To start, by taking away a team from Camden, you're removing one of the Revs' closest opponents. Camden was about a two-hour trip from York. Now, York will have to travel close to five hours to get to New Britain for games next year.

"Our travel in terms of miles got longer, no doubt, swapping Camden for New Britain," Revs director of communication and marketing Paul Braverman said. "But, when it comes down to dollars and cents, it's a really negligible difference. I'm sure we'll play New Britain, Bridgeport and Long Island, two out of those three, on one road trip most times."

Just the proximity to Camden created a rivalry between the two teams ever since York joined the Atlantic League in 2007.

"It's just disappointing to lose a natural rival that's less than two hours away," Braverman said. "But, I think, in the long run, New Britain will probably do pretty well in this league, and hopefully Camden will get baseball back."

When the Revs first joined the league, they began their 2007 season by playing their home games in Camden's Campbell Field until construction on what-was-then called Sovereign Bank Stadium was complete in mid-June.