Hey Joe, looks like Lynn Item got one right for once
Spirit announce their return to Fraser FieldBy Steve KrauseFriday, September 29, 2006After telling the CanAm League last week that he was leaving Lynn, North Shore Spirit owner Nick Lopardo has had a change of heart.
The Spirit will return to Fraser Field in 2007.
Lopardo made the announcement Thursday at the conclusion of the two-day league meetings in Brockton.
"I had every intention (of leaving)," Lopardo said yesterday. "I didn't think it (staying) was going to work.
However, he said, there was a flurry of meetings between Lopardo and Lynn officials, and he has received assurances that the city will do everything it can to rectify parking issues -- created when Manning Bowl (which is adjacent to Fraser Field) was leveled and rebuilt -- that plagued the team during its recently-completed season.
"We intend to hire a project director for the second half of the construction," Mayor Edward "Chip" Clancy said. "That person will be on site, and have the technical knowledge of how to meet the different needs of a construction yard in concert with a business, like the Spirit, that needs parking facilities."
Prior to the razing of Manning Bowl, The Spirit had a large parking lot in the spot beside the stadium, where the old East Lynn Little League field stood. But that land was taken after the bowl was torn down and the orientation of the football field was changed. The Spirit went through the entire 2006 season without those spaces.
Next year, the second phase of the project (the building of the stadium facilities on the site of the new Manning Field) should be well under way by the time the Spirit start.
"We have no guarantees," Lopardo said, "But I'm confident that this situation will be ironed out until we see the new paved parking lot."
"This is great news for Lynn," Clancy said. "Nick has put his heart and soul - and his money - on the line, and the City of Lynn has done everything it could to be a good landlord.
"Like any landlord-tenant relationship, there are issues. But they're small when you look at it in relation to the cooperation between the city, and Nick and his staff."
Lopardo, a hands-on owner ("I've done everything including cleaning toilets and cleaning the stands"), said the best thing to come out of his meetings with the city was "listening and hearing from people, and knowing that there's a serious commitment to solve our issues."
"People are indicating they want the Spirit here," he said. "I think we can go a long way toward making the franchise I always thought it could be in Lynn."
Lopardo purchased the Waterbury (CT) Spirit in 2002 and brought the team to Lynn. He vowed, at the time, to provide family-style entertainment to the city - something he has done with many promotional events, fireworks, and a keen eye toward recognizing local people and youth sports teams for their accomplishments.
He also tapped into the region's fierce loyalty to the Boston Red Sox, hiring ex-players John Kennedy (manager), Rich Gedman (third base coach) and Dick Radatz (pitching coach).
Of the three, only Kennedy remains at Fraser. Radatz died three years ago, and Gedman now manages the Worcester Tornados.
Lopardo also tapped into the local baseball scene as well, hiring both Frank Carey and Jim Tgettis as coaches.
"We are looking forward to continuing to stay visible and involved," Lopardo said. "I still have the one goal left that I said I was going to: bring a championship here."
He came close this past season, winning both halves of the CanAm League schedule. But the Spirit lost the first-round playoff series to the eventual champion Quebec City Capitales in five games.
"I think we owe (Lopardo) a debt of gratitude," said Lynn businessman Tom Demakes, president of Old Neighborhood Foods and a Spirit fan. "I appreciate the fact that he's taken Fraser Field and turned it into a beautiful park. We don't have the money in the city to do that.
"Everybody who goes, from no matter where they come from, is impressed with Lynn and the Spirit. And to me, that's worth more than money. I'm grateful to him."
PS- I'm going to the BC game tomorrow Joe