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West Chester lukewarm on stadium

A minor-league baseball stadium is proving to be a hard sell in West Chester.

Tuesday night, West Chester Borough Council heard emotionally-charged, divergent views during a work session.

A proposal to send the report from the Turks Head Stadium Alliance to the West Chester Redevelopment Authority for further review is scheduled for a vote Wednesday after more discussion.

The alliance wants to turn an abandoned industrial site in the southeastern part of the borough into a $40 million baseball facility on land the borough would own. The facility would try to lure a Phillies minor league team and provide a venue for West Chester University programs, the organizers said.

Will Rutledge, a resident, suggested that if the stadium was such a good deal, the borough did not have to be involved.

"Let them [the alliance] buy the property," he said.

Bruce Harrison, another resident, suggested that more study was needed, which the redevelopment authority could provide.

"As long as there's not a cost to the borough, get more information," he said.

At least three of the seven Council members suggested that further analysis was unnecessary because the numbers don't add up and the borough does not want to own the brownfield. The site was once used by drugmaker Wyeth to produce penicillin and was part of the sale when Pfizer, Inc., bought Wyeth in 2009.

Councilwoman Susan L. Bayne said taking 30 acres off the tax rolls would not benefit the borough, presently grappling with a $1.5 million budget shortfall.

She said the projected revenues of $475,000 would not cover expenses and falls short of the $750,000 the borough receives annually from Pfizer. That obligation was inherited from Wyeth, which had an agreement in perpetuity to pay the borough $750,000 a year for sewer services.

"That's a huge help to us right now," said Council President Holly V. Brown, acknowledging that it might be challenged by Pfizer in court.

Howie Bedell, a principal in the Turks Head Stadium Alliance, said he was disappointed with Tuesday night's reception.

He said he believes the redevelopment authority will recognize the revenue benefits the stadium would bring, and he said he hopes the group will have a chance to review the proposal.

Bedell, a former Phillies player who has set up stadiums across the country, said that Pfizer is willing to donate the land to the borough. He said Pfizer has indicated that it will stop paying the $750,000 and believes it will prevail in court.

In addition to Bedell, the Stadium Alliance includes two former West Chester mayors; Roy Jackson, a former Phillies employee whose notable assets have been the racehorse Barbaro and an Eastern League franchise in York, Pa.; and Jerry Schneider, president of the Chester County Sports Hall of Fame.