Ballpark plans unveiled

Was it a home run?

The builders of the innovative Meriam Park subdivision proposed for east Chico certainly hope so. On Tuesday they unveiled their ambitious plans for a new, 5,300-seat ballpark that they’re hoping in a couple of years will be the new home of the Chico Outlaws professional baseball team.

The occasion was the concluding presentation of a group planning session New Urban Builders, the Chico group behind the project, had been holding since Sunday in a room at the University of Phoenix to configure the stadium. In addition to various designers, consultants and media types, representatives of the Golden Baseball League were present, as well as Outlaws General Manager Bob Linscheid and Coach Mark Parent.

The ballpark is the latest, and arguably most dramatic, addition to a project that is certain to be the most remarkable large-scale development in recent Chico history. To be constructed on 200-plus acres bordered by Notre Dame Boulevard, E. 20th Street, Bruce Road and Humboldt Road, Meriam Park will be in essence a community within a community, a unique village comprised of a variety of residences, from row houses and live/work spaces to detached single-family dwellings, as well as a town center designed to be within walking distance of all the homes. The stadium will be located adjacent to and just south of the town center, near E. 20th Street.

The developers plan to pay for the stadium by including commercial sites on the grandstand’s street side.

When one of the Outlaws representatives asked when the stadium would be built, Chris Cole, director of project development for New Urban Builders, replied, “We know your lease at Nettleton Stadium is up in 2007. Our desire would be to have you play in this ballpark in ‘07.”

New Urban Builders also showed off its newest configuration of Meriam Park’s town center Tuesday. In addition to a specialty grocery story—Trader Joe’s tops the hope-for list—it will have such amenities as a bank, a bookstore, a drug store, a movie theater, restaurants, a health club and, notably, an arts center that will include studio space, galleries and a 500-seat performing arts theater.

The town center will not be a place to “sell stuff,” said Karl Erlich, a retail consultant working with New Urban Builders. “Chico has plenty of places where you can get stuff. What we want to provide is an experience"—a place where people can congregate, relax and meet their friends, as well as shop, much in the way they do already in downtown Chico.

New Urban Builders submitted its general application for Meriam Park to the city of Chico this week and expects environmental review to begin this spring, said the group’s president, Tom DiGiovanni. It hopes to begin construction of the first phase in 2006.