ATLANTIC CITY-Bader Field, this resort city’s original airport, has been shuttered since this past fall and now city officials have set in motion a process to determine what to do with the 145-acre in-town site. The tract, a portion of which holds the Sandcastle, home stadium for the Atlantic City Surf minor league baseball team, is the last large undeveloped tract in this shore city.

To set the process in motion, the city has formed an exploratory committee to study possible uses and options for the site. The committee includes Mayor Robert Levy and city staffers, along with officials of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and of the Governor’s Office of Economic Growth. According to a published report, city officials are said to be leaning toward selling the site, and estimate that it could fetch as much as $1 billion for the city’s coffers.

“We are determined to explore every viable option to reduce the property tax burden on the community within the framework of sound fiscal principals,” Levy says in a prepared statement.

Bader Field’s operations date back nearly a century, and the facility is credited with coinage of the term “airport” after a local reporter referred to it as such shortly after World War I. Over the past few decades, the facility had been reduced to a daily trickle of small, general aviation aircraft, with the larger commercial aircraft routed to the newer, larger Atlantic City International Airport in nearby Pomona.

Bader Field was finally shuttered for good in September, and that closure has already had an impact on development here. With aircraft no longer flying directly into the city, the planning commission has waived previous height limitations and granted variances for several casino/hotel projects, including Pinnacle Entertainment’s proposed redevelopment of the closed Sands Hotel and expansions by Trump Taj Mahal and the Borgata.

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