Plans for a new baseball stadium in Bakersfield are moving right along as the project's developers cleared another step in the permitting process Tuesday.
The city's Board of Zoning Adjustment approved a conditional use permit for the stadium, a step needed because the commercial center zone where the project will be built doesn't automatically allow for a stadium.
There's a 10-day window for appeals to the board's approval, but once that closes on Dec. 21, the stadium's developers can move to the next phase, applying for permits to grade the property and prepare it for construction.
The three-member zoning board approved the conditional use permit with a couple of tweaks, including the addition of a secondary access road for emergency vehicles.
Gene Voiland, a prominent local oil executive, and Bakersfield oilman Chad Hathaway bought the Bakersfield Blaze baseball team last spring and unveiled plans last month for a new stadium at the Bakersfield Commons project at Coffee and Brimhall roads.
The stadium would be the first phase of the 255-acre Bakersfield Commons project. World Oil Corp., the property's owner and the developer, plans to later add restaurants, retail shops and a movie theater.
The stadium would have a maximum capacity of 5,000 seats and would replace the Blaze's current home, the aging Sam Lynn Ballpark.
Voiland and Hathaway got several votes of support at the meeting, from the zoning board members individually, but also from members of the public.
"You're talking about a project with $20 million of private capital investment" and thousands of potential jobs, said Cheryl Scott of the Kern Economic Development Corp. "The project's going to be using local contractors ... local real estate professionals. That's important to our community."
It's difficult to attract working professionals, such as doctors, to come live in the city, she added. And the stadium will be a recruitment tool. "Bakersfield sometimes has a bit of an inferiority complex. ... This will be a source of pride for us," Scott said.
"This is probably the biggest city in the country that doesn't have a venue like this," Voiland said after the zoning board meeting. "This is great for the city. We need it."
Voiland said the hope is to break ground in February.
"People like it and want to do it, so we're going through our design as quickly as we can," he said.