Aviation enthusiasts, developers and anyone looking for a parking spot for the private jet, take note: Atlantic City is selling a century-old former airport for a fraction of what it could have received eight years ago.
Bader Field, which spurred the first use of the word “air-port” in a 1919 newspaper, will go up for a minimum bid of $155 million on June 17, after the city council of the distressed casino hub on Wednesday signed off on the move.
The winning bid must be approved by the council and the state, which monitors the finances of the junk-rated city that was pummeled by the closing of a third of its betting parlors in 2014.
“It is one of our last and most treasured assets,” said Council President Marty Small.
In 2008, two years after it was closed, the city balked at an offer of $800 million for the airfield, where several US presidents landed and the Civil Air Patrol, a cadre of volunteer airmen, was founded in 1941. Officials wagered the site, over 140 acres, could fetch as much as $1.5 billion from competing casinos, Small said.
That never happened. “It turned out to be a big mistake,” said the council president.
Atlantic City’s trying again, now that it may run out of money as soon as next month. To stave off a bond default or bankruptcy, New Jersey’s legislators are pushing a bill that would place its operations under a state board that could sell assets or change labor contracts to save money.
The airport auction would reduce the city’s $437 million tab to bondholders and to casinos that are owed tax rebates. Getting the minimum of $155 million would cut debt service costs by $20 million a year, said Mayor Don Guardian.
By putting Bader Field up for sale, the mayor said, “we’ll be able to show there aren’t any sacred cows in Atlantic City.”