Trump Scheduled For Saturday Visit To Klein Memorial Auditorium, He Owned Property Where Bluefish Swim

Back to Bridgeport.

My former client Donald Trump is planning a campaign stop at the majestic Klein Memorial Auditorium 12:30 Saturday afternoon in advance of Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary in Connecticut, according to his website. For tickets see here. He may very well talk about his experiences in Bridgeport, his interest in developing Pleasure Beach back in the day and how he deeded to the city the tax-delinquent property that is now the ballpark at Harbor Yard, home of the Bridgeport Bluefish. There’s more to it than that. An excerpt follows from my book Only In Bridgeport that sets up the hotly contested 1995 state legislative proposal to expand casino gaming in Bridgeport. I was then a Trump media consultant. Joe Ganim was mayor. John Rowland, governor.

A major issue of the 1994 gubernatorial campaign was the expansion of casino gaming in Connecticut beyond the wildly successful Foxwoods casino in the rural town of Ledyard. Bridgeport’s untapped waterfront drew the attention of the highest of the high gaming operatives such as Steve Wynn, Donald Trump and the Mashantucket Pequots, operators of Foxwoods, all of whom proposed upwards of billion-dollar gaming establishments. Rowland supported gaming expansion in Bridgeport. Democratic candidate Bill Curry was against it. Ganim, the candidate for lieutenant governor, was in the odd position of agreeing with his running mate’s opponent. Bridgeport was in need of an economic shot in the arm. To Ganim, the gaming expansion was about bringing jobs, entertainment and tax dollars into the city.

ballpark, arena
The ballpark and arena at Harbor Yard. Aerial courtesy Morgan Kaolian.

In a non-binding referendum in March of 1995, city voters overwhelmingly approved a legislative vote on the issue. Both Wynn and the Mashantuckets spent millions lobbying the state legislature for approval while Trump did his part to torpedo the gaming bill, in a move to protect his Atlantic City interests from Connecticut cannibalism. Trump’s attitude was supremely capitalistic. “If expanded gaming is going to happen in Bridgeport, I want it,: he would say. “If I can’t have it, I want to kill it.” Trump unleashed his lobbyists to stop anyone else from getting in on the action, especially his archenemy Wynn. The two gaming moguls have spent many years devising tactics to blow up one another’s gaming proposals.

Robert Zeff, owner of the Bridgeport Jai Alai fronton, had a particular stake in the gaming legislation. He had secured state approval to transform jai alai into a greyhound track with the hope of installing hundreds of slot machines in his parimutuel facility. Zeff was Wynn’s local entrée, working to approve the gaming bill as furiously as Trump fought it.

Opponents to the gaming bill had significant legislative support, particularly from lower Fairfield County legislators, who cited traffic congestion, health issues and gambling addictions as reasons enough to derail the bill. In the end, the new governor could not convince his own Republican legislative base to support gaming in Bridgeport. Despite an impassioned plea on the senate floor from Bridgeport State Senator Alvin Penn, one of the spearheads of the gaming bill, the state senate voted down the bill. Bridgeporters experienced an ugly gaming hangover.

The setback was like a punch to Ganim’s gut and it became clearer waterfront revival would require a non-gaming action plan. An investment group led by former Bridgeport Hydraulic Company chief executive officer Jack McGregor, his wife Mary-Jane Foster and Physicians Health Services founder Mickey Herbert convinced city leaders that minor-league baseball would trigger community pride and an economic jolt like nothing in the city in decades. The location for a baseball stadium that intrigued Ganim and his Economic Development Director Michael Freimuth was the vacant Jenkins Valve building in the South End. Located right off Interstate 95, the five-acre parcel was owned by Donald Trump who purchased the industrial warhorse as a prospective site for a gaming facility.

When the gaming bill failed to pass the State Senate, Trump lost interest in transforming the land. He also lost interest in paying roughly $300,000 in property taxes. “The assessment on this building is crazy,” Trump would say. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” Over the years, Ganim and Trump had developed a friendly relationship. One spring day in 1997, Trump fired off a letter to Ganim griping about the injustice of having to pay an extravagant tax bill for an industrial eyesore. Attaching copies of the tax bills to his letter, Trump explained he wanted to explore a way to turn the building over to the city for a viable use.

Ganim wasn’t about to shed any tears for the Manhattan billionaire, but Trump’s lamenting triggered a Ganim idea. With Trump’s letter in hand the mayor dialed up The Donald and asked him to sign the deed to the property over to the city. Two polished negotiators were at work. Since he knew Trump wanted out of the building, Ganim felt the city was in a greater negotiating position. If Ganim had initiated the offer, The Donald most assuredly would have asked for a price tag well beyond the cost of the taxes. Ganim got his location for the ballpark and Trump walked away from the building.



        1. You know that’s interesting. I was watching a PBS series the other week about Jackie Robinson and how he had to waited until 1947 to play professional baseball although he was a college graduate and a officer in the Army and a All-American in two sports at U.C.L.A. but he had to wait to play professional baseball even though he was a much better player than most of the white players. Jackie had to wait. He was told by the owner Branch Rickey he couldn’t fight back or say anything to the white ballplayers no matter what they called him or anything they did to him. It’s funny, Jackie couldn’t buy a house in Connecticut until a white friend got involved. Mr. Robinson became a Republican but realized the rights he was fighting for as he marched with Martin Luther King Jr during the Civil Rights Movement, he became disappointed with the Republican Party. Mr. Robinson and two of his teammates who were black all were voted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame while Hank Aaron and Willie Mays had to stay in the Negro League because professional baseball didn’t want too many black ballplayers coming up too soon because white players and white society were not ready for them. They didn’t need a judge, they just did it the American way and just waited until whites felt it’s okay for you even though you’re good or maybe great, just wait your turn and stay in your place.

          1. That’s them, not you. You went to court with others and got a job you didn’t need to qualify for. Please stop with the history lessons, I know them already.

          2. Mays came to the Major Leagues in 1951. Branch Rickey was a substantive man who understood the best way to integrate baseball. Don’t denigrate Rickey for his methodology. One of the last teams to integrate was the New York YANKEES. The name of their first black player was Vic Power who never played a minute for the Yankees.

          3. Vic Power was Puerto Rican, I had the pleasure of meeting him in Puerto Rico. When I asked why I hadn’t heard of him, he explained he wasn’t put in the lineup because of his color. He was humble to a fault and a gentleman. Whenever I think of that day I experience a sense of sadness.

      1. I’m black and can think for myself. My parents came to this country from Jamaica legally and worked hard for what they have. Illegal immigration is horrible, end of story. TRUMP 2016.

      2. That’s a racist remark the Democrat Party hacks would be all over about.
        Shame on you, Ron. Trump employs more “minority” employees than the city of Bridgeport. There is no evidence he is racist except for those comments by flies and leeches whose jobs in government would be lost and the media who want a liar and enabler like Hillary Clinton.

        1. Bob, you said, “That’s a racist remark the Democrat Party hacks would be all over about.” What are you talking about? Then you said, “Don’t denigrate Rickey for his methodology,” so playing professional baseball is not based on merit and the best players get the position? No, it’s white is right, you black guys better keep your mouth shut and do what we tell you to do. We’re talking about a grown man who is a college grad, who serve his country in the Army and he has live with this type of methodology by Branch Rickey? Bob, 1947 was not that long ago and that mindset of Rickey’s didn’t just disappear. America has taught blacks well that your success is not about merit and that same mindset America used on blacks during war time when blacks gave their life for this country but those who came back here were still treated like second-class citizens. Those who came here from Jamaica didn’t consider themselves like blacks born in America because those from Jamaica didn’t deal with what American blacks had to live with and pass down to their children because they couldn’t do better for their family.

  1. Donald Trump was Bridgeport’s “Canary In A Coal mine.” Bridgeport suck in all in then. He’s using the same method now.

    A canary in a coal mine is an advanced warning of some danger. The metaphor originates from the times when miners used to carry caged canaries while at work; if there was any methane or carbon monoxide in the mine, the canary would die before the levels of the gas reached those hazardous to humans.

  2. *** Even though Israel is much smaller in size than the US, its days of bombings at anyplace where lots of people gathered throughout the country seemed to be coming for some, a terrible way of life! And it was not until Israel built their walls to monitor anyone coming in or out of the country, they were able to take control and prevent many possible life-threatening situations from their enemies. That along with many other changes that dealt with passports, work and school visas, etc. And not hesitating to deport anyone who was in the country illegally without or expired documentation. The world is changing all around us and if the U.S continues to maintain its too liberal politically correct foreign policies concerning our borders and who, what, when, where, and why undocumented illegals, etc. continue to enter this country without better control, etc. on America’s part, it’s going to get worse with a possible large-scale terror act against American citizens with no one to blame in the end but our American Government which has been sitting by idle, much too long! *** GOD BLESS US ALL! ***

  3. Bob, In his Baseball Hall of Fame induction speech in 1966, Ted Williams made a strong plea for inclusion of Negro league stars in the Hall. After the publication of Robert Peterson’s landmark book Only the Ball was White in 1970, the Hall of Fame found itself under renewed pressure to find a way to honor Negro league players who would have been in the Hall had they not been barred from the major leagues due to the color of their skin.

    At first, the Hall of Fame planned a “separate but equal” display, which would be similar to the Ford C. Frick Award for baseball commentators, in that this plan meant that the Negro league honorees would not be considered members of the Hall of Fame. This plan was criticized by the press, the fans and the players it was intended to honor, and Satchel Paige himself insisted he would not accept anything less than full-fledged induction into the Hall of Fame. The Hall relented and agreed to admit Negro league players on an equal basis with their Major League counterparts in 1971.

    Other members of the Hall who played in both the Negro leagues and Major League Baseball are Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, Larry Doby, Willie Mays and Jackie Robinson.

    Bob, why did these great black baseball players have to play in the Negro League and be treated like second-class citizens, not able to stay in the same hotel or eat with their teammates? Black baseball players could not be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame until 1971, that’s America telling world leaders how to treat their citizens but look how they were taking care of their own. Merit, please.

    1. No, just move it to Mount Trashmore. The last thing America needs is a xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic asshole like Donald Trump in the White House. Has anyone else noted the protesters assaulted at Trump rallies have been African American?

  4. Andy, what about the Lieutenants exam and Engineers exam Ron passed ahead of a myriad of white firefighters who were supposedly qualified ahead of Ron? Get over it Andy and let it go, that was 35 years ago and you and your ilk should move on.

    1. Don, Andy Fardy had no problem when the fire chief MADE Andy a provisional Lieutenant and he didn’t pass the Lieutenant exam to get that Provisional promotion. In fact the fire dept had 73 Lieutenants and 71 of them were made Provisional Lieutenants and all of them were white males and the position was just given to them. Now, I don’t recall Andy saying that was unfair because none of those white males didn’t have the merit to have those positions because they didn’t pass a Lieutenant exam.

  5. Hector Diaz, I would watch Vic Power when he played for Cleveland and Mimmie Minoso who played with the Chicago White Sox on CH 11 when they would play against the Yankees in the late 1950s and these two brothers were great, they were very proud of who they were and played the game hard. Vic Power stole home twice in one game and Minoso got hit by a pitch more than any player, they were a joy to watch as a kid.

    1. Hector, remember, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants moved to California so the only baseball on TV was the New York Yankees and at that time the Yankees had no black ballplayers. The black players you got to see were on teams in the American League and most of those teams didn’t have any. We only got to see the black Latino players. The National League had many more players of color but not in this TV viewing area.

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