COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia City Council has approved funding for a study to investigate the feasibility of a professional baseball team.
The council voted 5-2 to approve spending not more than $47,000 on a study investigating the feasibility of the city hosting professional baseball. Council members Moe Baddourah and Leona Plaugh voted against the proposal.
"Is this a feasibility study on that particular site, or is it a feasibility analysis on where the team would be most successful?" asked Plaugh.
The issue came up during a presentation by Assistant City Manager Melissa Gentry on the status of the development of the former state mental hospital on Bull Street. One component of the development includes a possible minor-league baseball stadium.
Plaugh told the council she thought a feasibility study should be done, but not at the expense of taxpayers.
"If there is a private entity that is bringing for the dollars to make an investment in this city, then that decision might be theirs to make, not ours to make," she said. "If there is a private entity that is affiliated with a baseball team that would like to come to Columbia, then I think its appropriate for them to commit dollars to the appropriate analysis."
Plaugh also suggested a public hearing "to discuss the advantages of a city-sponsored baseball team"
Mayor Benjamin responded that a public hearing should come after the feasibility study is completed and its results could be shared with the community.
Gentry also told the council that the city is "very close to an agreement" between USC, the Department of Mental Health and the developer.
In July, the city approved the sale of the property to Bob Hughes of Greenville. Gentry told the council Hughes is also in negotiations with a residential developer and the city has received "two strong prospects" for the renovation of the historic Babcock building.
The Bull Street Commission meets December 2nd to discuss the details of the status report.