Minor league baseball could cost $42 million - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Minor league baseball could cost $42 million

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Rich Neumann and Jason Thompson present baseball study to city council Rich Neumann and Jason Thompson present baseball study to city council

If the City of Columbia wants to be home to a minor league baseball team, it would have to come up with about $45 million to build a ballpark.

Consultants hired by city council to investigate the feasibility of minor league baseball presented the results of their findings at the council meeting Tuesday night.  The study was done by Brailsford & Dunlavey, whose firm has worked with more than 125 governmental entities on sports venues.

"Minor league baseball is highly regulated," Rich Neumann told council. "The number of teams is fixed. Only 160 communities in the United States have minor league baseball."

He said there are two regional minor league baseball leagues for which a Columbia-based team could join: the South Atlantic League or Carolina League and where those leagues can expand to is limited. Both are A level minor leagues.

Analyst Jason Thompson with Brailsford & Dunlavey said the Columbia market can support a minor league baseball team. But the city would have to lure an existing team to town. An 8,000 seat stadium would cost an estimated $42 million.

"This is a great market," he said."The Bull Street site is a great site. It could be a catalyst for urban development and growth."

Columbia is the second-largest market in the continental United States without a professional sports team. 

The analysis shows a minor league team could coexist with University of South Carolina baseball because they have different seasons and a different fan base. Thompson says USC baseball fans are season ticket-holders who are interested in the game itself.  Minor league teams cater to fans who are interested in the activities and promotions surrounding game action.

The study claims a minor league baseball team could lure as many as 500,000 fans to Columbia per season.

Mayor Steve Benjamin hoped the ballpark could host more than baseball games.

"The people of Columbia deserve a multi-use stadium," he said.

But Neumann said the stadium would not generate significant revenue.

The study comes after the city signed a development agreement for the old South Carolina mental hospital property on Bull Street. One development option includes a proposed ballpark for minor league games.

On Wednesday, the city held a community forum to discuss further, the economic impact the stadium would have. Some some former city leaders are still worried because it was a terrible expierence before.

"We built them a new stadium to their specifications, they liked it for a while, but then they didn't like it and their attendance was never what they expected, so they continually blamed the city," said former City Councilor Hamilton Osborne Jr. "We weren't doing enough for them, they came to us with almost an endless series of increasing demands backed up with a threat ultimately to leave they City if we didn't meet them. Finally we told them no and they left."

A public hearing on the construction of a baseball stadium is scheduled for January 21st.

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