Plans to bring minor league baseball team to Columbia moving qui - - Columbia, South Carolina

Plans to bring minor league baseball team to Columbia moving quickly

(Source: Hardball Capital) (Source: Hardball Capital)

Consultants say building a new home for minor league baseball could be a home run for Columbia's economy and quality of life.

But the study they outlined at the Woodland Park community center Thursday night raised plenty of questions and a few tempers.

"It makes no economic sense for a city to invest in making some minor league baseball owner some money," said one constituent at the meeting.

City leaders are working through a long list of issues before deciding whether to move forward with construction on a project that could cost at least $35 million for the stadium alone not to mention parking and other infrastructure.

That spending tacked on to the project to develop the city's Bull Street property.

While attending the Woodland Park forum, another one was scheduled at the same time at the Cecil Tillis Center with Atlanta-based baseball developer Jason Freier.

Earlier in the day Freier told WIS he has no doubt minor league ball can make a highly successful return to the Capital City.

"We feel that a facility in the right place and operated properly here in Columbia would thrive," Freier said. "And again if you look at the difference between what the attendance was for USC baseball before the new ballpark was built and the current ballpark, you see an enormous difference. The quality of the experience that can be provided in a top notch facility is just far better."

Many critics clearly believe the city led by Mayor Steve Benjamin would be taking on too much debt and risk with the stadium proposal.

City council has a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Plans had called for first reading of an ordinance on the stadium but the mayor now says no ordinance will be introduced at that meeting.

Proponents are moving full speed to get a plan locked down and construction underway as soon as March.

Their ambitious deadline is putting a team on the field by next year.

Freier said it can be done.

"I would agree that it's a very aggressive timeline and I agree that it would be a challenge," Freier said. "I don't think we can sit here and promise that we would have a team out on the field in 2015. I think it is feasible to do it."

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