A closer look at minor league stadiums like Columbia's proposed - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

A closer look at minor league stadiums like Columbia's proposed ballpark

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

Four minor league baseball teams in comparable markets to Columbia Metro had thousands of fans attend their games inside stadiums that cost millions.

After a WIS investigation, it was discovered that four teams  -- two in South Carolina and two in North Carolina – are established in markets close to Columbia Metro, which has 767,600 people, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Currently, the City of Columbia's council is considering whether building an 8,000-capacity baseball stadium on Bull Street is a good business move. The facility is estimated to cost $35 to $42 million.

Of those four teams, they all came close to meeting full capacity during games in 2012. The following information was gathered from team websites, BallparkDigest.com and the U.S. Census.

The Charleston RiverDogs, which serves a 664,600 metro population, operates in a $19.5-million, 5,550-capacity stadium. On average, 3,791 people attended the games in 2012.

The Greenville Drive's eight-year-old stadium can hold up to 5,700 people, and on average, 4,700 people attended the games in 2012. The Greenville team operates in an 824,110-populated area.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers' stadium cost $23 million and holds 7,500 fans. It was built 10 years ago to serve a 723,800 metro population. On average, 5,489 people attended the games in 2012.

In 2010, the Winston-Salem Dash team got a new stadium with a $49-million price tag to serve a 640,600 metro population. The ballpark holds 5,500 people and had an average attendance of 4,500 fans per game in 2012.

Mayor Steve Benjamin previously said he wants a minor league baseball team in the city by 2015. It was a feasibility study by Brailsford and Dunlavey that gave a $42 million cost for a stadium on Bull Street, but an Atlanta-based management group, Hardball Capital, said it can build the stadium for $35 million.

Hardball Capital CEO Jason Frier has said in 30 years, his company can secure 50 percent of the stadium's cost in private funds. Developer Bob Hughes plans to donate 10-12 acres of the former mental health facility property to build a baseball stadium.

Benjamin is holding public forums to answer questions and share with the community his idea for a stadium. Previously, Benjamin said it will be the private sector baseball team's owner that will assume 100 percent of the operating and maintenance costs, as well as all capital improvements. He says this stadium can be built without a tax increase.

However, WIS has also reported that there is a $50 million cost for infrastructure on top of the cost to build the stadium.

Council will meet again Tuesday to discuss the baseball stadium proposal.

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