Current Bull Street price tag tops over $92 million

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia's finance officer told city council Tuesday night that the proposed Bull Street development could cost more than $92 million over the next five years.

That cost also includes a proposed minor league ballpark that has become the linchpin of discussions about the development.

Without the park, the commitment to the Bull Street project would be more than $31 million.

Councilman Moe Baddourah asked the financial officer when there would be firm numbers on finances. The answer was that a firm number cannot be determined until building begins.

Business leaders around the community have thrown their support behind the ballpark. And as of Tuesday night, an actual Major League Baseball player has endorsed the plan as well.

DeAndre Heath, an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and former baseball player for Brookland-Cayce High School, appeared in front of city council to declare his support for the plan, saying it would be great for kids.

"Use that as a spark to chase their dreams and what they want to do," said Heath.

There are two timelines that could end up in play. The first is focused on Mayor Steve Benjamin's request to have a minor league team playing in Columbia by the 2015 season.

For that plan to work, a design must be set by March and construction needs to begin by May.

The second plan has a team on the field for the 2016 season. Design would need to be in by July 2014 and construction would begin by April of 2015.

"Baseball is electric around here and growing up in this area kind of sparked me with it, too," said Heath.

Heath isn't the only young person supporting the ballpark. Someone much younger talked to council members, too.

"I might think that we should have a baseball stadium because, do you know what? My favorite sport is baseball," said a young girl named Maggie.

Not everyone agrees that minor league baseball is the right fit for Columbia.

"The people that support it, they support it and the people that don't, I hope they come around," said Heath.

If Benjamin's plan sticks to have a team playing by 2015, people will have to come around sooner rather than later.

Benjamin says the timeline schedules and other information from Tuesday's meeting will be put online.

No decision was made by city council.

If the ballpark does happen, noise and lighting studies will have to be done.

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