Ballpark moving forward despite some city council opposition - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Ballpark moving forward despite some city council opposition

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The first reading may have passed last night but that does not mean council members are on the same page.

By the looks of things last night, some members are more divided than ever.

Not everyone agrees a minor league ballpark is right for Columbia.

"I have a grandson," said one Columbia resident at Tuesday night's council meeting. "One is 4 and one is 5, and they're going to play in that stadium."

"I'm very sad that you can find money to invest in this stuff, but you can't find money to invest in parks," said another resident.

It's not just residents, council members are on opposite bases, too.

"I fully respect opposition to what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it," said Mayor Steve Benjamin. "Some of my colleagues will never vote for this."

The four-to-three vote shows the divide.

Things got heated at the meeting, especially between Benjamin and Council member Leona Plaugh.

"I sat here tonight and I've listened to the comments Mayor, that you have made, and we've had a discussion about civility and we've had a discussion about respect for one another and Mayor, this, the conversation, the way in which this conversation is being raised, does not show respect for colleagues," Plaugh said.

"Wherever you happen to be, it's important to note that your comments and your emails are shared," Benjamin said. "So it's not limited to what you say here... let's move on."

Paying for the ballpark has been one of the biggest points of contention. The plan laid out uses a $29 million hospitality bond to fund the multi-use sports and entertainment venue.

"This is just a roadmap that starts today," said Jeff Palen. "It can change at any time."

The city can hold off on building a more than $10 million parking garage because Hardball Capital and developer Bob Hughes have said they will provide parking until the garage is ready.

The City can host non-baseball events during the year and will get the money from those ticket sales. The City and Hardball Capital will work together to market naming rights for the venue and a 5-member Board of Advisors will be set up.

Bob Hughes, Hardball Capital, Columbia's Chief Financial Officer, and City Council will each pick a member of the board, and one member will be appointed by a majority of the other board members.

There's still a lot of decisions to be made, but it's one step closer to becoming reality.

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