Has cost for Bull Street ballpark gone up?

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Has the cost of Columbia's new Bull Street baseball stadium gone up? You might reach that conclusion while scanning the agenda for Tuesday's city council meeting.

The council agenda calls for a vote on an ordinance to issue and sell up to $35 million in bonds for the baseball stadium -- referred to in the agenda as a "multi-use Entertainment Venue."

It's probably easier to just call it the Bull Street ballpark.

If you've been following the story, you might know that the cost to the public for the ballpark itself has been often pegged at $29 million. That is the amount of the loan the city would repay over 30 years using revenue from the city's hospitality tax.

The deal also includes a commitment by the owner of Hardball Capital, Jason Frier, to pitch in another $6 million, but that is not the money we are talking about right now.

The additional $6 million included in the figure cited in the ordinance are added costs, some involving a reserve fund for debt service.

So does this mean the stadium is getting more expensive? We asked Columbia Chief Financial Officer Jeff Palen.

"It's a good question," said Palen. "On the agenda, it does show $35 million for the hospitality bond. But out of that we're only giving that $29 million, which is what we've committed to for the baseball stadium. We put a higher number in there because it takes about three months to ramp up to when you actually issue the bond. It's more of a protection for us. We don't know what the conditions will be. You might have to issue a little bit higher amount, the par amount to get your $29 million. Plus other things go into that number. You have six to seven hundred thousand in cost of issuance and then you have a couple of million that you have to have as a debt service reserve fund."

In other words, the city still considers its commitment of public dollars for the stadium to be $29 million.

Stadium critics have been worried for months that the city is obligating too much public funding for the project. They have also been concerned that costs will continue to rise over time.

Remember, this is just the bonding for the ballpark. It does not include money the city will spend for infrastructure at the entire Bull Street site, which is about $31 million and possibly around $24 million for parking garages. City leaders are working on a plan that might allow investors to pick up much of the costs associated with the garages.

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