COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The Savannah Sand Gnats will be the team that brings Minor League Baseball back to Columbia to occupy the new Spirit Communications Park on Bull Street next year, team officials confirmed at a news conference.
Hardball Capital CEO Jason Freier made the announcement in front of the future site of the ballpark.
"We're extremely excited to be able to continue our partnership with the New York Mets and bring a tradition of quality baseball and first-class, affordable family entertainment to the Midlands," Freier said in a statement. "We look forward to a long, bright future at Columbia Common and to doing our part to contribute to the success of the project and the vibrancy of downtown Columbia."
The Sand Gnats are a Class-A Affiliate of the New York Mets, restoring the Columbia-to-Mets pipeline that once existed when the Capital City Bombers were an affiliate of the New York team.
Speculation surrounded the Sand Gnats for several months. The team was angling for a new stadium in Savannah, but were ultimately unsuccessful in their pursuit.
The Sand Gnats released a statement on their Facebook page and spoke about working out a deal to stay in Savannah.
"We offered to co-invest with the City, as we have done in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and now in Columbia, South Carolina, to insure the long-term success of baseball in Savannah and to allow us to bring concerts and other civic and community events to this City," the statement said. "Unfortunately, we were not successful on that front."
Meanwhile in Columbia, city officials and Hardball Capital quickly got to work on the new $37 million ballpark.
Construction began months ago, and concrete was recently poured at the future site of Minor League Baseball's return to Columbia.
As for the team's new name, Hardball officials say they are still combing through suggestions submitted by Columbia residents.