Born in Ohio and raised in the South, I'm a diehard Cleveland sports fan. I pass on NASCAR, play any sport but soccer and can't understand why the NFL is so undervalued in the Southeast. My favorite sport is basketball. I was a sports writer at the Columbia County News-Times from 2005 to 2007 before becoming Minor League Sports Writer at the Augusta Chronicle in December 2007.
 
Posted June 16, 2008 12:55 pm

South Atlantic League All-Star Game goes to the cities that build

Thousands of minor league baseball fans will descend on Greensboro, N.C. over the next three days as the 2008 South Atlantic League All-Star Game takes place at the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ NewBridge Bank Park. 

Greensboro's prized jewel first opened in 2005, and the 7,499-seat (they couldn’t find room for one more?) state-of-the-art facility boasts the second largest videoboard in the minor leagues, according to the team’s Web site

The stadium is located in downtown Greensboro and ranks No. 1 in the league in attendance so far this season with an average fan base of 5,973 fans per game. Obviously, it was the perfect choice for this year’s all-star festivities. 

Next year’s all-star game will take place in Charleston, W. Va. where the $23 million Appalachian Power Park was built in 2005. The 2010 game will be in Greenville, S.C. at Fluor Field at the West End – a stadium that opened in 2006 and has seen record-breaking attendance numbers every year since. 

It’s an annual event that, no doubt, showcases not only a stadium but also a city.

"First off, we're excited to showcase the ballpark here," West Virginia Power general manager Ryan Gates said in a story that ran in today’s Charleston Daily Mail. "We consider it a gem.

"We also want to showcase Charleston and West Virginia as a whole. We want to do some things to celebrate the area, the region and the state."

What about Lake Olmstead Stadium and the city of Augusta? This town played host to the SAL All-Star Game in 1997 and again in 2005. When will it return so we can showcase our great city? 

“We won’t put in another bid for an all-star game in our current location,” GreenJackets general manager Nick Brown said. “In 2005, that was a bit of a rarity. We put in the bid two years ahead of time, and no one else went up against us. Now with all these new stadiums going up everyone’s making bids.” 

In its current state, Lake Olmstead Stadium can’t compete with the newer and better stadiums around the league. It seems the only shot Augusta has at playing host to another all-star game is if the city decides to go ahead with plans to build a downtown stadium. 

“With a new stadium our chances would be greatly advanced,” Brown said. “We’d be the crown jewel of the South Atlantic League.” 

Brown said the team would most likely make an all-star bid for the second year of a new stadium’s existence. It’s just one more reason why the city and Ripken Baseball should come together to build the proposed downtown stadium. The most recent feasibility study said that if everything came together by this fall, the stadium could be completed in time for the 2010 season.  

So could the South Atlantic League All-Star Game return to Augusta in 2011? Only if the city wants it to.