Stadium issue to go on 2012 ballot

Augusta voters might get to express an opinion next year whether a baseball stadium should be built along the riverfront.

After a motion Tuesday authorizing City Administrator Fred Russell to move forward with "exploring options" for city participation in a $38.7 million deal to build a multipurpose stadium-shopping-condominium complex failed 5-4, the Augusta Commission approved Commissioner Alvin Mason's motion to place the issue on the 2012 general election ballot.

Commissioner Jerry Brigham, questioning the legality of the commission's placing any questions on a ballot, abstained from the vote, which was approved 6-2. Commissioners Joe Bowles and Joe Jackson voted no.

Brigham, who said he opposed the idea of public funding for a downtown stadium, had been open to Russell's having "a freewheeling discussion about the future of baseball in Augusta" with private developers, including the Ripken Baseball Group, owner of the Augusta GreenJackets. Brigham's motion failed 5-4, with Mason and Commissioners Bill Lockett, Wayne Guilfoyle and Grady Smith opposed.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver led 2008's Downtown Stadium Exploratory Committee, a team of about 24 that pushed for building a stadium complex for the GreenJackets on the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame property. Ripken Baseball, Jacoby Development and the mayor's office submitted a proposal for the development that year to the state properties commission, which owns the riverfront land.

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