Downtown Augusta stadium plan gains new life

College merger catalyst for grander plan

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Putting a new twist on an old idea, City Administrator Fred Russell said the impending merger of Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University makes construction of a downtown stadium for use by the Augusta GreenJackets even more plausible.

Backed several years ago by Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, a plan to build a stadium at the former Golf Hall of Fame site has seen mixed reactions.  FILE
FILE
Backed several years ago by Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver, a plan to build a stadium at the former Golf Hall of Fame site has seen mixed reactions.

"We're not talking about building a baseball stadium with other things; we're talking about building other things with a stadium that complements a growing university," Russell said.

Russell's meeting Friday with GreenJackets' owner Ripken Baseball, Jacoby Development officials and Augusta businessman Ed Presnell at a downtown restaurant was arranged before an official announcement of the merger was made earlier this week, he said.

He and Presnell, however, left a private dining room with a new stadium plan in mind that somehow incorporates the universities.

Augusta has "the infrastructure, momentum and growth potential" to carry the new institution to a higher level, Presnell said.

Details are sketchy about just how the plan would involve the new institution or how a $38.7 million development would be paid for.

GHSU President Ricardo Azziz has cited an interest in developing the state-owned former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame site, but never in terms of sports. Russell said a meeting between Azziz and the Ripken and Jacoby officials would occur later Friday but none did.

The meeting was not on Azziz’s calendar Friday, and other officials knew nothing about it, GHSU spokeswoman Christen Carter said.

The executives did meet with GHSU officials involved in university facilities, Russell said.

Backed several years ago by Mayor Deke Copenhaver, a plan to build a stadium at the former Golf Hall of Fame site has seen mixed reactions. The Augusta Commission initially panned the idea, but voted last year to have Russell meet with Ripken and Jacoby officials to "develop a transaction plan" for construction of a new stadium.

Friday's meeting was a continuation of the direction he received from the commission, now buffeted by news of the merger, Russell said.

Commissioner Matt Ait­ken, for whom Presnell is campaign manager, had lunch Friday with the Ripken executives. Aitken said he was excited about what is happening in his District 1, which spans all of downtown Augusta.

Neither Aitken nor Russell would speak about the specifics of the latest stadium proposal. Ripken officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Russell said the gist of what is in the works is a large, multipurpose stadium complex that includes retail and residential development.

Constructing a larger stadium would "open that up not only for baseball" but also soccer and other tournaments with "people coming from across the country," he said.

"I believe you could probably get a football field in there, is what they tell me,” Russell said.

Azziz denied rumors Thursday that the new university would have a football team, saying, "We're not going to have a football team."

Staff writers Billy Byler and Tom Corwin contributed to this article.

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OJP
7777
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OJP 01/13/12 - 10:30 am
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Nice to see our local leaders

Nice to see our local leaders doing more than just treading water.

OJP

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 10:31 am
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Can Dr. Azziz throw a sinker?

Can Dr. Azziz throw a sinker?

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 10:32 am
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Still no mention of how much

Still no mention of how much money Ripken Baseball is committed to pony up.

And still no mention of Russell's "creative" financing proposal.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 01/13/12 - 10:35 am
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aw snap. Please don't start

aw snap. Please don't start off ranting about taxes being used to foot the bill on this. Looks like an alternate means of funding so just give it a minute.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 01/13/12 - 10:36 am
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Obviously though, I will not

Obviously though, I will not sign off on this until I have a written promise that I can throw out the inaugural pitch on opening nite.

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 10:43 am
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Matt Aitken is facing

Matt Aitken is facing re-election against a very hostile group of persons representing the black leadership of Augusta. Ed Presnell has his work cut out for him as campaign manager for Aitken. If Aitken is seen as cheerleading for a government-financed ballpark, he can kiss his re-election chances goodbye. Aitken and Presnell need to stay mum on the ballpark until after the election. It is not good for Presnell to be seen hob-nobbing with Russell and Ripken.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 01/13/12 - 10:47 am
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Three guarantees.... 1. The

Three guarantees....

1. The stadium will be built.

2. Tax dollars in some form will be used.

3. There will be no public input (i.e. SPLOST vote, townhall, etc)

Willow Bailey
20605
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Willow Bailey 01/13/12 - 10:51 am
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LL, don't help them. Insider

LL, don't help them.

Insider Information....ding, ding, ding.... hit the jackpot of truth..ding, ding, ding!

They are slick.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 01/13/12 - 10:55 am
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Uuuuuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhh!

Uuuuuuuuuuugggggggghhhhhhhh!

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 01/13/12 - 10:58 am
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Funny...didn't Bowles just
Unpublished

Funny...didn't Bowles just say 2 days ago a stadium wasn't even on the radar? The city is in a deficit. Gordon Highway is a cesspool!! How about taking care of needs before wants? The commissioners are the most dysfunctional I have ever seen. Deke the meeks paychecks should be signed by Ripken baseball. Obviously he cares more about them than he does for the TAXPAYING citizens of his own city. Talk about a frigging joke.

Jilly Bean
0
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Jilly Bean 01/13/12 - 10:58 am
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What if Ripken pays half, the

What if Ripken pays half, the state pays a quarter and the county pays a quarter? I can live with that assuming Ripken has to pay rent on the stadium, which will eat into the counties 25% over a long lease agreement. Just cut back on paying for worthy studies and the county would have their 25%.

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 01/13/12 - 11:01 am
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Also, I wonder how great this
Unpublished

Also, I wonder how great this wonderful merger will be for the people that lose their jobs? This place gets more and more like a bad dream everyday!!

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 11:10 am
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Iwannakno

Iwannakno posted:

Funny...didn't Bowles just say 2 days ago a stadium wasn't even on the radar?

Good point. I was thinking just before I read that post that maybe this meeting never happened. Perhaps The Augusta Chronicle just staged a photo op to write this article because they knew it would get the comment count up to raise the ad revenue because of all the extra page clicks.

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 11:13 am
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Now if they really want to

Now if they really want to get the comment count up, they could publish a restaurant review.

:-)

iLove
626
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iLove 01/13/12 - 12:04 pm
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What about a college campus
Unpublished

What about a college campus on this site?

Asitisinaug
4
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Asitisinaug 01/13/12 - 12:04 pm
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Sure, go ahead and let the

Sure, go ahead and let the county pay 25% of millions of dollars for a new stadium while at the same time closing half of the recreation depatment (Places to keep our youth out of trouble), decreasing the numbers of deputies on the streets each year, giving pay cuts to our law enforcement officers 4 years in a row, etc. etc. etc... sounds like a plan.

prov227
3468
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prov227 01/13/12 - 12:21 pm
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Government keeps forgetting

Government keeps forgetting its original purpose. Rome - bread and circuses. But med students can study while watching a baseball game.

Jilly Bean
0
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Jilly Bean 01/13/12 - 12:28 pm
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"Some people you just cant

"Some people you just cant reach"...isnt that what the the warrden in Cool Hand Luke said? It doesnt matter some people with just hate the idea but I like to think on the positive side. I have recently moved here so I am not up to speed, but I thought Fred had 90 days to report back with a plan. If he is just starting he is a little late. I guess that is what happens when you are interviewing all the time and dodging bullets.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 01/13/12 - 12:30 pm
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There really isn't any great

There really isn't any great debate about whether folks will support bigger and grander baseball. As many people as I have seen at the games in years past, we've always been on board with it. Now this new concept takes some of the reservations that I've heard about a new stadium and addressed them. For example, trying to "multi-use" the facility enough to cover it's expense and payback the initial investment. Getting the newly merged school (CSRU) interested, suggests that they are anticipating needing a space of this type.

countyman
21682
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countyman 01/13/12 - 12:33 pm
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A biotech park and the

A biotech park and the multi-use stadium would cause the CBD to experience explosive growth.. A large number of people working right next to retail, residential, etc..

I'm sure some of GHSU/ASU students will look at living in the residential portion of the multi-use plan...

Augusta needs to create revenue sources to pay police, fix roads, build new schools, etc.. We can't stay the same, and then expect to be able to pay for all of these things.. Nobody wants to have their taxes raised often..

countyman
21682
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countyman 01/13/12 - 12:38 pm
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David Parker.. GHSU announced

David Parker.. GHSU announced last year they're intrested in the Golf and Gardens property..

There's no other 17 acre property overlooking the Savannah River, ontop of the Riverwalk, near Broad street, and with a low crime rate..

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 01/13/12 - 12:42 pm
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Can someone explain how a

Can someone explain how a medical school and baseball stadium have anything in common?

This whole thing has gone from bad to absolutely bonkers.

Jilly, very few people oppose the stadium itself, but most people oppose to tax dollars funding it.

countyman, it might be a bit challenging studying for medical school finals with the roars of the crowd in the background. That just wouldn't happen.

countyman
21682
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countyman 01/13/12 - 12:50 pm
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We don't know how many people

We don't know how many people oppose using tax dollars, because there was never a majority vote taken..

When it comes to attractive real estate, you don't need to have anything in common...

The medical school is located in the Medical District, and not in the CBD.. I don't see how anybody could be against having thousands of additional people working downtown...

madgerman
236
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madgerman 01/13/12 - 12:47 pm
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Wow. Freds private meeting
Unpublished

Wow. Freds private meeting was open to community representatives and sports enthusiasts? Funny I don't recall and notice of a meeting taking place. Not a bad idea to place the university at the old GandG. Now where would the students live and park if that is where they will go to classes? Shame on me for not realizing the students would take the expanded transit system or just drive to school and park in the area. But wait, isn;t parking at a premium at the university now? Well in any event if we are running out of square footage for all the great ideas, just go vertical. In any event we must be loyal to the stake holders first. After all they are not out for a buck and only have our well being at heart.

countyman
21682
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countyman 01/13/12 - 01:00 pm
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Madegerman.. I'm sure they'll

Madegerman.. I'm sure they'll have some type of parking on the site.. The city opened a $12 million parking deck across the street last year, and the site is within distance to the numerous parking spots on Broad..

If we can build the Greenway, then the city can have a nice transit option between the CBD and Medical District...
http://augustagreenway.org/wordpress/

I said earlier the merger would cause the state to speed up with the release of the GGHF property.. Jim Jacoby, Cal Ripken, and Dr. Azziz competiting for 17 acres means Augusta can start going vertical...

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 01:06 pm
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“Community representative” Ed

“Community representative” Ed Presnell said:

“If you just look at what’s going on, it’s incredible.”

You know, you can take Ed’s quote and apply it pretty much anytime to pretty much anything. For example:

“If you just look at what’s going on in Augusta city government, it’s incredible.”

“If you just look at what’s going on in the General Assembly, it’s incredible.”

“If you just look at what’s going on in the Republican presidential campaign, it’s incredible.”

“If you just look at what’s going on at the U.S.–Mexico border, it’s incredible.”

“If you just look at what’s going on in Washington, it’s incredible.”

“If you just look at what’s going on in secret meetings between Ripken Baseball and Mayor Copenhaver, it’s incredible.”

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 01:09 pm
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Countyman wrote: . . . Jim

Countyman wrote:

. . . Jim Jacoby, Cal Ripken, and Dr. Azziz competiting for 17 acres means Augusta can start going vertical. . . .

Yeah, and county taxpayers can start going ballistic!

Conservative Man
5578
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Conservative Man 01/13/12 - 01:23 pm
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Who owns most of the

Who owns most of the properties surrounding the site...THAT"S who will benefit the most....not the taxpayers....Follow the money....

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 01/13/12 - 01:30 pm
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And maybe we can build that

And maybe we can build that trolley the DDA wasted lots 'o money "studying".

Then we can build the monorail connecting the various campuses Dr. Bloodworth has joke about.

Perhaps we can relocate the CDC to downtown Augusta and move the Atlanta Braves there as well.

I hear Disney World is also thinking about making a new amusement park.

Little Lamb
49245
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 01:31 pm
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Susan McCord wrote: After a

Susan McCord wrote:

After a 90-minute meeting with Ripken Baseball executives, businessman Ed Presnell and others, Russell said, “We’re not talking about building a baseball stadium with other things; we’re talking about building other things with a stadium. . . . The proposal, which the executives are about to pitch to GHSU President Ricardo Azziz, could fit into the merged universities’ expansion plans, Russell said.

Okay, here is what Ripken Baseball executives are going to pitch to Azziz and Russell: We would like to keep our team here and we will do so if the state university system takes title to the land and if the city government builds a multimillion dollar stadium with luxury sky boxes and trendy concession stands and if Ripken Baseball gets all ticket revenues and concession revenues.

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