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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augusta citizen
11042
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augusta citizen 01/13/12 - 02:36 pm
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Yep, Little Lamb, that

Yep, Little Lamb, that probably sums it up.

Lori Davis
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Lori Davis 01/13/12 - 02:42 pm
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Who owns the property and who

Who owns the property and who gets the air rights?

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 02:50 pm
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LOL! That's a good one,

LOL! That's a good one, Lori. The only thing we know for sure is that Ripken Baseball gets the goldmine, city taxpayers get the shaft.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 02:55 pm
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You know, I read the story

You know, I read the story again and I have a question. Susan McCord wrote:

After a 90-minute meeting with Ripken Baseball executives, businessman Ed Presnell and others, Russell said . . . yadda, yadda . . . Presnell said . . . yabba dabba . . . .

Was the meeting closed to the press and to the public? The quotes Susan gives us could have all come after the meeting. Did you (or any other members of the press) get to attend the meeting, Susan?

Susan McCord
202
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Susan McCord 01/13/12 - 03:01 pm
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Lamb, the meeting started at

Lamb, the meeting started at 7:30 a.m. at Augustino's. I talked to Presnell and Russell on their way out. They met in that glassed dining room there. I recognized some of them inside as Ripken folks but am not sure which ones they were. I was still the only press there when I left around 10 a.m. The only city official present was Russell.

GuesS_wHU
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GuesS_wHU 01/13/12 - 03:07 pm
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"The only city official

"The only city official present was Russell." That is an "incredible" event in itself. Our questionable Fred Russell representing the city of Augusta in the baseball deal. This sounds really dirty. I so wish Sarasota had gratiously taken him off our hands.

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 01/13/12 - 03:10 pm
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@Insider Information "I

@Insider Information "I hear Disney World is also thinking about making a new amusement park."

What a great idea, Goofy and Dumbo are already here!

Little Lamb
62588
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Little Lamb 01/13/12 - 03:41 pm
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Thank you, Susan. Well, we

Thank you, Susan. Well, we have to admit that the county commission passed a motion to direct Russell to present a "creative" financing plan back to the commission. So having a meeting to come up with a plan is only following orders.

Jilly Bean
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Jilly Bean 01/13/12 - 03:49 pm
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I posted eariler that Fred

I posted eariler that Fred was to meet with them and report back within 90 days and he had missed that deadline. Yet most people on here are acting like Fred did something wrong. As LL stated, Fred was only following orders but as usual he was tardy in following those orders.

Insider Information
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Insider Information 01/13/12 - 03:52 pm
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All of this makes me wonder

All of this makes me wonder if there is a city employee somewhere needing "surgery" (remember Betty Beard) and money is exchanging hands to pay for that "surgery" to encourage the city to build the stadium.

GuesS_wHU
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GuesS_wHU 01/13/12 - 04:08 pm
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Why do you suppose Fred

Why do you suppose Fred Russell, of all people, was sent as a representative of Augusta? Maybe because he's already proven himself as fiscally irresponsible. I bet Fred's last act will be to solidify this stadium deal. It's perfect for some people to get him to be the scape goat for an extremely unpopular project.

Austin Rhodes
3490
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Austin Rhodes 01/13/12 - 04:23 pm
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Get ready for ASU/MCG

Get ready for ASU/MCG FOOTBALL talk!

countyman
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countyman 01/13/12 - 04:45 pm
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Augusta definitely needs to

Augusta definitely needs to build a football stadium somewhere in the inner city, or around the Wrightsboro/Dasmascus rd area.

If Harrisburg and Laney Walker want to take huge steps towards gentrification.. They need to support any type of development working to bring additional employees in/around downtown.. The side of Harrisburg facing the Hill is pretty much good to go, and the Kroc Center is helping the other side with the majority of blight facing 15th street. The Laney Walker neighborhood is within close proximity of the CBD and Medical District.. Olde Town is much further along than both, but the first two streets near Eastbound are still kinda sketchy.. Students shouldn't have to choose between the CBD, Olde Town, and Summerville for housing..

Insider Information
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Insider Information 01/13/12 - 04:55 pm
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Laney-Walker already has a

Laney-Walker already has a football stadium... The school board and city jointly built the stadium at Laney High School as a community stadium. It is much larger than any high school stadium in Richmond County because it was designed to be a community stadium and not merely a high school stadium.

scgator
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scgator 01/13/12 - 05:08 pm
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Augusta taxpayers NEED to

Augusta taxpayers NEED to file a lawsuit, and stop this madness ASAP; Deke, Fred, and the rest of the crooks are determined to shove this thing down our throats. I don't know of anybody who is against the stadium, but EVERYBODY is against taxpayers paying for the Ripken group and LOCAL real estate owners making a killing on our backs. Make Ripken commit to providing his own funding, then Augusta can give him a few tax perks. Maybe someone needs to hold a public rally against this............................

David Parker
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David Parker 01/13/12 - 05:08 pm
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I don't get alot of the

I don't get alot of the jibber-jabber about space and parking and how to get from point a to b, etc. Athens is much smaller than Augusta and it is home to UGA. Including the students and faculty, they squeeze in around 50,000, not to mention the residents and their parking and transportation. Augustans should be looking at all the potential growth and embrace some of it. For the most part, I see alot of the same people railing on ALL of these projects b/c the package isn't perfect. This is the opportunity folks. Augusta is not a city that sees alot of drastic change, so when they come around, maximize the positives of those changes. I hope that tax dollars can be used to cover what they are designed to cover and not come up short. I hope that happens. If you are of the consensus that feels Augusta is developing appropriately at the pace it has for so many years, then I can see how you would categorically want no part in the changes that are coming. But the comments here come from people that have intentions and are vehement. I just don't get it.

Jilly Bean
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Jilly Bean 01/13/12 - 05:20 pm
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Very nicely put Mr. David

Very nicely put Mr. David Parker.

seenitB4
165216
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seenitB4 01/13/12 - 05:54 pm
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countyman....What in the

countyman....What in the world are you going to do after everything has been gentrified??

seenitB4
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seenitB4 01/13/12 - 05:59 pm
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Gentrification and urban

Gentrification and urban gentrification refer to the changes that result when wealthier people ("gentry") acquire or rent property in low income and working class communities.[1] Urban gentrification is associated with movement. Consequent to gentrification, the average income increases and average family size decreases in the community. It is commonly believed that this results in the displacement of the poorer native residents of the neighborhood, who are unable to pay increased rents, house prices, and property taxes. Often old industrial buildings are converted to residences and shops. In addition, new businesses, catering to a more affluent base of consumers, move in, further increasing the appeal to more affluent migrants and decreasing the accessibility to the poor.

Ooooh...that sounds sooo smoooth....just gently push the ole-timers out & bring in some new cash ...ding a ling aling.

Dipshot
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Dipshot 01/13/12 - 06:05 pm
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Medical offices, classrooms,

Medical offices, classrooms, and clinics would be a far greater boost to downtown than a ballpark that is used maybe 50 days out of the year. I hope Azziz nixes this idea. I see Ripken Baseball found a golden opportunity to try to get the state to foot the bulk of the bill by calling it "University Expansion".. Why hasn't Ripken baseball come forward to say how much THEY are willing to invest? They are trying to pull a fast one and are hoping to circumvent a referendum by the voters.. who have made it quite clear this is not something that is needed. I mean, look at the latest budget, the recreation dept is being virtually eliminated, yet now Russell is talking about building another ballpark? Get real!

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 01/13/12 - 06:11 pm
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When Huey Long asked

When Huey Long asked lawmakers for money to build LSU's football stadium, they told him no, citing the Great Depression.

Huey Long then asked for money to build new dorms and the lawmakers conceded.

Huey Long then built a football stadium. You can still see the dorm rooms inside the stadium.

Is history repeating itself?

Willow Bailey
20624
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Willow Bailey 01/13/12 - 06:44 pm
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David Parker, the new

David Parker, the new stadium would be a great idea if the owners believed enough in it to use their own money. The city of Augusta was 8 million in debt at last reporting. How many millions were invested in the Golf and Gardens, which is now an abandoned weed field? How about that City Tee Center fiasco; what's going on with solving the property ownership issues? Who owns the land around the Golf and Gardens 17 acre site (btw, it is not owned by the city, but the State of Georigia.. ) since the G & G isn't large enough to accomodate their plans? Things are not as they appear on the surface. Several weathly people stand to make millions while taxpayers take all the risk...

Ball stadiums in general lack the financial statistics to make them a good bet.

If you can't pay your property taxes and you can't get a fair price for your property...what are you going to do?

It's a lot of fun spending and speculating with someone else's money.
Taxpayers said, NO, several times.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 01/13/12 - 06:56 pm
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Exactly why would Dr. Azziz

Exactly why would Dr. Azziz want to give part of the land to Ripken, Jacoby or anyone? There's not that much land there. Why?

Willow Bailey
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Willow Bailey 01/13/12 - 10:01 pm
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Yeah, Brett, we did. Russell

Yeah, Brett, we did.

Russell said, “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.”

Think and say what you want to but, this man's got sales talent! The city needs to put him out at their development, Heritage Pine, and get those sales up, up, up! Countyman, might even buy one...he needs some financial investment in Augusta.

Willow Bailey
20624
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Willow Bailey 01/13/12 - 10:32 pm
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ah, Brett, I'm talking about

ah, Brett, I'm talking about his ability to spin it and paint the vision to suit his group's (client's) agenda. Russell might be a procrastinator, but he isn't without talent.

Willow Bailey
20624
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Willow Bailey 01/13/12 - 10:32 pm
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We have a winner! Keep going.

We have a winner! Keep going.

Conservative Man
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Conservative Man 01/13/12 - 10:35 pm
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Welcome aboard Dekebot...you

Welcome aboard Dekebot...you speak the TRUTH!!!!....But remember be careful who you criticize here....you will be persona non grata quickly...

Riverrunner30909
153
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Riverrunner30909 01/14/12 - 12:06 am
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When the heck is Deke Obama
Unpublished

When the heck is Deke Obama going to get it through his THICK, we do not need to output money on so BS as a new Stadium anytime in the next 5 - 10 years and not at all until the Money Crisis gets settled. How much closer can you suck up to Obamas actions of leadership? You need replacing.

countyman
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countyman 01/14/12 - 03:59 am
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The overwhelmingly majority

The overwhelmingly majority of RC taxpayers voted for the TEE Center.. A big diffrence from the straw poll taken when nobody hardly came out to vote.. Then you had to use 13% of one party for the results.. The people who continue to bring the TEE Center obviously don't share the views of Richmond county residents.. Then again the same people usually don't live in Richmond County, and never bring up Columbia County planning to build a exhibition hall in Grovetown.. I'm sure people would love to hold their convention at the Gateway shopping center with Walmart compared to the TEE Center attached to the existing Marriott Confrence Center, cotton warehouse, and Marriott hotel... The same people bring up the tax breaks RC gave to Costco, but never mention CC gave tax breaks to Bojangles and Zaxbys to open in Martinez..

The complaints about the TEE Center are similar to the negative remarks towards the mayor.. The mayor won two straight elections with over 60% of the vote..

The same people complain(TEE Center, Laney Walker/Bethlehem, Trolley, Costco, Fort Discovery, multi-use facility, Regency) about everything, and don't want Augusta to build/renovate anything.. Then a few minutes later they'll tell us why another nearby city is much better... The funny part is those nearby cities all have used public/private partnerships to get things done..

Craig Spinks
819
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Craig Spinks 01/14/12 - 05:44 am
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Just how stupid do Billy,

Just how stupid do Billy, Paul, Deke, Fred, Matt, Ed and "(C)ountyman think A-RC taxpayers are?

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