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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Dipshot
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Dipshot 01/14/12 - 06:44 pm
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who has brought race into

who has brought race into this issue? Yours is the first post on this thread that mentioned it.

Pu239
284
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Pu239 01/14/12 - 07:06 pm
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How is a baseball stadium job
Unpublished

How is a baseball stadium job security for a whole lot of people???

Little Lamb
48859
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Little Lamb 01/14/12 - 08:53 pm
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I haven't found the 90 days,

I haven't found the 90 days, yet; but here's a great column by Sylvia Cooper from last summer. Please read every word very slowly:

Hardball

Dipshot
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Dipshot 01/14/12 - 09:07 pm
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btw, where is sylvia's column

btw, where is sylvia's column for this week? It's usually online by now

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/14/12 - 09:07 pm
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Here is Susan McCord's

Here is Susan McCord's reporting on the commission meeting that directed Fred (What, me worry?) Russell to go off into a secluded room and bring back a "transaction plan" to have taxpayers finance a stadium:

Transaction Jackson

Pu239 wins the award for the greatest comment with this:

If they don't build it, will they go away?

createyourfuture
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createyourfuture 01/15/12 - 04:56 am
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C'mon Azziz, even Duke has a

C'mon Azziz, even Duke has a football team!

Dipshot
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Dipshot 01/15/12 - 10:43 am
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what college football team do

what college football team do you know of that plays in a minor league baseball stadium? What will they do, score touchdowns at home plate?

Riverman1
93233
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Riverman1 01/15/12 - 11:06 am
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I played a high school

I played a high school football game in a minor league baseball stadium in Charleston. They bring in temporary stands for one side. Now don't let them get ideas, I'm just saying...

Dipshot
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Dipshot 01/15/12 - 11:46 am
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Again if the University

Again if the University wanted a football team, they would build a football stadium, not a minor league baseball stadium that they would be allowed to use only during football season that they would have to constantly reconfigure for football. Makes no sense at all. And you can't have the Greenjackets and Jaguars both using a ballpark for baseball.. the games would coincide.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 01/15/12 - 02:45 pm
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Let's go back and resurrect

Let's go back and resurrect this editorial from last June. It was written by ACES and is purported to be the view of the publisher of The Augusta Chronicle:

ACES June 2011

An exerpt: A downtown stadium isn't going to happen successfully unless there is a strong public buy-in — and the murmur on the street and the numbers from the ballot simply don't demonstrate a united clamor for such a project. That's probably because there's nothing really wrong with Lake Olmstead Stadium.

Dipshot
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Dipshot 01/15/12 - 04:17 pm
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exactly LL.. and the whole

exactly LL.. and the whole time, the public has been shut out of the process while Fred has had his secret meetings with Ripken baseball and Ed Presnell (who elected him?) to hatch out a way to ram this down the peoples' throats with no vote.

Little Lamb
48859
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Little Lamb 01/15/12 - 10:52 pm
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Okay, I guess it's time to

Okay, I guess it's time to put this comatose patient back on life support — until the next flare-up.

jvanveel
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jvanveel 01/16/12 - 08:57 am
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I think this stadium would be

I think this stadium would be great for downtown Augusta. Business owners (taxpayers) would see significant growth in revenue due to this stadium. I for one will never purchase season tickets at the current Greenjackets site but would buy a season ticket package if this new stadium opened downtown. Hear that Ripken I'm sure there is more like me. This place would pay for itself with increased ticket sales, concessions, and increased presence downtown of sports fans spending their money at local business! You have to spend money to make money. If this goes well Augusta could get a bump from low A baseball.

Willow Bailey
20605
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Willow Bailey 01/16/12 - 09:54 am
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@Dipshot "And you can't have

@Dipshot "And you can't have the Greenjackets and Jaguars both using a ballpark for baseball.. the games would coincide"

This is an important statement and needs to stay in the forefront...as they never think anything through and are focused only on getting their way. Best example: Tee Center

GuesS_wHU
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GuesS_wHU 01/17/12 - 10:43 am
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What is "less then 4

What is "less then 4 minutes"?

The amount of time it takes to travel from a GreenJackets game to downtown.

Using 'revitalizing the downtown area' as an excuse for this stadium is pretty much invalid considering the proximity of the current stadium to downtown.

corgimom
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corgimom 01/21/12 - 08:49 pm
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A biotech park and a baseball

A biotech park and a baseball stadium! Of course! It's a match made in Heaven!

Doesn't every stadium have a biotech park to go with it?

Why didn't anyone think of that before? It makes PERFECT SENSE! Instead of baseball, apple pie, and Chevrolet, it can be baseball, parking deck, and biotech! Of course!

clunk-clunk-clunk

that's the sound of my eyeballs rolling in my head

(Of course, if the biotech park is successful, there would be no room to expand, because there would be a STADIUM there, but why would that deter anyone?)

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