North Augusta presents a new ballpark plan

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 10:51 PM
Last updated Wednesday, May 15, 2013 7:08 AM
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AIKEN — Hoping to salvage a plan for a $150 million development on the North Augusta riverfront, city officials offered a new financial model to the Aiken County school board Tuesday.

North Augusta Administrator Todd Glover said the model makes two main concessions to allay some of the board members concerns – it cuts the time in half for school board participation and it avoids using school board money to fund the construction of a baseball stadium.

“I think we are coming back to you tonight with a much stronger model,” said Glover, presenting the revised plan for financing Project Jackson – which will generate $42 million include a stadium, parking deck and conference center.

The plan still includes using a Tax Increment Financing district, or TIF, to fund the project over the next 30 years. The model allows North Augusta to collect property taxes through the TIF district – meaning it would get tax revenue on the incremental difference between rising property values and values for Aiken County, which would remain frozen at 1996 levels for 30 years.

Glover said they had determined a way to allow the school board to exit the TIF after 15 years, while the city and county would remain.

Glover also said they were able to find more sources of revenue, such as hospitality tax money on the hotel and conference center, that made it possible to structure the deal without using school board money for the stadium.

He said the new GreenJackets owners also have offered to kick in $2 million for the project.

“We were able to find we had sufficient revenue in the TIF without the school district,” Glover said.

He said city officials would submit a report to board members each year to show that school board revenues were not used to service the stadium debt.

In addition, Glover said the model expects to generate about $300,000 in revenue that will be returned to the school board each year, while the TIF is in effect.

He said the previous plan counted on about 20 percent of financing to come from the school board, while in new plan that figure is about 11 percent.

Glover said they can count on economic development and tax revenue to come with the new project, because the developers are already on board.

“This is now a “build it and they will come,” model,” he said. “We have the developers lined up and ready to go.”

North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones emphasized that Project Jackson was regional development that would benefit more than his city.

“We need your cooperation we need the county’s cooperation,” Jones said. “If we don’t get it I don’t know whether the project will go.”

School board members plan to allow public input on the project at their May 21 meeting, although commentary should be limited to how the project will impact school district finances, school officials said.

They expect a vigorous debate.

Even before North Augusta officials made their presentation Tuesday, the board gave time to three speakers who were opposed to the project.

Scott Gudith, who lives in North Augusta’s River Club neighborhood, said he loves the idea of a stadium and the good it can do for a city, but he hates the idea of building it on the Savannah River.

“The riverfront of North Augusta is one of the last prime places on the river and no place for you to shove in a ball field,” Gudith said. “We in no way want to have it in a residential neighborhood.”

Another outspoken opponent, Steve Donohue, said he is opposed to the TIF financing model for such a project and the school board should not be in the business of funding such developments.

“When visitors come to town for the first time they ask, ‘Where are the best schools?’ ” he said. “Nobody says, ‘Where is the baseball stadium?’ ”

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agustinian
671
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agustinian 05/15/13 - 06:59 am
5
0
Hmmmmm "Outspoken opponent"

Did you ever wonder why the adjective "outspoken" is invariably applied to "opponents" of an idea and never to the "proponents?"

Why doesn't the AC refer to the Mayor as an "outspoken" proponent?

Just wondering.

Little Lamb
43800
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Little Lamb 05/15/13 - 07:48 am
3
2
Dime

From the story:

North Augusta Administrator Todd Glover said the new GreenJackets owners also have offered to kick in $2 million for the project.

That's a step in the right direction (admittedly, a small step). Ripken Baseball never offered to kick in as much as one thin dime toward a stadium in Augusta.

etlinks
19024
Points
etlinks 05/15/13 - 08:30 am
6
0
very small area

Gudith, a North Augusta resident who lives near the proposed initiative, visited the Greenville stadium. He acknowledged the facility was outstanding, and he had a good time. He has serious doubts about a similar effort in North Augusta, that there is no way to cram all the anticipated facilities in an area that's far too small.

I agree the traffic and congestion will be a nightmare.

Little Lamb
43800
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/13 - 09:01 am
5
1
Really?

Go to the Augusta Convention Center web site and look how meager are the bookings. There are none in May. Here's what they say for the future:

June
Rhodes-Wilder Wedding - June 1
Wild Turkey Federation Sales Meeting - June 9 - 16
Augusta Tattoo Festival - June 13 - 17
Prince Hall Grand Lodge F & AM - June 17 - 22

July
Georgia Sheriffs Association - July 14 - 19

August
Nothing

September
Ga. Assn. of Housing & Redevelopment Authorities - Sept. 20 - 24
70.3 Ironman Registration & Expo - Sept. 27 - 29

That's all they've posted so far.

Do the citizens of North Augusta and Aiken County really want to spend millions of tax dollars to compete for that business?

Riverman1
78942
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Riverman1 05/15/13 - 09:17 am
4
1
Weddings in TEE Center?

The TEE was built to have weddings? Talk about taking business from existing venues. This is not what was touted.

bdouglas
4330
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bdouglas 05/15/13 - 09:27 am
4
4
Interesting arguments...

From the story:
Scott Gudith, who lives in North Augusta’s River Club neighborhood, said he loves the idea of a stadium and the good it can do for a city, but he hates the idea of building it on the Savannah River.

“The riverfront of North Augusta is one of the last prime places on the river and no place for you to shove in a ball field,” Gudith said.

This coming from a guy who lives in the River Club...where they "shoved in" a golf course right on the river? It will have little effect on his side of Georgia Avenue in the first place since one could reasonably assume most of the traffic would be down Georgia Ave, since it's the main artery into and out of downtown NA.

In the story, Steve Donohue said:
"When visitors come to town for the first time they ask, ‘Where are the best schools?’ ” he said. “Nobody says, ‘Where is the baseball stadium?’”

About as far from true as possible. Visitors coming to town for the first time ask, "What is there to do here?" People looking to MOVE here ask about the best schools, not visitors.

I think this could be a great thing for NA (and downtown Augusta restaurants and bars, if they can clean up downtown's safety reputation), but do question some of the financing methods. I don't quite follow how they were "able to find more sources of revenue" in a hospitality tax that doesn't yet exist on the use of facilities that don't yet exist. That's a big gamble if it doesn't take off right away. Given the nearby Augusta Convention Center/TEE Center and the sparse schedule of bookings they have so far, it's not unreasonable to assume the future facility in NA may face the same hurdles unless they offer something that sets it apart (and a baseball stadium is a good start).

Little Lamb
43800
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Little Lamb 05/15/13 - 09:54 am
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1
Schools

For the life of me, I cannot reconcile spending school tax money on a conference center and parking deck. When you pay your school taxes, you expect them to be spent on educating children, not hosting conventions.

etlinks
19024
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etlinks 05/15/13 - 10:06 am
3
1
to close for comfort

The 16th tee on the River Course is but a stones throw away from the purposed location of the ballpark and the street leading into the RC homes would probably be used as a entrance to this facility.

etlinks
19024
Points
etlinks 05/15/13 - 10:10 am
5
0
LL speaks the truth. I do NOT

LL speaks the truth. I do NOT want my property taxes going up unless it is for the schools.

Beattybugs
426
Points
Beattybugs 05/15/13 - 07:55 pm
4
1
Project Jackson is already costing North Augusta plenty!

Anyone have a count as to how many lawyers, accountants and investors were at last night's Aiken County School Board meeting? There was barely enough room at the table for them.
Taxpayers of North Augusta take note, the bill is all yours!

Just learned that last night's School Board meeting went on until 10:30PM during which time these same lawyers and accountants presented their newly revised spread sheets explaining how the project could go forward.

Isn't it interesting that somehow they found more $$$?
Remember Aiken County taxpayers that these are the same people who put together the first proposal.
They're out to make a buck on the backs of our schools and Aiken County taxpayers. And if the ballpark struggles financially, or the team relocates, as frequently happens in minor league baseball, take a guess who will be left holding the bag?

Most important to remember is this:

In January 2013 the city of North Augusta drew up and signed a plan for Project Jackson that did not have a baseball stadium and was financially viable without TIF!!! And had no opponents. Please don't believe it when the mayor says that without the approval of the Aiken County School Board Project Jackson is dead.
Just ask the North Augusta City Council about the January 2013 plan for Project Jackson.

dwb619
86106
Points
dwb619 05/15/13 - 11:10 am
3
5
Ball park

As a resident of an unincorporated area of Aiken County, I say "if North Augusta wants a ball park, let North Augusta pay for it".

futureaugusta
28
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futureaugusta 05/15/13 - 11:20 am
4
5
Question to the nay sayers

The River Club neighborhood is dominated by an older group of individuals that stand behind their Neighborhood Association President saying that they are not in favor of this project. Their neighborhood consists of what 60-75 homes and their association president has audacity to go as far as making claims that he represents the citizens of North Augusta. How many voices from that neighborhood are not being heard out of fear that it will cripple relationships with their neighbors? How many residents actually think that this could be a great draw for the city of North Augusta and its future? How many residents of North Augusta are allowing this man to speak "on their behalf" without standing up and voicing their own opinions? I know several that don't want to speak up because they are worried about relationships with their neighbors. I say speak up. If you have an opinion stand up for it. The president of the River Club Neighborhood Association can not speak for the citizens of North Augusta and no one should allow him to think that he can.

One resident of the River Club spoke last night about the fact that the riverfront does not need to have a ballpark crammed on it. This is coming from a guy that lives in a neighborhood that restricts people from coming to enjoy "their" part of the river. Not everyone has the funds to purchase a riverfront home and this project offers people, who aren't as financially affluent, the opportunity to finally come and experience the Savannah River through an event, boating, shopping or simply sitting at a restaurant on the water. What other location in North Augusta can you recommend that would give the public access to these amenities or be a bigger draw to shop and restaurant owners?

Mr. Donahue stated that "people don't ask where the ballpark is". Well sir you finally got one thing right. No one ever asks where the ballpark is but they definitely ask what there is to do. They want to know where to shop, dine and exercise. If you don't think that this will offer all of those things in one location you really need to take another look at the plans. This is an opportunity to change the riverfront not only for the residents of North Augusta but for the entire CSRA. Your views are short sighted at best and only portray what you think is best for your small stretch of the river. You can not seem to see past the fact that it is next door to your neighborhood and that it will transform the city of North Augusta into something that will be a regional attraction.

If and when this is built, I would be willing to guarantee that I see you out shopping, dining or at a ball game.

I was at the meeting last night and the one thing that I wanted to say but couldn't out of respect for my elders is how many of these people are of the age that they NO LONGER PAY SCHOOL TAX? Out of the meager group of opponents at this meeting (maybe 5 people) I am guessing only one family still pays this tax. If they are so desperate to save money for our kids then why are they applying for tax exemptions themselves? Hypocritical if you ask me. By the way, I pay school tax. Do you Mr. Donahue?

I am sure that people will respond to my remarks and try to discredit my comments and opinions. This is everyones right. What I am doing in this post is what everyone should be doing and that is voicing their opinions. Speak up no matter if you are for or against this project. Don't let a small group of people speak on your behalf.

bdouglas
4330
Points
bdouglas 05/15/13 - 11:33 am
3
5
For those commenting on 'taking' money from the schools...

The land that this project would sit on currently generates around $3,500 per year in revenue for the Aiken County school system. Based on the proposal that was presented last night, once complete, the school system would gain around $300,000 per year in revenue from this land. It will actually generate MORE than that amount, but the additional will be needed to pay for the parking facility (NONE of it for the stadium). After the 15 year term that the school system participates in, they would receive around $1.15 MILLION DOLLARS per year in revenue from this property. This is all information that any city council member will give you if you just ask.

Arguing about the location is all well and good, but arguing that the school children of Aiken County would not benefit from this is impossible if you know the facts.

So they can deny the plan and continue to get just $3,500 per year out of this property or they can approve it and gain $300K per year for 15 years (or $4.5 MILLION total) and $1.15 MILLION or more PER YEAR thereafter.

Little Lamb
43800
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/13 - 11:46 am
4
0
Project

That is some interesting information, bdouglas, but it leaves me with questions. Is all the land involved in the project currently privately owned, or does a government entity own some of it?

In any case, the way the project was originally pitched was that the hotel would be privately owned and would pay property tax. But the ballpark and the parking deck would be owned by North Augusta and be property tax exempt. The conference center would be a strange bird. The three government entities (city, county, school board) would actually pay for the conference center through a bond issuance; but who actually would own the conference center was unclear. The conference center would be physically located in the hotel, much as Augusta's center lies inside the Marriott. So the projections about property tax increases because of reassessments may very well be pipe dreams.

Little Lamb
43800
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/13 - 11:48 am
4
0
Risky Investment

In any case, I am opposed to a school board placing school tax revenue at risk by investing in hotels, convention centers, parking decks, ball parks, etc.

As a matter of fact, city governments should not be doing those things, either.

bdouglas
4330
Points
bdouglas 05/15/13 - 12:24 pm
1
2
@LL

As I recall, much of the land is owned by the development group. As for ownership of the buildings/property, I'm not versed well enough in all of those aspects. If you're the Facebooking kind, feel free to look up councilman Fletcher Dickert on there and he'll gladly answer any questions you have. That's where the figures came from that I posted.

my.voice
4643
Points
my.voice 05/15/13 - 12:35 pm
5
0
Who decided they could spend

Who decided they could spend school board money on ball stadiums? Im sorry, but thats just wrong.

David Parker
7919
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David Parker 05/15/13 - 02:33 pm
1
0
At this point I'll be

At this point I'll be thankful if we even have pro-ball in the CSRA after 2013. Hope all this doesn't end up pushing the club away altogether.

Lee Pollack
13
Points
Lee Pollack 05/15/13 - 03:36 pm
4
5
I love it! Let's do this already.

my.voice: Read the article, or re-read it again. The stadium is not in the School Board money it has been removed.

"North Augusta Administrator Todd Glover said the model makes two main concessions to allay some of the board members concerns – it cuts the time in half for school board participation and it avoids using school board money to fund the construction of a baseball stadium."

Naysayers: Its funny how some folks over at the River Club didn't mind the school board participating in a TIF to fund the River Club and the Golf Course over there, how did that benefit the students again? I'm sure that Steve Donohue fought the TIF that benefited his house being built.

I fail to see the risk; private development is backstopping the risk by guarantee of development before a shovel even goes into the ground. No contracted development to offset the project bonding = no project. Give the city of North Augusta some credit they wouldn't be doing this haphazardly -- their leaderships track record shows that.

The schools gain much more by participating($300,000+) as opposed to the money they get currently from the site ($3,500). That to me at least is significant. So what's really at risk for the school board $3,500 annually?? One could argue it would be disservice to the school district if they didn't participate.

This is a tremendous project, $150M development of our waterfront that will be the epicenter of live, work and play in the entire region. Clean, safe, fun and full of families who will be spending their disposable income in our county and city.

PLAY BALL!

Beattybugs
426
Points
Beattybugs 05/15/13 - 04:12 pm
3
0
the epicenter of live, work and play

hmm . . . you wouldn't be an investor, would you, Mr. Pollack?

resident
470
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resident 05/15/13 - 04:59 pm
4
1
300K of maybe money

If it is guaranteed this then why don' t they apply for a loan and buy it as normal people do ? I would venture to say $300K is a made up number. An all those that say the School is not involved then why is there any mention of their name in this transaction...They said not to build the stadium but they did not say anything about the rest of it. 11% seems link involved to me. I do not live there but still think it is a bad idea to build yet another thing that will be taking up precious green space making it hotter (from stored heat of parking and other surfaces) for underutilized items. I know places have minor league teams and really nice facilities but those also have limited distances to bigger cities with events similar. We have been lucky to have the team. I go to the games myself and see nothing wrong that can't be fixed with the existing stadium. This smells like Developer greed to me..They will build it and maybe it will be somewhat successful but at first opportunity abandon it or sell it for sucking out profits. The NA council sees $$$$$$ and thinks they can get more..maybe so..Just does not feel right...Traditions should stay instead we as people destroy and move one..

countyman
18980
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countyman 05/15/13 - 05:18 pm
1
5
Event in May and deal in Augusta

Little Lamb.. The deal in Augusta included both the Ripken Group and Jacoby development investing.

The TEE Center has 20 confirmed bookings for 2013, and one of them is the GA Society of Association Executives held May 29-31....

Gage Creed
15586
Points
Gage Creed 05/15/13 - 07:41 pm
4
1
Isn't it so pedestrian when

Isn't it so pedestrian when someone from Augusta interjects themselves into a conversation that does not involve them... (eyeroll)

nocnoc
38156
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nocnoc 05/15/13 - 07:45 pm
3
0
Keep swinging. North Augusta

Keep swinging.

North Augusta might get that White Elephant Ball Park yet and the TAXES.

Riverman1
78942
Points
Riverman1 05/15/13 - 08:06 pm
2
2
When THAT group bought the

When THAT group bought the Greenjackets, I knew the stadium would end up where they want it. They'll get this thing approved.

gargoyle
13235
Points
gargoyle 05/15/13 - 08:19 pm
3
0
What ever happened to the

What ever happened to the owners footing the bill? Why do these kind of deals always have to have public money , if its such a grand idea you would think investors would be fighting to get in on the ground floor. Save the public monies for infrastructure and schools and investors will have a foundation to work with...

Little Lamb
43800
Points
Little Lamb 05/15/13 - 08:36 pm
1
1
Not one thin dime

Countyman posted:

The deal in Augusta included both the Ripken Group and Jacoby development investing.

As you told us countless times, Jim Jacoby does not build ballparks. And may I remind you that there never was a "deal in Augusta." There were lots of pipe dreams. There were lots of pretty watercolor pictures published. There were lots of pitches of plans. But there was never a deal. I read each and every Chronicle article and listened to many WJBF newscasts about the ballpark brainf . . , er, brainstorms; and never did Cal Ripken personally nor Ripken Baseball professionally put an offer of cash money on the table in public.

countyman
18980
Points
countyman 05/15/13 - 09:03 pm
1
2
Why do I need for you to

Why do I need for you to tell me Jim Jacoby doesn't build ballparks? He wanted to help with the mixed-use portion(commercial, residential).

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