Sylvia Cooper

City Ink columnist and correspondent for The Augusta Chronicle.

Stadium arguments can have little to do with game

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Discussions between the city of Augusta and Ripken Baseball Group about building a new Augusta GreenJackets stadium got under way Friday, with Ripken Vice President Jeff Eiseman meeting with city finance, recreation and administrative personnel via conference call.

Tight-lipped City Administrator Fred Russell remained tight-lipped after the meeting.

"It was a wide-ranging conversation," he told Chronicle Staff Writer Susan McCord .

Now it's getting serious, so I called my baseball expert, former utility infielder Spud "Iron Glove" McGinty to find out what to make of this latest move. Iron Glove said this is how it goes:

BUY ME SOME PEANUTS AND CRACKER JACK... AND A NEW STADIUM: "We love your city and want to play baseball here forever," says Cash "On The Barrelhead" Gamer, a not-so-grizzled veteran of the baseball wars and now a team owner. "And we love the old ballpark. It's just not what we need. The revenue stream there is more of a trickle."

Gamer has told local politicians and taxpayers that he and his financial team, who might even be willing to help the city figure out how to pay for some of the project, would be real happy if the politicians and taxpayers would agree to build a stadium to replace the ballpark.

You see, ballparks, except in Chicago and Boston, are relics of a bygone era -- a time when ballplayers played day games in front of businessmen in suits and hats, who for the most part made more money than the ballplayers.

It was a quaint time when going to a ballpark was all about the game. Now, to hear Cash Gamer tell it, the game is not enough. What fans really want to do is go to an event. They need a destination. And a new stadium would make their city that destination.

"We need a stadium," Gamer says. "A place where, sure, there will be a ballgame going on for those few old souls interested in such stuff, but there will be many other entertainment options, each with an additional charge, of course: batting cages, pitching cages, endless food options, photo booths, fortune tellers, dancing girls and all the beer you can afford!"

"And then there are the stadium suites," Iron Glove continued. "Bet you never heard of a ballpark suite, did you? The private, completely enclosed and air-conditioned stadium suites are sold to businesses for very, very big bucks. The businesses then write off the costs and use the stadium suites to entertain and impress clients. They could do the same thing in an office across town with a big-screen TV in it for all the at-the-game feel you get in one of those sterile stadium suites. But wait, I forgot. It's not about the game anymore. It's about money -- money, money, money, money."

So, Gamer, mixing his sports metaphors, tells the pols and the taxpayers the ball is in their court.

Right now there seem to be two schools of thought: If we build it, they will stay. And we don't want to build it, and we don't care whether they stay or not.

Iron Glove said what happens next is pretty clear-cut.

"A: The city plays ball and the deal is put together for a new stadium. Team stays. Attendance picks up. Revenues are up. The people in the community who wanted that are happy.

"B: The stadium is rejected. The ballpark remains. The team leaves. The people in the community who wanted that are happy. But then a search committee is formed to recruit another team, preferably one not so bent on success.

"Now the politicians' quandary in all this comes down to how many voters on each side of the issue will be unhappy enough with the outcome to choose a new government team."

For most, it's a close call.

BACK AT CITY HALL: With no baseball items on the agenda, it was pretty slow at the Augusta Commission meeting Thursday.

One of the most exciting things they had going was Jeff Gorelick 's request on behalf of downtown merchants and property owners to find other venues for events such as the recent bike races that closed Broad and Ellis streets and kept disabled employees of Ruben's Department Store from getting to work. Gorelick said people on Ellis Street were locked in. He suggested using other places such as the Civic Center or the Regency Mall parking lot. He said he had called the mall's owners, who said they would certainly be willing for the city to use the lot, but when Gorelick asked whether it was in good shape, they said they didn't know.

The upshot was that Russell will take the matter in hand and report back to the board.

There were a few other things of mild interest, such as awarding the bid for a new roof for the Augusta Museum of History to low bidder Bone Dry Roofing of Athens, Ga. Whether Bone Dry will do a better job than the original contractor did in 1996 remains to be seen, but the name sounds good.

Bone dry would be unique for Augusta's public buildings, which for some strange reason have been plagued with leaky roofs for years. Chief among them is the Law Enforcement Center, whose water problems have been fodder for news stories since it opened in the mid-1980s. Leaks in the Marble Palace also ruined plaster and flooded floors for years until the Superior Court judges threatened to issue a court order for something to be done. The old public library at Greene and Ninth streets also had a leaky roof. So much for flat roofs and crooked contractors.

A CITY OF ETHICS: Augusta was recertified as a city of ethics by the Georgia Municipal Association last week. Hmmmm. Wonder who they had to bribe to get that? Just kidding. But the city does pay the GMA and Association County Commissioners of Georgia about $50,000 a year each for annual dues and conference registrations.

Most county commissions in Georgia belong to ACCG and city councils to GMA. But because Augusta is consolidated, the commission belongs to both, and commissioners attend the annual conferences and training sessions of both organizations. In other words, they double-dip. The ACCG held its annual conference in Savannah in April, and GMA followed suit last week.

Of course, Augusta's commissioners are benefitting from this rigorous extra training and seminar attendance. That's why they're so effective, don't you know.

Have a bang-up Fourth of July!

Reach Sylvia Cooper at sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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gcap
290
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gcap 07/03/11 - 11:12 am
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II, you make the best point

II, you make the best point of the day. Building a stadium downtown is a virtual guarantee of failure. Not just because of the costs, but fans won't go downtown where parking is a hassle, crime is a bigger issue, and location is farther from home for most. So why raise costs astronomically while attendance (revenue) will go down? And what will the kudzu vines be covering in a few years? Maybe, after all, it's not a bad idea. In 2018 our new team will come and be named the Augusta Kudzu.

Brad Owens
4396
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Brad Owens 07/03/11 - 11:27 am
0
0
We don't need this and we

We don't need this and we can't afford it.

Easy enough,

Brad

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 07/03/11 - 11:40 am
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Building what I call "Deke's

Building what I call "Deke's Folly" when we are 9 mil in the hole and retirees are getting their earned benefits cancelled is criminal at worst, absolute stupidity at best.
Sadly, from what I'm hearing the fix is already in and we'll have one whether we, as taxpayers want it or not. What really matters, after all is that the aristocratic few in this city get what they want, right?The great unwashed be damned!

ECDanes
1
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ECDanes 07/03/11 - 12:18 pm
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Incognito
0
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Incognito 07/03/11 - 11:47 am
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You have to have somewhere in

You have to have somewhere in Augusta cool to take Jenny Sanford.

ECDanes
1
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ECDanes 07/03/11 - 11:52 am
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I'm with you Brad. I hope

I'm with you Brad. I hope Riverman just changed screennames. He was definitely one of the most informative posters on here. Then again he may just be hiding in a cave somewhere.

dichotomy
32672
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dichotomy 07/03/11 - 11:55 am
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I agree Brad. The answer is

I agree Brad. The answer is so obvious that it is a nobrainer. BUT, we are in Augusta and nobrainer is a good description of our leadership.

We are $9 million in the hole folks. You can't get a cop because we don't have enough money to pay for enough of them, even though we pay the worst salaries around. We already have sky high taxes AND sky high garbage collection rates. The property taxes are WAY TOO HIGH for the services we receive and the quality of our schools. We are paying prime rib prices for fatty hamburger. Our local "everything is peachy" advocates have been telling us that Augusta has been immune to the recession but that has only been due to the large amount of government employees in the area. Guess what, the latest reports show our unemployment rates are going up and our housing market is starting it's dip....even further....even though our TAX Appraiser denies it. We were and are not immune. We are now going downhill. Things will get worse. Stop the madness of even discussing using ANY form of taxpayer money to build a ball park. How long have we had the coliseum and it is STILL a money loser. Do you really think a ball park won't end up a permanent tax money drain hole?

Instead of wasting our money on a project that nobody but the rich friends of the mayor wants, our commissioners should:

1. Balance our budget by cutting spending and reorganizing just to get us through this crunch. NO TAX INCREASES.

2. As part of that, figure out how to hire enough cops to do the job.

3. Get us in the budget black, and then build up an emergency fund that will get us through a 5 year recession.

When you get all of that done, then we can talk about building a ball park.......with private investors.....no taxpayer money. But until our useless commissioners get us out of this $9 million hole without raising our taxes, we don't even want to hear anymore about a ball park.

The ruling class downtown are determined to water their money garden but they will be coming to the South Augusta/South Richmond County well to dip the water.......as usual.

countyman
19982
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countyman 07/03/11 - 12:12 pm
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When did the city raise

When did the city raise property taxes?

July 20, 2010... A tax digest that grew by $51.3 million prompted Augusta commissioners to roll back taxes by 0.1 percent Tuesday.The commission unanimously agreed to advertise the new lowered rate of 8.056 mills, down from the 8.149 mills Augusta has levied since 2007.

July 28, 2010... The Richmond County school board voted unanimously Tuesday to tentatively roll back its portion of the county millage by 0.232 mills, resulting in a savings of $8.12 a year for the owner of an average $100,000 home.

Augusta 9th, 2010 ... The Augusta Commission voted to roll back the countywide millage rate by 0.093 percent.

countyman
19982
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countyman 07/03/11 - 12:31 pm
0
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Augusta wasn't the only city

Augusta wasn't the only city in the US with to end up with an defecit after the recession.. Several cities are much deeper in the whole than $9 million..

The housing market in Augusta continues to do much better than the rest of the country...

''According to RealtyTrac, from January to April, there were 998 foreclosures. That's down from 1,455 for that four-month span in 2010.''

In the latest Brookings rankings of the top metros in the US..

''Augusta also did well on the quarterly change in housing prices, ranking 18th on the basis of only going down 2.8 percent on home prices. The national average was a 4.3 percent decline in home prices.''

The unemployment rate slightly increased to 8.7% in May... This was the first time the rate increased since January OF 2011.. The unemployment rate is lower than the national average..

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 07/03/11 - 12:31 pm
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All the statistics in the

All the statistics in the world don't change the fact that we're broke.So what are you proposing that we spend money to improve our economy? Seems like the last time that was tried, it was a miserable failure. TARP anyone?

countyman
19982
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countyman 07/03/11 - 12:44 pm
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I guess doing nothing will

I guess doing nothing will make the decifict dissapear... Every city must spend money in order to attract private development.. One of family members has an old picture of the Charlotte skyline from the early 70's...

Private developers such as Jim Jacoby and Cal Ripken Jr are behind the development..

The people continuing to bring up the tax money is pure speculation.. The final estimates haven't been presented and they're looking at using TAD, marking tax credits, etc..

ECDanes
1
Points
ECDanes 07/03/11 - 12:44 pm
0
0
well spending money you don't

well spending money you don't have on frills like a new stadium (when the city already has a perfectly good one) most certainly will not make the deficit disappear.

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 07/03/11 - 12:48 pm
0
0
I'm going outside and enjoy

I'm going outside and enjoy the day.And try to take my mind off the prospect of getting hosed by those in power who want to put their hands in MY pocket and spend money we don't have on something we don't need. Have a nice day everyone.

countyman
19982
Points
countyman 07/03/11 - 12:52 pm
0
0
Doing nothing to create extra

Doing nothing to create extra tax revenue during an deficit makes absolutely no sense.. Where is the money coming from to hire new police officers, fix roads, build new schools, etc?

Lake Olmstead is nothing but a regular baseball stadium with no chance of major expansion..

While the mix-use facility includes a baseball stadium, residential, retail, restaurants, etc..

The mix-use property and Lake Olmstead aren't the same thing at all...

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 07/03/11 - 01:00 pm
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countyman, how much tax money

countyman, how much tax money are you willing to spend on a new stadium?

Can you give a dollar figure?

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 07/03/11 - 01:29 pm
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Countyman, RC has been

Countyman, RC has been raising taxes for years. Mine has climbed. Its called "reassessment."

countyman
19982
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countyman 07/03/11 - 03:23 pm
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0
I remember you already

I remember you already telling us you live in Aiken County and own a home in South Augusta.. The comment you made stated the city continued to raise property taxes.. The property values of homes in extreme South Augusta went up.. Several new homes and neighborhoods were built around Willis Foreman for example.. The home of commissioner Alvin Mason went up in value too... The graduation rate at Cross Creek was 80% last year.. The $21 million vocational magnet high school is underway on the Augusta Tech campus..

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 07/03/11 - 03:06 pm
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But you claim they went down?
Unpublished

But you claim they went down? Which is it? I don't know why my comment was removed either. Someone much be touchy.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 07/03/11 - 03:09 pm
0
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countyman, how much tax money

countyman, how much tax money is the appropriate amount to "invest" in a baseball stadium?

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 07/03/11 - 03:20 pm
0
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In 10 years my property taxes
Unpublished

In 10 years my property taxes on my home in South Augusta have risen from 300 a year to 1000 a year. The services I receive went down. The schools in South Augusta went downhill fast! Police only respond when they feel like it. When they do they say things like "you do know where you live right?" 9 MILLION IN THE HOLE!!! Address that. Quit telling us about fast food restaurants, hotels and condos that have yet to be built and start telling us about more police presence, better schools and how we are gonna get past this 9 million dollar deficit. There, I took out the parts that might hurt someone's feelings so they couldn't quash the message! I lived in the Butler High School zone and it was like a war zone.

countyman
19982
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countyman 07/03/11 - 03:19 pm
0
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The chronicle put your

The chronicle put your comment back up on the article.. Almost 90% of the companies, condos, industry, retail, restaurants, neighborhoods, etc I bring up are either under construction or completed...

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 07/03/11 - 03:21 pm
0
0
No i edited it and put it
Unpublished

No i edited it and put it back up because someone got their feelings hurt.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 07/03/11 - 03:23 pm
0
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yet you still fail to
Unpublished

yet you still fail to acknowledge or talk about the 9 million deficit and keep telling us about condos etc etc.

countyman
19982
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countyman 07/03/11 - 03:38 pm
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0
Where is the money come from

Where is the money come from to hire more cops?? Where is the money coming from to make up the deficit? The condos, retail, restaurants, and the baseball stadium would generate tax revenue..

In response to the early sarcastic comment made concerning Gordon Hwy... The section of Gordon Hwy between Jimmie Dyess Pkwy and Harlem is growing extremely fast... Take a ride down Gordon Hwy and turn into the Willhaven subdvision(best selling neighborhood of 2009) and they're still building.. The 200 acre Haynes Station and 62 acre Mccoys Creek(1 acre commercial) are under construction..

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 07/03/11 - 03:34 pm
0
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What about the rest of gordon
Unpublished

What about the rest of gordon from that point back to the carolina line? That's a lot of area that have closed stores, steak houses, banks and a movie theater. My comment was the truth not sarcasm. Sorry bud but when you're 9 million in the hole a new stadium isn't gonna bring in revenue it's gonna cost. Spending has to be cut you cannot spend your way out of a deficit.

ECDanes
1
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ECDanes 07/03/11 - 03:48 pm
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There is no evidence that

There is no evidence that shows ballparks or stadiums brings in new revenue or attracts new businesses to surrounding areas. Travel to most stadiums... even the big ones like Turner Field.. not much happening around them. That's because for the most part, the people who go to games go for the game.. they aren't going to have a candle-lit dinner, visit a comedy club, have a cappucino in a coffee house, go antiquing or visit art galleries. They go to the game, eat hot dogs, drink beer and go home. The whole premise the proponents of the stadium are basing this on is completely false. And look at it this way, if it were to be built downtown.. these non-patrons of downtown businesses will undoubtedly be taking up the parking spaces for the people who may actually want to come to Broad Street to eat at a restaurant, visit a coffee house, go antiquing or visit a gallery.

ECDanes
1
Points
ECDanes 07/03/11 - 03:55 pm
0
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If you have some free time..

If you have some free time.. watch this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoLy2Ps7we8
pay close attention to all of the "creative" lingo they will use like PILOTS in order to make it seem like they aren't using tax money to finance this stadium.. when they actually are.

ECDanes
1
Points
ECDanes 07/03/11 - 03:57 pm
0
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Payments in Lieu of taxes

Payments in Lieu of taxes (PILOTS) will be their new buzzword.. They will try to make this sound like public money isn't being used. But its a smokescreen.. it's all about using public money, but just calling it by a different name.

countyman
19982
Points
countyman 07/03/11 - 04:13 pm
0
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''The only thing growing on

''The only thing growing on Gordon Highway is weeds and hookers!!''

You really believe this comment to be true?? The road stretches from the Aiken County line all the way to Columbia County..

The section of Gordon Hwy between I-520 and Jimmie Dyess is growing too.. The Fairfield Inn and Comfort Inn & Suites aren't more than a few years old.. American Tire invested $4 million and built a new 81k sq. ft. warehouse(30 jobs)... The Hampton Inn hotel is under construction next to the Raceway gas station.. The Rolling Hills driving range opened in the year 2009..

The rest of Gordon Hwy does need help and improvements are well underway.. The multi million Endinburgh Pointe residential community is under construction off Gordon Hwy near the Sibley rd intersection.. $60k is going towards the intersection of Deans Bridge rd and Gordon Hwy. The city is spending $3.5 million to build a lake near Regency mall.. The Southgate shopping center continues to grow and it's almost at 100% occupied.

Incognito
0
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Incognito 07/03/11 - 04:16 pm
0
0
Stadiums are concrete

Stadiums are concrete deserted islands most days and nights.

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