Project Jackson – North Augusta’s attempt to shoehorn a 225-bed hotel and a 5,000-seat stadium into the Hammond’s Ferry and River Club areas of North Augusta – should be rejected on so many levels, it is hard to know where to start.
The people who live in River Club are steadfastly opposed to the stadium, because it will bring unwanted traffic, parking, noise, light, litter, crime and other disruptions to an area known for its quiet, natural, retreat-like area along the river. In a recent survey of River Club residents, 85 percent of them rejected building the stadium. The residents who live in Hammond’s Ferry and River Club will have to live with this eyesore and intrusion into their lives for the next 20 to 30 years, and it is contrary to the very plans the city signed on to in the 2009 Master Plan for Augusta/North Augusta, also known as the Westobou Vision.
The mantra of city government is long-range planning. The 2009 Master Plan is less than four years old, and is now ready for the trash bin. North Augustans should ask for a refund on the money spent to research and draft the plan. The plan called for a hotel, yes – but on the hill across from the municipal building, not next to the river; and it didn’t call for blocking the view of the river with a huge stadium.
The city leaders put together another long-range planning document called North Augusta 2000 – The Vision Continues, full of smiling faces and glowing testaments to North Augusta’s planned development, with no one suggesting a 5,000-seat stadium should be squeezed in between the brick ponds and the Greeneway.
Let’s also debunk the standard comeback lines you’ll hear:
“This will create jobs or improve the local economy.” Studies show that lower Class A baseball teams such as the Augusta GreenJackets have no positive economic impact on their communities. Even if you assume there is a positive impact, that impact already is here in the CSRA, and moving the team two miles from its current location will not magically improve or add to the local economy.
You’ll hear: “The hotel needs an anchor so we will build a stadium.” Class A baseball teams don’t draw overnight guests to their venues. That’s not the anchor investors are looking for.
Finally, you’ll hear the mayor say, “We built the brick ponds; it’s our Central Park. Do you really think we would now destroy them?” or words to that effect. What the mayor doesn’t understand is, you can destroy the calm, restive, restorative area such as the brick ponds without disturbing one ounce of the water in them. The lights, noise, traffic and litter created by the stadium will be a hostile neighbor for the flora and fauna and people who visit the park. And one more thing: Next time you are in New York City, go to Central Park and let us know how many stadiums you see there.
Also, the use of the Tax Increment Financing district to create this monstrosity is not in keeping with the spirit, if not the letter, of South Carolina law, but that’s an issue that deserves a separate letter of its own.
(The writer is president of the River Club Homeowners Association.)