Facts, figures and popular opinion oppose ballpark

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Hopefully, the conservative gods will forgive me -- but I partly agree with Lowell and Gloria Greenbaum's letter of May 7 ("Arts center would enhance river, city").

AS A PREFACE, we must face facts. Nothing will be successful until the city is cleaned up, painted up, buildings repaired, etc. Crime that is abundant must be brought under control. This includes the free flow of drugs that permeates the downtown area, and lewd acts -- i.e., openly urinating on sidewalks and Riverwalk Augusta. Prostitution is rampant and includes our "better" hotels. The last time I ate at night in a downtown restaurant, I went outside twice to smoke and on each occasion was propositioned by male prostitutes.

Our mayor is operating with blinders, or is so naïve that he has no idea of the sorry state his city is in. Whatever is placed on the Golf and Gardens property must be privately financed and voted on by Richmond County citizens.

Conservatively, and using the Greenbaums' figures, it will be necessary for a performing arts center with a 2,000 seat capacity to average one performance a week -- 52 annually -- to a sold-out audience and charging a minimum of $35 per attendee. This will give them annual gross sales of $3,640,000. With efficient management, the center should be able to completely finance the project without taxpayers having to pay for it. I say "Go Greenbaums."

But what do we do with the remainder of the property since a performing arts center will not require all 16 acres?

A downtown baseball stadium will, in time, destroy baseball in Augusta, and there is no reason to even vaguely consider it. If it were built, attendance would be good the first two years, then it would start decreasing and will get to a point that the franchise owner's margin of profit (maybe loss) is so low that he will try to sell it or relocate. Another operator will come in and face the same results. Then we possibly would get an independent league franchise, which certainly will not last.

Result? Augustans will have a $38 million debt on their hands.

COLUMBUS, GA., (in our South Atlantic League) has a nice stadium near downtown that has not been used in two or three years because of poor attendance. Several years ago, Albany, Ga., built a new complex for our league. It only lasted two or three years and closed because of low attendance. Except for one year of independent league ball, it has been sitting empty.

But we should not worry. Consider the following facts:

- The current stadium is in very good condition, and of the same design I used in 1988, which was planned for expansion. If needed, seats can be added along the left-field line or by going higher with parts of the existing structure.

- The franchise owner probably will never move the franchise. Where will he take it that will draw better than Augusta? Even if he left, there are several Class A teams that would die for the chance to move to Augusta. Actually there are Class AA teams that would like to come to augusta.

- Last year the franchise set an all-time record for attendance, and this year season-ticket sales were greater than last year, indicating another banner year for attendance. No franchise owner is going to walk away from such a successful operation. If the truth were known, the franchise owner probably is well-satisfied with the current stadium. Naturally a new $38 million facility looks attractive to him, but he is going along with the mayor without realizing the mind-set of the area population. Apparently, the mayor does not know either.

- The Lake Olmstead site is ideal, and I selected it because it was in the city limits and nearer our higher population density, whereas downtown is our lowest population density. Visitors and visiting players frequently and favorably comment on the nice pastoral setting, and players have been heard to say they prefer to play at Lake Olmstead than the new facility in Greenville, S.C.

- Fans should remember that we are a low Class A franchise (only short-season A and Rookie League are lower), and a stadium will sell out only a few times a year on special promotions. However, I would like to see 1,000 seats added, access and exit routes improved (widening Milledge Road, improving Woods Street and directing traffic to it); additional parking if needed; and additions to areas such as concessions, shops, etc. It can be done. Our present facility is better than many facilities in the SAL, and these added features will make it as good or better than most SAL facilities.

We built and they came. Improve it and more will come. Move it downtown and they will eventually go away.

(The writer is a former owner of the Augusta GreenJackets who helped revive minor-league baseball in Augusta with the team's return in 1988.)

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reader54
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reader54 05/16/10 - 09:20 am
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Let's hear from all the folks

Let's hear from all the folks who know more about baseball operations than the former owner.

jleyes
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jleyes 05/16/10 - 04:35 pm
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So by your account, downtown

So by your account, downtown is suitable for a proforming arts center but not a ballpark? I guess the performing arts demogrpahic loves prostitution?

Mr Heaton thanks for restoring baseball to Augusta but there is a reason you sold. The game has changed and you obviously are not up on the times. You state that Augusta's ballpark would fail after two years but yet in Greensboro, Greenville and Charleston (as well as dozens of other cities) have not seen that trend. If that was true shouldn't the other teams have all moved or been sold? Judging by their attendance figures that have been going strong each and every year after the park opened, go figure? A team is only as successful as its operator.

Ripken has successful sold out 9 straight seasons in Aberdeen, is a highly decorated sports operator and are setting franchise records at a ballclub you once owned. So in essence I suppose they have proven they are more capable than the operation you ran. Maybe if you were running the team your logic would hold true. However I suspect Ripken would not be willing to invest in a stadium project if he and his team didn't have confidence they would succeed.

Lastly Lake Olmstead is not a suitable location and one that history tells us was chosen out of convenience not out of virtue. The original site was meant to be the proposed site the ballclub is seeking now. Augusta has a chance to finally do it right and it needs progressive visionary thinkers to take it well into the 21st century. Go get it done Cal & Deke.

wm.strickland
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wm.strickland 05/16/10 - 10:22 am
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Great column Mr. Heaton. I

Great column Mr. Heaton. I wish more citizens would look at the facts and not through rose colored glasses. Thanks for voicing your opinion

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 05/18/10 - 12:57 pm
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Thank you, Mr. Heaton, for

Thank you, Mr. Heaton, for your excellent analysis of minor league baseball. Your facts and logic trump the cheerleading of the "government ball" crowd. The current stadium at Lake Olmstead is just perfect for minor league ball in Augusta.

burninater
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burninater 05/20/10 - 09:13 pm
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Well, it would seem like

Well, it would seem like anything would be better than building a botanical garden -- and then surrounding it with a 10-foot brick wall so it's a resource to itself and noone else ... But downtown Augusta feels unsafe? Huh? Do you live in the Cleavers' backyard? I've traveled quite a bit around the U.S., and if you avoid downtown because you think it's unsafe, a) you are doing yourself a disservice, and b) think twice before stepping off your driveway to get the mail , it's scary out there!

corgimom
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corgimom 05/24/10 - 01:14 pm
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When the Green Jackets

When the Green Jackets consistently sell out, that's when it's time to build a new stadium.

Lake Olmstead is hardly out in the country. It's only a few miles from where the proposed stadium is to be built downtown- not enough to make any difference in attendance because of relocation. I'm pretty sure that if people were capable enough to get to Lake Olmstead, they are capable of going to downtown restaurants now- they choose not to.

I'm just wondering who is supposed to go to a downtown stadium that doesn't already go to Lake Olmstead. Building a bigger stadium does not, in any way, guarantee that more people will come.

Remember Augusta hockey? That played downtown? That was supposed to revitalize downtown?

As for Aberdeen, Aberdeen MD is not Augusta GA. Aberdeen is 30 miles from a major city- Baltimore- and has a huge population base to draw from, unlike Augusta.

concrndcitzn
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concrndcitzn 06/05/10 - 01:44 am
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then you buy the weed

then you buy the weed infested, so-called garden, that looks like the back yard of a redneck, and do something with it, it should have been made into a dog park, Aiken, SC has an incredible dog park, it not only allows people to bring their dogs to socialse, meet and greet, and fun dog time, it brings in money to the city. YOU people just keep your dogs chained to the back porch.

broad street narrow mind
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broad street narrow mind 06/21/11 - 01:04 am
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yay! i love the stadium at
Unpublished

yay! i love the stadium at lake olmstead. i think most people do. i love hearing the sounds from the park and the lake. we should get a canoe rental and a summer stock theatre going over there too. how fun would that make a day at the park and night at the ball game?

broad street narrow mind
348
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broad street narrow mind 06/21/11 - 01:07 am
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i'd like to see the golf and
Unpublished

i'd like to see the golf and gardens get turned into a putt putt type thing (already there) and a go kart track. no offense, reynolds street, but you're more of a daytime spot for walking to and from.

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