Record is fueling push for stadium

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Minor league baseball has turned its attention to Dayton, Ohio, this weekend, as the Dayton Dragons celebrate the longest consecutive sellout streak in the history of U.S. professional sports.

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People enter Lake Olmstead Stadium before the start of the GreenJackets game.  File/Staff
File/Staff
People enter Lake Olmstead Stadium before the start of the GreenJackets game.

Saturday night's game marked the team's 815th sellout in a row at Fifth Third Field - a streak that started when the stadium opened in downtown Dayton in 2000.

While many minor league team executives either envy or applaud the impressive feat, Jeff Eiseman can't help but shake his head and point. The vice president of sales and marketing for Ripken Baseball Group, which owns the Augusta GreenJackets, has been a leading voice in the push for the development of a multipurpose entertainment complex in downtown Augusta that would include a new stadium. He said he sees what has happened in Dayton as an ideal example for what Augusta could have.

"I'm not going to promise we'd sell out every single game," he said. "But we know Augusta has the potential to be like Dayton or Aberdeen (Md.). That's why we're here."

The Dayton Dragons, one of six teams owned by Mandalay Baseball Properties, broke the consecutive sellout record set by the Portland Trail Blazers in a streak that ran from 1977 to 1995.

The Aberdeen IronBirds, one of two other teams owned by Ripken Baseball, currently hold minor league baseball's second-longest sellout streak at more than 300 games.

Eiseman's comparison of Augusta to minor league baseball's top two markets isn't guesswork. The only common thread between Dayton and Aberdeen is Eiseman, who worked for Mandalay and helped train Dayton's sales staff when its sellout streak started. He became the Aberdeen club's first general manager in 2002, and the team has sold out every home game since then.

"When we talk about why something like that occurs, there's a couple of components," he said. "One, you have to have the right people with the right mission. And you have to have the right venue, a place where you can create a magical experience for the fan. Part of the reason we can't do what we want to do (in Augusta) is because we're limited by the venue."

Not everyone in the community agrees.

Carl Keene has been a season ticket holder for more than a decade, and he's missed just one of the GreenJackets' 42 home games this year. He said the "magical experience" is there at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

"I love it. For sports entertainment, you can't find a better gig in town, but people just don't come out," he said. "I would hate to see it move. It's a great experience to come out there and talk to the players and get right down to field level. It's a magical place, if you're patient and you put some thought into it. But people don't know it's here."

Lake Olmstead Stadium has gone 16 years without a major renovation, something Keene said he'd like to see. The stadium ranks 11th in the 14-team South Atlantic League in seating capacity, offers no luxury suites and has limited parking.

Still, the GreenJackets set franchise records in 2008 and 2010 for paid attendance, and this season's numbers include an average of 2,885 fans per game -- eighth in the league.

Eiseman said a new stadium, possibly a downtown structure built along the banks of the Savannah River at the Georgia Golf and Gardens property, would help stir more excitement.

"We want to take it to a level people in Augusta haven't even imagined," he said. "I think we can put ingredients together and have the community embrace it."

T he Augusta Commission finally embraced the idea of pursuing the possibilities in June when commissioners voted 6-3-1 to "develop a transaction plan" concerning the stadium issue, and city administrator Fred Russell said he is exploring financing options.

The land is still owned by the state and has yet to be put up for auction, which the Properties Commission intends to do at a starting price tag of $2.8 million. Acquiring the land and funding the project remain obstacles, and the idea itself hasn't seen much progress since it was introduced almost five years ago.

The slow process has recently pushed the GreenJackets and Ripken Baseball to entertain the idea of moving to a different location within the Augusta market. Eiseman isn't ready to give up on the downtown property.

"In an ideal world, downtown is it. Anytime you can bring half a million people into an area, you are going to have an impact on that area," he said. "The central business district of Augusta misses that anchor to draw that many people. If not, it can still be done (elsewhere) but downtown won't necessarily benefit."

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ECDanes
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ECDanes 07/10/11 - 01:05 am
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Somethings that should be

Somethings that should be noted about these two examples used by Eisman is that both Dayton and Aberdeen are right next door to major metropolitan areas in excess of 2,000,000 people.. Cincinnati and Baltimore.. Ripken stadium in Aberdeen is less than 30 miles from downtown Baltimore. And The Dayton Stadium is in between the larger metro areas of Cincinnati and Columbus with a combined population of over 5 million people. And Dayton by itself is much larger than metro Augusta. So you can see, these stadiums have a much larger market area to pull from.. so comparing them to Augusta is like comparing apples to oranges. Also, in the case of Dayton.. the Dragons are affiliated with the nearby Cincinnati Reds.. so there is a built in tradition already there and so the minor league team offers a cheaper alternative to a more expensive Reds game for suburbanites. Same with Aberdeen (it is practically a suburb of Baltimore) and its minor league team is affiliated with the neighboring Baltimore Orioles.. so the Ironbirds offer a cheaper and more convenient alternative to Orioles games, not to mention that Aberdeen is Cal Ripken's hometown. So you can see that these examples are very unique and do not represent typical minor league baseball markets. And it doesn't necessarily correlate that a newer and bigger stadium will guarantee sell-outs. It's better to look closer to Augusta for examples. But if Mr Eiseman is confident they can sell out games in a new stadium on the riverfront then they should have no problem convincing private investors to finance it instead of the public, right? And btw, despite the sell-outs at Ripken Stadium, the city of Aberdeen was not seeing green from it and wanted out of ownership because it was a financial drain on the city budget, and the promised attached developments that were supposed to pay for the city's cost in the stadium never panned out and were constantly delayed.. see for yourself: http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2007-03-25/news/0703250206_1_ripken-sta...

ECDanes
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ECDanes 07/10/11 - 02:08 am
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dbl post

dbl post

ECDanes
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ECDanes 07/10/11 - 02:00 am
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Also in the case of Dayton,

Also in the case of Dayton, an adjacent development to 5th Third Stadium, a huge $230 million mixed use development (that was supposed to be the big financial pay-off to the city for building the stadium) has yet to materialize and is on indefinite hold because of the financial climate in the country.. this seems to be a pattern. And this is with the biggest minor league success story.. and even they are having trouble attracting the private adjacent development that was promised to be the big moneymakers for the city. The stadiums don't make money (they lose it).. even the ones that sell out every game for more than 5 years straight. It's July 2011 and still no Baseball Village development in Dayton, Ohio
http://www.daytondailynews.com/n/content/oh/story/business/2008/05/01/dd...

ECDanes
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ECDanes 07/10/11 - 02:56 am
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And just because a team sells

And just because a team sells out a new stadium doesn't necessarily translate to the city making money from it. It may be great for the team owners, but for taxpayers left on the hook to cover bond payments it's usually a bust, as with the case of Aberdeen's stadium which had sell outs for 5 straight years, yet the city still lost money on it.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 07/10/11 - 05:13 am
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As John Adams once said about

As John Adams once said about facts, "they are stubborn things."

Good work Erica.

Brad

corgimom
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corgimom 07/10/11 - 05:18 am
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ECDanes is one smart man. Who

ECDanes is one smart man. Who cares if a ballpark sells out- what's important is if they turn a profit.

When you sell out every game and you STILL lose money, what's the point of that? There IS no break-even point.

How many money-losing projects can A-RC take before it goes under? As Brad pointed out, the TEE Center is going to soak up all the money for the next 50 years- so where is the money going to come from to run a ballpark?

Hasn't the leaders of Augusta learned ANYTHING from Port Royal, the Riverwalk, and the Golf Hall of Fame? They get all gung-ho about these "surefire" developments, but they all wind up collapsing from the lack of operating capital.

Since A-RC is already $9MM in a deficit, where is the money going to come from? What else will have to be sacrificed to run the stadium? No money means NO MONEY, period.

corgimom
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corgimom 07/10/11 - 05:21 am
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By the way, I used to live in

By the way, I used to live in Aberdeen as a kid, and visited there a few years back. It's in a great place, location-wise- 40 miles from Baltimore, 75 miles from Philadelphia. It's an Army town, Aberdeen Proving Ground is the major employer.

And THEY can't make money.

seenitB4
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seenitB4 07/10/11 - 06:17 am
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Haha....some things just

Haha....some things just won't go away.....stay tuned..

augusta citizen
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augusta citizen 07/10/11 - 06:23 am
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ECDanes, thanks for your time

ECDanes, thanks for your time and links, very eye opening.

lsmith
105
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lsmith 07/10/11 - 06:42 am
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The more I hear Mr Eiseman
Unpublished

The more I hear Mr Eiseman speak the less respect I have for his opinions, and I promise you I don't trust his intentions. His allegence is NOT to the citizens of Augusta. His job is to grow the value of Ripkin's company. And of course, a multi-million dollar stadium certainly would increase the value of the company's Augusta assets.
I'm yet to hear WHY, if building this stadium has the potential (he says) to sell out substantially, Ripkin Baseball can't build their own facility. He doesn't seem to think it's much of a gamble, sir......go for it... It gets tiresome seeing these promoter/developers keep coming up with all these great money making projects that somehow they don't believe enough in to build with their own money. Cal Ripkin doesn't need taxpayer help, but if they can put on their poker face, the city might blink and save them a bundle....just have to paint it up pretty enough to sell to a few dunderheads.

Also, he says the central business disctrict is missing a substantial anchor to draw business, what rubbish!!! I guess the Civic Center, Bell Audtorium and the ampitheatre are apparently invisible when he drives by them. Downtown is doing just fine, better than most areas presently.

If this project is so swell for business, what's wrong with spreading some of that goodness elsewhere. Why does everything have to be downtown? Other areas of the county are in dire need of investment and people. It's an absolute disgrace what's happened to the business district along Gordon Highway, Peach Orchard Road, Deans Bridge Road etc.

Vito45
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Vito45 07/10/11 - 07:16 am
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Very interesting data

Very interesting data ecdanes, I hope all of the politicians are made aware. Having been here for 40 years, I can tell you Augusta won't support anything for very long. A new downtown stadium would go great guns for a while, then it would fizzle out just like everything else does.

The Ripken folks lament about parking at LOS; what the heck do they think the parking would be like downtown? How about cost? One of the draws to the GJ games is that you can get in the gate for $7. Will the tickets stay inexpensive? Another thing not mentioned about current attendance being up is Tuesdays and Thursdays when beer is cheap. A LOT of people there don't give a zippity-do-da about the game, they are there to socialize in a fun atmosphere and enjoy some cheap suds to beat the heat. In a new stadium that needs paying for would those nights be allowed to continue? I can say with certainty that I am a casual fan that will not invest a lot to see a low A game. I go on the cheap beer nights and buy general admission tickets.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/10/11 - 07:24 am
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I find "luxury suites" at a

I find "luxury suites" at a minor league stadium humorous. The idea of going to a minor league game is to feel the closeness of the field, players, game and other fans. That’s what makes it unique as Carl Keene described in the article. I can imagine some type of ridiculous glass box separating those inside from the other fans at the game with little kids running up and putting their faces on the glass.

But wait a minute, I just thought of something. Anyone remember the famous incident when the man and woman forgot to close the curtain in their luxury box at the stadium in Toronto?

Riverman1
103306
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Riverman1 07/10/11 - 07:29 am
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Has anyone ever heard of

Has anyone ever heard of anyone being mugged in the Lake Olmstead parking lot? I mean ever? I'll bet a stadium at the GGHOF site won't keep that winning record intact.

bentman
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bentman 07/10/11 - 07:40 am
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I've never been mugged there

I've never been mugged there but my car has been damaged immediately upon leaving the parking lot when one of those little hoodlums from the neighborhood hit my car with a rock.

Riverman1
103306
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Riverman1 07/10/11 - 07:44 am
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Bentman, you'll be lucky to

Bentman, you'll be lucky to have a car if you park it on the street around the GGHOF site. Okay, I'm still waiting for someone to say they've heard of someone being robbed at Lake Olmstead Stadium.

Techfan
6464
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Techfan 07/10/11 - 07:56 am
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When the Greenjackets sell

When the Greenjackets sell out 815 straight games, build 'em the dang stadium.

CorporalGripweed
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CorporalGripweed 07/10/11 - 08:14 am
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Keep an eye on that 5.1 mil

Keep an eye on that 5.1 mil that's sitting around doing nothing. I'm sure there is more than one pol in office that can't wait to earmark it for this project.

Brad Owens
5180
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Brad Owens 07/10/11 - 08:27 am
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I tell you what, the "vocal

I tell you what, the "vocal minority" against this stadium sure seems to be a "majority" of every place I see comments or opinions being given on the idea.

I would say about 95% of all stated opinions I have seen are against this idea all the time.

Pretty strong numbers against the mayor's plan, and he is never opposed to anything, so I see the cabal at work here...look for who benefits and there is your power behind this push.

A certain group has a hand in this, they push the new stadium and condos on the LOS site after the stadium is built downtown, in their new "Master" Plan. I don't want to name it because they will have my post removed, so just google the 'Augusta Master Plan' and see who pushes it.

Then check out who is on that Board of Diretors of that group and then cross reference that list with property owners, property managers, and real-estate companies who will gain massive value through all this giverment funded development.

See who benefits, and you will see the REAL culprits as well as the REAL deal on all this.

Follow the money, don't watch the hand they are using to distract you, watch for the one picking your pocket.

Brad

dichotomy
40702
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dichotomy 07/10/11 - 09:35 am
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Maybe THIS is the reason

Maybe THIS is the reason Dayton could afford to be involved in building a nice stadium. Maybe THEIR local government actually functions and their citizens had enough confidence it their officials to support the project. Not the case here.

"In 1913, Dayton became the first large city in the United States to adopt the council-manager system of city government. In this system, the mayor is considered the chairperson of the city commission and has one vote on the commission just like the other commissioners. The commission hires a separate city manager, who holds administrative authority over the city government."

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 07/10/11 - 09:36 am
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If Mr. Eiseman really really

If Mr. Eiseman really really wants a new stadium, why doesn't he want to pay for it?

If every person who goes to a GreenJackets game goes to a new stadium, there is no additional tax revenue.

If people going to the movies instead go to a new stadium, there is no additional tax revenue.

The only new revenue comes from people not spending any money in the city who suddenly decide to spend money at a new stadium.

Will Ripken Baseball sign a contract to remain in Augusta for 20 years - the minimum length of time it will take to recoup the cost of the stadium?

Riverman1
103306
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Riverman1 07/10/11 - 09:50 am
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Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman is

Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman is the dangest guy. He gets excited about a stadium, speaks, pushes and plays passive aggressive with everyone to get his way. Yet, when we had the biggest crisis in Augusta in decades, the Cherry Tree riots, he runs to the beach with the press trying to find him so he can reassure the public. He turns off all phones and refuses to make any comments. He shows up a week later and says sheepishly, "I was at the beach, making sand castles, dude."

Get your priorities in order guys. Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman wants a stadium.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 07/10/11 - 10:04 am
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Riverman, you summed up Deke

Riverman, you summed up Deke and his leadership in just a few words.

The headline should read: Deke is fueling push for stadium.

Brad Owens
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Brad Owens 07/10/11 - 10:07 am
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Insider, I doubt in 20 we

Insider,

I doubt in 20 we will be anywhere close to getting or $40mil back.

Brad

allhans
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allhans 07/10/11 - 10:18 am
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I see no reason for Mr Ripkin

I see no reason for Mr Ripkin not to build a new stadium on the river if he wants, he could easily raise the money since it is such a good deal.

jrbfromga
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jrbfromga 07/10/11 - 10:23 am
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Excellent Posts, particularly
Unpublished

Excellent Posts, particularly Brad. Facts to keep in mind.

#1 Lake Olmstead Stadium is a fine venue for baseball.
#2 Downtown might be a better venue.
#3 If the economics favor a stadium downtown, the government should facilitate, not fund. If it makes business sense, then the Ripken Group shouldn't hesitate to build it. Not one public dollar though.
#4 The Aberdeen minor league club is in South Dakota, not near Baltimore Maryland. Don't open your mouth until your brain is engaged.

Emerydan
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Emerydan 07/10/11 - 10:43 am
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jrbfromga: actually the first

jrbfromga: actually the first poster was right, Ripken Stadium IS in Aberdeen, MD which is about 25 miles oiutside of Baltimore. I know because I have driven past it several times on I95.. you can't miss it. Now there may very well be an Aberdeen, SD, just like there is an Aberdeen, Scotland. There is also an Augusta. ME.. but no one confuses that Masters tournament with being played there. So you might want another shot of coffee.

Brad Owens
5180
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Brad Owens 07/10/11 - 11:13 am
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Thank you jrbfromga, I think

Thank you jrbfromga, I think that there is many layers to this onion.

Brad

Emerydan
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Emerydan 07/10/11 - 11:09 am
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Just curious, will the media

Just curious, will the media report the revelations from the first posts about the experiences in Aberdeen, MD and with this development that has been in limbo in Dayton? Lets get some real journalism here people.

Brad Owens
5180
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Brad Owens 07/10/11 - 11:15 am
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Emerydan, Maybe it is time we

Emerydan,

Maybe it is time we made ourselves heard.

Brad

Emerydan
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Emerydan 07/10/11 - 12:07 pm
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Liveandletdie.. perhaps you

Liveandletdie.. perhaps you should check the trackrecord..For every one success story you may be able to dig up there are about 10 others that were busts. And how do you explain the experience of Aberdeen, MD. Did you bother to even read the article? I did and it should be very cautionary for any city willing to gamble public money on a "field of dreams." If these projects have such a proven track record of success then why doesn't the private sector build it with their own money? I mean it's supposed to be a win-win, right? Not quite. I found the article about Aberdeen to be very informative. So here a city helped finance a new ballpark, and yes in this case the team was successful in drawing crowds, BUT the city still lost money on their investment. That's because the cities generally take on all the risks with no of the financial benefits.. those always go to the team owners. Abd btw, I have been to many games at Camden Yards in Baltimore, which is always exhalted as The Holy Grail of downtown ballparks. The ballpark is beautiful, but Iwould not say the area aropund it is actually bustling with commercial activity when there is not a game, in fact its kind of a dead zone much of the time. The part of Baltimore that attracts the regular visitors who support businesses like cafes, pubs, and stores is on the other side of downtown in an area called Fells Point. Please give us your examples of all of these success stories? No one is against a new ballpark so long as it is built with private money. The trackrecord shows clearly that these types of investments are not financial winners for the cities who put their money into them. Do a little research.

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