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Augusta officials say GreenJackets' move not a complete loss

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 8:30 PM
Last updated Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 1:23 AM
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Though the Augusta Green­Jackets’ owners looked outside of Augusta for a new stadium when the team couldn’t get one here, most city officials don’t view the team’s decision to move across the river to South Carolina as a complete loss.

Deke Copenhaver: Mayor envisions water taxis taking fans across the Savannah.  FILE/STAFF
FILE/STAFF
Deke Copenhaver: Mayor envisions water taxis taking fans across the Savannah.

“We worked for six years to try to build a financing model,” said Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who led a downtown stadium committee that sought public support, financing and land for a multipurpose stadium complex. “We weren’t able to get there, so I would much rather see a stadium in North Augusta than to see the team leave the area.”

An underlying theme in Augusta’s negotiations with the GreenJackets was always that the team might depart Augusta for a newer stadium. Other themes were lack of public support – Democratic voters panned the idea in a 2010 straw poll – and skepticism among Augusta Commission members reluctant to spend public money on the development.

Presenting North Au­gusta’s proposal for a $166 million riverfront hotel, conference center, retail and multipurpose stadium complex Wednesday, Mayor Lark Jones said it won’t move forward without public approval and private investment.

“We’re not going to strap it to the backs of the North Augusta taxpayers,” he said.

Instead, the city likely will rely on lease payments from the GreenJackets, ticket taxes plus tax increments resulting from the development to cover North Augusta’s 30 percent funding commitment, according to City Administrator Todd Glover.

Augusta and GreenJackets officials agreed Wednesday that the state of Georgia’s decision this year to transfer the former Georgia Golf Hall of Fame Botanical Gardens site – diagonally across the Savannah River from the proposed North Augusta site – to Georgia Health Sciences University likely sent the GreenJackets looking for another riverfront site.

“The public owns that, and we would have had to spend at least $3 million just to acquire the property,” Augusta Commission member Jerry Brigham said of the golf hall site, which remains vacant. He cited the New York Giants’ move to New Jersey.

“Did New York lose any prestige?” he said. “If North Augusta wants to pay for (a stadium), that’s fantastic.”

Copenhaver said that the North Augusta project’s developers were the same as those who shopped for opportunities in Augusta and that the proposed development is remarkably similar.

Greenstone Properties’ Chris Schoen, who presented details about the multipurpose stadium facility to North Augusta residents Wednesday, included photos of a riverfront stadium development he is doing for the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps.

“I have always had a regional focus, and this actually moves the stadium closer to our city center,” said Copenhaver, voicing concern instead for what will become of the GreenJackets’ existing home at Lake Olmstead Stadium if the North Augusta deal goes through.

Envisioning water taxis hauling tourists across the Savannah for a ballgame, Copenhaver said the move requires Augusta to step up development along the river to benefit from what will become a regional attraction.

“They’ve got more leniency; they don’t have a levee,” commission member Joe Jackson said of North Augusta’s plans. “Evidently, we didn’t fit the mold they wanted so they went somewhere else. Certainly North Augusta may be more prepared.”

Commission member Corey Johnson said the two cities’ relationship means all will benefit.

“I think it will be a great thing,” he said, suggesting Richmond and Columbia counties join forces on an arena-style facility off Interstate 20 near the county line.

He said other communities such as Savannah, Ga., rely on water transportation between venues such as Savannah’s convention center, which is on an island that guests access by ferry.

“We’ve got to start thinking like a big city,” Johnson said.

Augusta businessman and sports enthusiast Ed Presnell, who was involved in many of Augusta’s stadium discussions, said that the stadium location makes no difference but that having a large, state-of-the-art venue will help the franchise stabilize and grow.

“The magnitude of this one, as it’s grown, will really benefit the whole region,” he said.

Less enthusiastic about North Augusta’s plan was commission member Matt Aitken, who championed the downtown project as a boon for his District 1. Aitken said the development’s 300 housing units will lure Augustans and even Columbia County residents away. It also could jeopardize pending hotel developments downtown, Aitken said.

“Look how fast they moved on it,” said Aitken, who recently lost a re-election bid. “We had the opportunity to do that and we missed it. It’s going to be a huge blow for Augusta.”

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justthefacts
21089
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justthefacts 12/20/12 - 11:29 am
1
0
Maybe, but still

Approx $200M for a ped bridge..............Most people would simply drive over. See MARTA (broke).

galaxygrl
1185
Points
galaxygrl 12/20/12 - 11:43 am
1
2
What?

I am convinced there is no intelligent life left in the political arena in Augusta. The tax revenues alone will hurt the county as well as the downtown restaurants. If I had restaurant I would be looking for property in North Augusta to build a thriving business in. First the beautiful golf course on the river front and now this, looks like South Carolina is winning in the revenue business. But I am sure Azziz will make up for all the lost revenue (in 20 years).

LillyfromtheMills
12852
Points
LillyfromtheMills 12/20/12 - 11:45 am
2
0
Mike1

Funny - I'll buy a brick!

Trust Birth Augusta
18
Points
Trust Birth Augusta 12/20/12 - 11:53 am
3
0
Slip sliding away...Augusta

Slip sliding away...Augusta is losing it's identity slowly with ASU & now Greenjackets. Wonder if they will keep their name even? Maybe they will be The Regents!

seenitB4
84218
Points
seenitB4 12/20/12 - 01:05 pm
2
1
JTF

Don't put a damper on my walkway across the river...I might have to call Delta & tell them to give you a THOROUGH pat down next time you try to fly...you know whatta mean...:):).
A free colon check at that....lol

oooh I could be good in politics...:)

bdouglas
4835
Points
bdouglas 12/20/12 - 01:26 pm
2
0
Who paid for the 13th street

Who paid for the 13th street bridge? It doesn't appear to be horribly old, but I haven't paid attention to a date on either side of it if there is one. Because all this talk of a pedestrian bridge, and it would have to be paid for by somebody. If it spans two states then I'd think either the Feds would have to or it would have to be split between the two states or cities. And I can't see NA wanting to pay for any sort of pedestrian bridge into Augusta when there's nothing for them to walk over and see on the north side of 13th street (though I'm sure someone here will object via irrelevant dollar figures). I ain't sayin' it's a bad idea, just that I don't see it ever flying.

I know I didn't dream this up....I read somewhere that the old stadium would be given to GRU/GHSU/ASU if and when the Greenjackets vacate. Surprised nobody has jumped on that thought yet. Azziz jumps in to get the GGHOF property and effectively blocks any chance at a new stadium, and in return he also gets the old stadium to add to his (do)minion...

Brad Owens
4178
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Brad Owens 12/20/12 - 01:34 pm
2
0
WE "lost" something?

Am I missing something here? We "lost" the opportunity to pay another gazillion dollars for a "public private partnership" where the public part is to provide all the funding and the private part is to get all the profit?

Wanna see the REAL motivation for moving the stadium and team? Wanna know why Deke is not upset and it is a "win-win" ? Look not further than his statements here and Augusta Tomorrow's plans for the current site;

“I have always had a regional focus, and this actually moves the stadium closer to our city center,” said Copenhaver, voicing concern instead for what will become of the GreenJackets’ existing home at Lake Olmstead Stadium if the North Augusta deal goes through.

This has been about getting the Lake Olmstead land for his developer friends all along.

Riverman1
81414
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Riverman1 12/20/12 - 02:00 pm
4
0
Lake Olmstead Stadium

I've heard the idea the Lake Olmstead Stadium land was wanted for apartments, but I hope it's wrong and ASU's baseball team ends up with it. That stadium would cost over $20 million to build today. I think the original cost was $18 million. Don't tear it down. Let ASU use it and draw some crowds to their games and help their program.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/20/12 - 02:35 pm
0
1
Fixed it for ya Deke

"Envisioning water taxes, hauling tourists across the Savannah for a ballgame, Copenhaver said the move requires Augusta to step up development..."

I'm not blaming him since he was one of the vocal supporters of building it downtown. But not giving any passes either. It's a fail and it was on his watch. It was on all the commissioners' watches. Just because we are left with the mentality that things could be worse doesn't change the shortcomings of the leadership and the community support.

justthefacts
21089
Points
justthefacts 12/20/12 - 02:56 pm
1
0
Seen it

Sorry, just making observations. Also, I have precheck status through security now. Back to pre 9/11. Much better. So, no, uh, patdowns.

Gage Creed
16451
Points
Gage Creed 12/20/12 - 03:51 pm
1
0
Countyman.... Hammond's Ferry

Countyman.... Hammond's Ferry and River North ever hear of them?

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 12/20/12 - 03:56 pm
2
1
Money is the Name of the Game
Unpublished

While I agree with most of what has been posted, the harsh reality is that Augusta-Richmond County cannot attract the private money, and it has an eroding tax base, as tax paying people move out. Now, there are plenty of welfare people (and Section 8) around, but people that actually work and pay taxes, that is another story. The Walton Way crowd, and the few other affluent pockets, are not interested in paying anymore than they already are. There are a couple of exceptions here and there, but I never saw anywhere, that there was ever any private money placed on the table. As was said about the TEE Center, until downtown is cleaned of the crime and thugs, very few TEE Center visitors would leave the safe confines of the Marriott. Case in point -- the White's Building and Enterprise Mill are secured entrances with security to keep the criminals outside. And the TEE Center will be the same. A sad, but expected outcome.

seenitB4
84218
Points
seenitB4 12/20/12 - 04:02 pm
4
2
also marinerman

Most of the lawyers offices downtown have locked restrooms to keep the riff-raff out-----what does that tell you....lawyers keeping riffraff out...:)

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 12/20/12 - 04:07 pm
2
1
off topic but..

seenitB4, they even tried to make it so the homeless couldn't use the restrooms in the new library. smh, i thought everyone paid sales taxes? what whaaaat

harley_52
22812
Points
harley_52 12/20/12 - 05:14 pm
1
0
I Guess I've Missed...

....all the restaurants and hotels surround the Lake Olmstead stadium that have been needed to accommodate the vast crowds attending Green Jackets games over the past several years. I should have noticed that property values had soared in that part of town and know that it was all attributable to the popularity of the Green Jackets. Tax revenues to the City have been literally pouring in and we have so much cash available it only made sense to build it here....but we blew it.

At first I had trouble understanding why Jerry Brighams comment that "If North Augusta wants to pay for (a stadium), that’s fantastic” was short sighted, but all the experts in here have shown me the error of my thinking.

Honestly.....these same folks who are wringing their hands and gnashing their teeth in jealous rage about North Augusta's plans would be AT LEAST as upset if Copenhaver announced ARC was going to build the same facility on this side of the river.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/20/12 - 05:18 pm
1
1
after they stole the flat

after they stole the flat screen outta the library, I don't blame them for locking the jon

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 12/20/12 - 05:22 pm
1
0
not all of us H. I wanted

not all of us H. I wanted the stadium come HELLo or high water. But as unpopular as it was when it was being shopped for the GGHF with the posters on here, I am sure there's some jockeying from one side to the other and back.

seenitB4
84218
Points
seenitB4 12/20/12 - 06:11 pm
2
0
omnon said..

seenitB4, they even tried to make it so the homeless couldn't use the restrooms in the new library

How in the world can they differentiate between homeless & not homeless folks............interesting......

eml2319
9
Points
eml2319 12/20/12 - 06:21 pm
2
3
A complete failure of leadership

I have been a Greenjackets fan since 1989, and this is a dark day for Augusta. Quite frankly, it is the day we became not even minor league. Everyone has known since day one that this stadium eventually needed to be built downtown, and in 20 years it never happened.
Now, no one will be able to walk from the game to a downtown bar or restaurant, except for North Augustans, in North Augusta. The absolute lack of any quality of life amenities in Augusta is killing recruiting at the Medical College, and might eventually lead to the loss of that as well.
Can there be no way to stop this?
We have lost our team.

countyman
19541
Points
countyman 12/20/12 - 07:19 pm
1
4
Aren't the $172 million

Aren't the $172 million Starbucks plant and $115 million Rockwood plants under construction private money?

What private investments does Columbia County have that are anywhere close?

Riverman1
81414
Points
Riverman1 12/20/12 - 08:11 pm
2
0
EML2319, interesting observation

EML2319, interesting observation. MCG was rated dead last by medical students as far as campus environment in the last poll I saw which was about two years ago. MUSC in Charleston was rated second from the top only behind Hawaii. So something has to be done to improve the medical students' perception of their campus. I think student housing along the river at the old GGHOF in a safe, gated community with amenities is sorely needed. There could be enough students from MCG and ASU to populate a fantastic community along the river in a safe enclave. That could dramatically change the medical students' important rating of Augusta.

free1992
11
Points
free1992 12/20/12 - 08:19 pm
2
0
WOW

When are the voters of Richmond county going to realize they are being led by a collection of inept clowns they voted into office. It is more important for the leaders to keep their image polished rather than taking on the hard issues and getting things repaired. Just an obvious observation.

Gage Creed
16451
Points
Gage Creed 12/20/12 - 08:23 pm
1
1
More spin than the Maytag

More spin than the Maytag man....

MarinerMan
2107
Points
MarinerMan 12/20/12 - 09:14 pm
0
0
Try to Put a Positive Spin on This !!
Unpublished

@Countyman - What I said was that no private money was laid down for the new stadium !! Okay, put a positive spin on Cherry Tree Crossing. There are a few positives here and there, but this town has needed some serious overhauling, ever since I moved here in 1987. Case in point -- Marion I-have-Fred-Russell's-hard-drive Williams being re-elected, you have got to be firetrucking kidding me. We will have to watch, to see if the people of NA, will vote to pay their share. Now we will need to go across the river for more than just cheaper gas...!

countyman
19541
Points
countyman 12/21/12 - 12:03 am
1
1
Private money was laid down

Private money was laid down for the stadium....

eml2319
9
Points
eml2319 12/21/12 - 01:02 am
0
0
What people want is a

What people want is a walkable, safe downtown, with actual places to walk to; a downtown stadium would have been a big part of that. MCG attracts brilliant people from all over the world, but unfortunately are only able to recruit those in need of greencards, because american-educated young people will simply not move here. And those people sure as heck will never live in Richmond County, because the schools are so terrible. So we have this major medical center which generates essentially nothing in terms of residential tax base for the county.
Having just completed a tour of Southern medical schools I will tell you that MCGs presentation includes things like our new PF Changs, and Adventure Crossing. Imagine seeing that having just come from Memphis, Nashville, Columbia or Charleston.

eml2319
9
Points
eml2319 12/21/12 - 01:06 am
1
0
Pedestrian Bridge

Frankly, the city ought to invest in this pedestrian bridge, so some of our riffraff can walk over there and drive some development back this way. Or put some social services or section 8 out in Columbia Co so I don't feel like I have to bring my pistol to go to Riverwalk. Honestly, I wanted to take my mom down to see the tree on the common, and I didnt think I could go without my sidearm. This is not the prescription for development.

seenitB4
84218
Points
seenitB4 12/21/12 - 06:41 am
0
0
THAT is the problem with downtown...

Honestly, I wanted to take my mom down to see the tree on the common, and I didnt think I could go without my sidearm. This is not the prescription for development.(per poster)

That quote says it all....

scorehouse
196
Points
scorehouse 12/21/12 - 08:10 pm
1
0
i see..
Unpublished

a red door and i want to paint it black

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