After lobbying for years to bring baseball downtown, the Augusta GreenJackets found a likely taker – across the river in North Augusta – as part of what Mayor Lark Jones called “the biggest proposal that has ever been made” in the history of the South Carolina city.
Confirming widespread speculation Wednesday morning that a secret proposal known as “Project Jackson” indeed includes a sports and entertainment center for the GreenJackets – and a hotel, restaurants, townhouses, conference center, parking garage and more – city officials and developers revealed the details at a morning meeting.
The proposal, on which city officials are seeking public input, grew out of long-term plans to develop a high-density town center on the riverbank beside Hammond’s Ferry, City Administrator Todd Glover said. The site adjoins the 13th Street bridge connecting downtown Augusta and North Augusta.
The development proposal includes a 200-room resort-style hotel and conference center modeled after Hampton Terrace, a North Augusta winter resort that burned in 1916; up to four restaurants; 75 townhouses; 225 apartments; 30,000 square feet of retail space; 40,000 square feet of office space; and 900 parking spaces.
Under the proposal, the city would be responsible for about 30 percent of the financing, about $43 million for the sports and entertainment center, conference center and parking garage. In exchange, private developers promise $122 million in investment for the hotel, retail, residential and office space in addition to the already-announced new riverfront Family Y, Glover said.
The announcement Wednesday was coupled with the additional revelation that the GreenJackets are changing owners. Two of them, Chris Schoen and former Ripken Baseball Vice President Jeff Eiseman, were involved in earlier efforts to persuade city of Augusta officials to build a stadium on the Augusta side of the Savannah River and spoke to the group Wednesday.
Shoen, a previous minor-league owner involved with teams in Salem, Va., Fort Wayne, Ind., and Savannah, Ga., said Augusta’s loss of an ideal riverfront tract – the former Golf & Gardens property, now owned by Georgia Health Sciences University – prompted his look across the river.
Schoen, of Atlanta-based Greenstone Properties, emphasized the multipurpose nature of the sports and entertainment complex, which he said could be used for concerts and other sports, including football.
While not all public funding sources have been identified, Glover and Jones said the intent was to make the development “pay for itself.” An example of that would be using a Tax Increment Financing district that routes new property tax revenue from the development back into infrastructure costs at the site.
Jones mentioned a “seat tax” charged to ticket-holders for the facility’s games and other events; other sources of funding would come from a long-term lease of the stadium to the GreenJackets and a bond issue to be repaid from lease and other payments from the GreenJackets but not the city’s general fund, according to a news release.