GreenJackets owners try to save downtown stadium plan

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Representatives from Ripken Base­ball Group and the mayor of Aberdeen, Md., spoke out Monday against accusations that have damaged the chances for a new baseball stadium and multiuse entertainment complex in downtown Augusta.

Ripken Baseball, owners of three minor league teams including the Augusta GreenJackets and Aber­deen Ironbirds, have been pushing for development along the Savannah River at the former Georgia Golf and Gardens site for more than five years.

President and CEO Glenn Til­ley and Jeff Eiseman, the vice president of sales and marketing brought Mayor Michael Bennett to help dispel accusations that Ripken Baseball left Aberdeen in financial trouble when the team joined with the city and state to build a stadium in 2002.

“We have a great relationship with Ripken Baseball. Ripken Baseball has a great relationship with us,” Bennett said. “Things are moving forward, and I expect them to continue to move forward. I would wholeheartedly endorse and recommend Ripken Baseball to you all. With the amount of new energy and new commitment that they can bring to your community, I think you can’t go wrong.”

Bennett spoke in front of a group of about two dozen Augusta Rotarians, city leaders and media at Enter­prise Mill. The Ripken party was originally scheduled as guest speakers at an Augusta Rotary Club luncheon, but flight issues in Charlotte, N.C., delayed their arrival.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copen­ha­ver, Richmond County Demo­cratic Party Chairman Lowell Green­baum, Development Author­ity of Rich­­mond County Chairman Henry Ingram and Augusta Sports Council Executive Director Brinsley Thigpen were among the invited guests.

Eiseman said the meeting, set up by the Rotarians, allowed Rip­ken Baseball to clear up misconceptions and rumors. The downtown stadium plan hasn’t seen much progress since it was proposed more than five years ago.

“There’s always been the rumors that have been floating around out there, and I guess part of it was just kind of eating away at us because we weren’t addressing them and we weren’t getting out in front of it. Then these stories start to take on a life of its own,” Eiseman said. “We knew that we needed to reset the dialogue. The world has changed since 2006, and we recognize that. We didn’t want to be the bulls in the china shop coming in here and making crazy demands and trying to shove a project down people’s throats.

“We really just wanted an opportunity to be heard and have the people that are elected to have an opportunity and a say in helping create an entertainment destination that will unify the community. That’s the vision that we have and we just needed to make sure not only that we share that vision but that people understood exactly what it was that we’re proposing.”

The Aberdeen stadium was funded equally between the city, state and Ripken Baseball, Bennett said.

Bennett disputed a 2007 story published in The Baltimore Sun that claimed Aberdeen loses several hundred thousand dollars a year because of the stadium, despite selling out every home game in franchise history.

“As a citizen at the time, I can tell you that the city folks were not that happy with the things that were written. Most of us knew that the things in the article weren’t correct,” Bennett said. “Yes, the city has debt there. We’ve always had debt there. It is what it is. We were part of the process of building the stadium and we knew there would be debt and things are moving forward.”

Bennett said Aberdeen did hit financial hard times because of economic factors but said Ripken Base­ball was not to blame.

“Things were not going that well for the city just because we had folks that were more interested with borrowing money to pay for things that an operating fund should do,” he said. “I think that we’ve gotten the financial sitauation of the city straightened out and moving forward very nicely now.”

Eiseman, who has acknowledged the GreenJackets would be interested in a different location besides the downtown riverfront property, declined to give specific funding details on a potential stadium, saying the project hasn’t moved far enough along.

“A lot of this has to come down to the site selection, what’s available in that process to be able to do that, what phase gets built, what’s part of the first phase,” he said. “At this point, it’s still early for us.”

Augusta Commission members voted in June to allow city Adminis­trator Fred Russell to “develop a transaction plan” for a multipurpose stadium complex. Russell has met with Ripken Baseball representatives and said he hoped to “get a few of the location issues tied down” before exploring funding options.

What they thought

Henry Ingram, Development Authority of Richmond County:

“What we need is economic impact, preferably expansion of jobs, new businesses and increasing our tax base. And I really believe that this type of project can do just that, but at a cost. You can’t on one hand say there’s nothing to do but when there’s a project at hand say it costs too much or I don’t want to pay anything for it. There has to be a meeting of the minds.”

Lowell Greenbaum, Richmond County Democratic Party chairman:

“I thought that they explained that they weren’t here to target a place. They were here simply to give a concept, and I think that a lot more has to be done than give a concept. I’m not sure that they can convince people who have needs in the community that the current stadium doesn’t suffice. So I think they need a lot more explanation and groundwork here.”

Ed Presnell, Augusta Rotarian, GreenJackets season ticket holder:

“The city has been affected by a fire-ready-aim approach instead of ready-aim-fire, and quite frankly this is why I wanted to have (Ripken Baseball Group and Aberdeen mayor Michael Bennett) here. I also wanted to diffuse and clear up all the innuendo that we’ve been hearing back and forth as recently as a commission meeting two months ago about the relationship in Aberdeen, and it’s apparently extremely successful.”

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Riverman1
99538
Points
Riverman1 10/03/11 - 07:03 pm
0
0
He said, "“Yes, the city has

He said, "“Yes, the city has debt there. We’ve always had debt there. It is what it is. We were part of the process of building the stadium and we knew there would be debt and things are moving forward.”

What exactly has the Baltimore Sun or those of us around here who like Lake Olmstead Stadium said that's in contradiction to that? They are losing hundreds of thousands a year in spite of selling out every game, the Baltimore Sun reported. Mayor Bennet confirmed it, if anything.

Brad Owens
5068
Points
Brad Owens 10/03/11 - 07:06 pm
0
0
50/50 in MD huh? Hmmmm, this

50/50 in MD huh?

Hmmmm, this is funny. The Zombie stadium, it just won't die.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/03/11 - 07:07 pm
0
0
This is insane. What part of

This is insane. What part of NO do these people not understand?

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 10/03/11 - 07:09 pm
0
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I still think they are

I still think they are whistling into the wind. Ultimately, if this is a good idea or not; Augusta is not progressive minded and would vote down any amenity that comes along, given the chance. If people don't see a direct benefit to them personally, they are against it; regardless if it is an idea that will benefit the communcity as a whole and make an environment more conducive for attracting business. I don't claim that this stadium would do that, I really don't know; but that pervasive attitude in this community will always impede growth and progress.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 10/03/11 - 07:13 pm
0
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So, because I as a taxpayer

So, because I as a taxpayer do not want to finance someones EXTREMELY risky business venture, Im not for progress? Dude, we have firemen that dont have radios almost dying in burning structures...

raul
6119
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raul 10/03/11 - 07:19 pm
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@Vito45.I hear what you are

@Vito45.I hear what you are saying, but given Augusta's past history of disastrous past ventures, the public is correct in being skeptic of yet another, have we got a deal for you, project that impacts on their pocket book. If it is such a great deal, have Ripkin and other private investors finance the project.

Vito45
-2
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Vito45 10/03/11 - 07:28 pm
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I hear ya Raul, maybe this

I hear ya Raul, maybe this venture isn't the best example for me to use. However, Augusta is where it is as compared to other cities of its size purely because of what i stated. Other cities like Greenville, SC have outpaced Augusta in downtown redevelopment, new industry, community amenities, etc.; just for the reason I stated.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 10/03/11 - 07:29 pm
0
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Here is the article everyone

Here is the article everyone doesnt want you to see. Remember, this is in Cal's backyard, so take that into account http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2007-07-14/news/0707140026_1_aberdeen-r...

Pu239
284
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Pu239 10/03/11 - 07:36 pm
0
0
"Bennett said. “Yes, the city
Unpublished

"Bennett said. “Yes, the city has debt there. We’ve always had debt there. It is what it is. We were part of the process of building the stadium and we knew there would be debt and things are moving forward.” "

A true politician, anybody care to translate the doublespeak?

Riverman1
99538
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Riverman1 10/03/11 - 07:36 pm
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The TEE Center ended up

The TEE Center ended up costing over $100 million when the Laney
Walker pay-off is included. It will be completed next spring. Know how many events they have scheduled for next year? Zero. Still we will pay the Morris company over a $100 thousand a year to manage it, plus we pay for all the utilities and maintenance of all kinds.

The same people who pushed for the TEE are pushing for the stadium. See why we are skeptical?

Vito45
-2
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Vito45 10/03/11 - 07:36 pm
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0
Taylor B Monday, Oct. 3 8:13

Taylor B
Monday, Oct. 3 8:13 PM

So, because I as a taxpayer do not want to finance someones EXTREMELY risky business venture, Im not for progress? Dude, we have firemen that dont have radios almost dying in burning structures...

Taylor, you are guilty of the same as many others. Re-read my original post and tell me where I said those who oppose THIS project are anti-progress. I clearly prefaced my comment with"Ultimately, if this is a good idea or not", then supported it with:"I don't claim that this stadium would do that, I really don't know".

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 10/03/11 - 07:41 pm
0
0
RM, anything tied to Morris

RM, anything tied to Morris stinks to high heavens as far as I'm concerned. He and the used car salesman at Bobby Jones Ford USED the Augusta Lynx in an attempt to further their quest for the Billy Barn IMO. Taking on the team without a firm commitment to success accelerated their demise IMO.

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 10/03/11 - 08:13 pm
0
0
Ok, Vito, if I misunderstood

Ok, Vito, if I misunderstood your post, I apologize.

LBenedict
2
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LBenedict 10/03/11 - 08:22 pm
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0
Cal, you can't fill the

Cal, you can't fill the stadium you have now.
Cal, Augusta had baseball before you graced us with your presence.
Cal, Augusta will have baseball when you climb upon your high horse to trot out of town.
Deke, let it go. The people do not want a new stadium. But, if it means that much to you, call Ron Cross and ask him how he consistently goes against the wishes of the people.
Deke, admit it, you are harping on this so that your big money friends of friends will remember you when you run for Georgia Labor Commissioner (as a Democrat).
Get funding for schools.
Get funding for firefighters and their equipment.
Get funding for police officers and their equipment.
Fix a road or two.
Cal, Deke, and your wealthy investor friends, build your own stadium!
If you are in business to make money, then invest your money.
Taylor...GREAT link!

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 10/03/11 - 08:24 pm
0
0
Thanks Taylor B; I'm a little

Thanks Taylor B; I'm a little hypersensitive today to how people read what I say, after the brou-ha-ha over on the story about the guy who was killed after a hit and run.

Honestly, this was a poor example because I'm not convinced either that the stadium is a good plan. However, I still view the Augusta community as a whole as being not very progressive. If nothing else, a comparison of similar sized cities like Greenville who seemed to have found a good formula says it can be done with the right community attitude and leadership.

raul
6119
Points
raul 10/03/11 - 08:55 pm
0
0
@Vito, although I haven't

@Vito, although I haven't been to Greenville in many years, I did read a national magazine that did a great review of the city. I liked what I read. I hadn't been to Aiken in years and made a trip to downtown Aiken a few months ago. Again, I was impressed. What are these folks doing differently that is working there, but not in Augusta? I can agree with you about Augusta and its lack of progress. It seems though when new projects are tried, the result is dismal failure, leaving a bad taste in the taxpayer's mouth and reluctance to accept new ideas. Also, given the current economic situtation, maybe folks are focusing more on needs than wants. IMO, that is as it should be, at least for now. Maybe when the economic situation improves, people will be more willing to accept projects that are nice to have. However, the stadium would certainly not make my short list.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 10/03/11 - 09:19 pm
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0
I agree with this Bennett

I agree with this Bennett character.

If I may paraphrase... "This baseball stadium thing is a great idea, but we don't want to pay for it."

I feel the same way, Mr. Bennett. We don't want to pay for it either.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 10/03/11 - 09:25 pm
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0
Eiseman: “We really just

Eiseman: “We really just wanted an opportunity to be heard and have the people that are elected to have an opportunity and a say in helping create an entertainment destination that will unify the community."

Too bad the taxpayers of our community won't have an opportunity to be heard and have a say in this boondoggle.

It's all about the Ripken Group and the politicians. What about us little people?

countyman
22316
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countyman 10/03/11 - 09:54 pm
0
0
The majority of citizens in

The majority of citizens in RC overwhelmingly voted for the TEE center... The Greenjackets set a attendance record in 2010...

The time is now due to the massive amount of private construction taking place in the Central Business District.. $5 million condo expansion(34)at the Whites Building, Red Star building on 9th street 2br apts/commercial space, Tantra Lounge(restaurant), Big Dake Cakes 9th street, Soy Noodle House Expansion, Vintage Ooollee expansion, 967 Broad has four new apts, 566 Broad street(either residential or residential/commercial space), S4 Lounge at 952 Broad, Bar 544 at 544 Broad, Just Essentials at 956 Broad, Killer B Disc Golf at 863 Broad, 1130 Jones street will have 1st floor commercial space and four apts on the 2nd floor, Downtown Barroom 877 Broad Street, 565 Broad(probably commercial)and 586 Broad(commercial or commercial/residential), 314-316 Greene street 12 studio apartments, 220-222 6th street apartments, 1225 Greene street apartments..

The Sprint Food & Metro Market at 851 Broad( renovation of the belk warehouse next to the Augusta common, Sprint home offices and other tenants on the 1st floor, 2nd floor 'urban market' restaurant/convenience store, open air seating)..

922 Ellis street is connected to the Whites Building via skywalk and consist of a parking garage/office. The utdoor parking lot is being landscaped and adding gated access.

countyman
22316
Points
countyman 10/03/11 - 10:10 pm
0
0
Why does the Chronicle have

Why does the Chronicle have to screen my comments first? I don't see my other comment on here yet.

The time is now due to the massive amounts of private construction taking place in the Central Business District. Restaurants, condos, townhomes, apartments, retail, corporate offices, bars, etc..

I'm not even including the developers who purchased the Fort Discovery building and WJBF studios..

The RC voters overwhelmingly voted for the TEE center.. The Greenjackets set a attendance record in 2010..

There's nothing similar to this kind of development in Augusta. A mix-use development attached to a baseball stadium... Residential, restaurants, etc.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 10/03/11 - 10:23 pm
0
0
Countyman...see your second
Unpublished

Countyman...see your second paragraph....if you and your associates want a mix-use development....then you and your associates should provide massive amounts of PRIVATE capital to fund your massive amount of private construction.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 12:04 am
0
0
And the point of this PR

And the point of this PR stunt was??? Is there really any news here? I'm frankly sick and tired of hearing about this stadium. Until the folks at Ripken Baseball come forward and tell us exactly how much this thing is going to cost and how much of their own money they plan to put into it then there really is nothing to discuss. If they expect the public to foot a portion of the cost, then why not just come out and say how much? Then put it on the ballot and let the people decide once and for all. If it's such a great idea then let the people have a say.

BevBoudreaux
0
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BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 12:16 am
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Countyman, the voters did not

Countyman, the voters did not overwhelmingly approve the TEE center. They voted on a SPLOST package that included a $20 million TEE Center that later got turned into a $37 million TEE Center with $13 million parking deck, a $350,000 operational subsidy paid to one of Billy Morris' LLCs to run it, and don't forget the tens of millions to buy Betty beard's vote. So don't be disingenuous. You know full well that this thing morphed way beyond anything the voters intended. In fact there was talk of putting it back before the voters because of the escalating costs and the TEE proponents went into full panic mode because they knew full well that the voters would have said No to giving anymore money to that project. And by the way, where is that shovel ready hotel we were promised more than 2 years ago if the TEE was approved? lake Olmstead stadium is more than adequate for The Greenjackets. I attend games there on a fairly regular basis and don't have any issues with it. Food is cheap (for ballpark standards) and parking is free. It's a charming little ballpark befitting a single A team. I don't think you are going to find many people willing to spend an additional $7 to park in that new deck if the move the stadium downtown. This is a classic case of "if it aint broke.."

countyman
22316
Points
countyman 10/04/11 - 01:11 am
0
0
The voters approved splost

The voters approved splost and could have easily rejected it. Splost packages get voted down across the US all the time.. The citizens of RC could have demanded the TEE center be removed in order to approve splost.

The Lake Olmstead stadium doesn't include residential, restaurants, office, etc... Also, major developers aren't intrested in expanding Lake Olmstead..

The Laney Walker/Bethlehem is the BEST thing to happen in decades. Even people from Harvard's school of design are intrested in the process. The redevelopment efforts are bigger outside of Augusta compared to the actual area. Similar to people who recently moved here and tell us they notice all the new construction. Then you have the people on the Chronicle who've lived here for decades and say nothing is going on..

The Hyatt Place hotel is still coming.. I noticed a private developer purchased both the WJBF studios and Fort Discovery building. Hmm?? I wonder if the ongoing TEE center construction right within walking distancce of the buildings had anythng to do with it. Sprint Foods & Metro Market next to the Augusta Common(2nd floor Sprint Foods corporate offices: 1st floor resturant/conveience store: open air seating) is underway at 851 Broad street. The TEE center is bringing new private construction everywhere.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 01:32 am
0
0
The Laney Walker project is

The Laney Walker project is another money pit.. anyone have any figures on how that money is being spent? Is there an oversight committee? What is needed in laney Walker is for building codes to be enforced properly. Track down these property owners who have unpaid property taxes and buildings in violation of code. If they don't comply with the law, then demolish structure. The city has only $100,000 allocated for demolition for the entire year. More than a hundred dilapidated structures sit on a waiting list because of lack of funds. What is happening in Laney Walker is putting lipstick on a pig. They are building expensive homes that will never be able to sell at the price to cover their costs.. in the meantime they are going to force an architectural guidelines committee on the existing homeowners, so that anytime they need to do any work on their home, it will have to be approved by this committee. A similar committee exists in olde town and it has been a major obstacle to revitalization there because of the capricious and arbitrarily enforced rules that make it prohibitively costly to do any reasonable renovations on homes there. Now they are introducing this red tape to lane Walker. They could have built simple well built homes that the people of that neighborhood could realistically afford. But instead they are envisioning upper income folks moving into that neighborhood. That is just not going to happen. As for the TEE Center and SPLOST, this scam happens every time with the sales tax. They always lard it up with white elephants like TEE centers, ponds at Regency Mall, etc, but people do want the road construction and the necessary infrastructure improvements so they hold their nose and vote for SPLOSTS anyway. But lets get serious, if the true cost of the TEE center was listed on that SPLOST ballot (not the $20 million low ball figure), the voters would have resoundly rejected it. Just like they did back on 05 when the $100 million Billy Barn was tacked on. It was rejected by a wide margin. So they wised up and put a lowball figure on the next splost to get the TEE center passed.. classic bait and switch. $20 million for a TEE center may have seemed reasonable at the time, but not what we ended up with. It's just plain dishonest. But the city is stuck with that white elephant.. the one that doesn't have one event booked for it's inaugural year, when CVB director Barry White was telling us that conventions were just lined up waiting for this facility to be completed. And now we have an unnecessary, unwanted, second baseball stadium, and city leaders are doing everything in their power to circumvent the will of the voters and scuttle this thing through with some "creative financing" scheme. They won't risk a splost vote, because they know how unpopular this thing is. It really says a lot about the motives of these so-called city leaders when they consistently ignore the will of the people on this issue. Before we talk about any public tax money going into this folly, we need to hear first how much PRIVATE money will go into it. We've been waiting almost 5 years for that and get only silence.. it's always about what the taxpayers should pitch in. That's rather presumptuous. Set a dollar amount for this thing and put it before the voters and let that be the FINAL word on this stadium. And by the way, nothing has been preventing private interests from buying the land and building this stadium with their own money. But they feel entitled to OUR money and want to get it without our approval. That is frankly ticking a lot of people off to this whole thing.

Brad Owens
5068
Points
Brad Owens 10/04/11 - 02:38 am
0
0
Pressing NEEDS before

Pressing NEEDS before prestigious WANTS!

countyman said “The Lake Olmstead stadium doesn't include residential, restaurants, office, etc..." So WHAT? Since when does a stadium need condos, restaurants and retail to be a success?

We DON’T want this.

And if the TEE had been on a line item, like the “Billy Barn” was it too would have been voted down, but it wasn’t, it was buried in the middle of a whole bunch of good things we did want. No one votes against a SPLOST that has hundreds of millions in much needed infrastructure because of something like that.

That is why the sneaky “developers” get this dung put into a big SPLOST, because on it’s own it would never pass the smell test.

countyman also said, "Also, major developers aren't intrested in expanding Lake Olmstead..." You are wrong there, just go look at Augusta Tomorrows "Master Plan" and see what those 'major developers' are planning for that property once they move the stadium out.

Pay attention folks, this is all smoke and mirrors, the real deal is getting Lake Olmstead Stadium away from us.

LET US VOTE!

Pressing NEEDS before prestigious WANTS!

Brad

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 10/04/11 - 02:59 am
0
0
yeah, countyman why did a

yeah, countyman why did a local lawyer (not developer) buy the WJBF building? speculation? lawsy, lawsy, that seems to be Augusta's biggest industry.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 03:21 am
0
0
Actually, we have no

Actually, we have no guarantees that a new stadium will have residential, restaurants, hotel and office components either. We have yet to see any plan that includes all of this. This pitch is often made to entice municipalities to finance these stadiums, promising all sorts of exciting development around them. But the private sector is usually under no obligation to live up to their promises. In fact in most cases the promises of condos, theaters, restaurants, hotels and office building just vanish into thin air. And remember, we are in a very tough economy. Just because you plop a minor league ballpark downtown or somewhere else is not going to convince the banks to lend money for risky developments. Notice how Courtland Dusseau is having a hard time securing financing for his Hyatt Place hotel across from The TEE center. When can we expect the groundbreaking on that? And whatever happened to The Watermark? And we know the financial difficulties of The White's Building condos. Remember the fancy Villages at Riverwatch project? Bass pro? Well that was tremendously scaled back to be essentially another big box strip mall anchored by a warehouse store. I've noticed that Ripken Baseball doesn't even mention condos or restaurants or office buildings being part of the mix anymore. And what's happened to Jacoby, the developer who was suppose to build all of the glamorous stuff around this proposed stadium? You never hear him mentioned anymore. He, nor any reps from his company were even present for this event. That tells me that all of the "mixed-use" aspects of these project have pretty much been quietly deleted. Now it's Multi-purpose stadium. Weddings in a ballpark? really? And high school football games in a baseball stadium? That's strange.

shrimp for breakfast
5719
Points
shrimp for breakfast 10/04/11 - 03:25 am
0
0
Can someone please explain to

Can someone please explain to me exactly why they want to build a new stadium and why they want it downtown?
You don't even have city buses that go below 15th st. with the exception of the Walton Way #1 route by the hospitals. It seems Augusta has a lot of other fish to fry before it starts with a luxury project.
Also who exactly is going to pay for it? I know I can't afford to.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 03:56 am
0
0
corgi, which cafe is that?

corgi, which cafe is that? link? The thing about ballparks is that they really don't spawn a crowd for downtown restaurants. Theater and concert patrons generally do like to dine out before a show and grab drinks afterward, but when people go to a baseball game, they generally buy snacks and beer inside the stadium. Afterwards, most people just go home. the impact this would have on the business for downtown restaurants is highly overstated.

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