GreenJackets owners try to save downtown stadium plan

  • Follow GreenJackets

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.”

Comments (81) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
79774
Points
Riverman1 10/04/11 - 06:07 am
0
0
I'd like to know about a

I'd like to know about a certain cafe also. Corgimom? Just throw it out there and we will know what you mean. Why wasn't Jacoby at the meeting describing all these rumored things he will build in conjunction with a new stadium?

By the way, when the TEE books it's first event that hasn't been to Augusta before using existing venues, someone wake me. The occupancy rate of the TEE is going to be the lowest in the nation. Know why? You can't get lower than zero. It's time for people to start listening to the lovers of Lake Olmstead Stadium.

Cestlavie
134
Points
Cestlavie 10/04/11 - 07:02 am
0
0
Build the blasted thing on

Build the blasted thing on the grounds of the Regency Mall and start some needed development along the Gordon Hwy corridor.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 07:11 am
0
0
Cestlavie.. you got about $30

Cestlavie.. you got about $30 million to buy the mall and demolish it? And there is no truth to the belief that ballparks spur economic development. You build a ballpark there, you will just end up with a ballpark on the site of a failed mall.. that's all you will get. The presence of a ballpark has no iota of an impact on attracting businesses to that area. What attracts businesses to an area is the presence of higher income households, that is why so much business is flocking to Columbia County. No ballpark there. Good schools. Safe and clean streets. Low taxes. Good transportation infrastructure. Those are some of the things that attracts business.

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/04/11 - 07:45 am
0
0
Notice that the visitors to

Notice that the visitors to our town from the Ripken group did not pledge to spend millions of dollars to help with stadium construction.

Notice that there is no mention of who might actually own the stadium once it would be built.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 07:57 am
0
0
Okay, so I just read The

Okay, so I just read The Baltimore Sun article referred to in this article. So what are they refuting that was in that article? I read here in this article about clearing up "misconceptions and rumors." So what is incorrect in the Baltimore Sun article that needs to be cleared up? I heard few specifics from Mr Bennett. He even admits that the city hit a rough patch financially: "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." So I'm confused here. So he is saying the article was wrong, but yet then says that the city was borrowing more than it should to build things. Was he the mayor when all of this was decided? It seems what he is really saying is that some people in Aberdeen didn't like that a major newspaper brought attention to the fact that their city made a very bad deal on a baseball stadium. Is Ripken Baseball to blame? Probably not. It is in their best interest to look out for their bottom line and make a deal that is in their best financial interest. After reading the Sun article, it appears it was naive city leaders who were so eager to buy into the hype of what a new stadium would do for the city that they rushed into a bad deal. This should be a cautionary tale for Augusta leaders. What is especially troubling about The Aberdeen example is that the development that the city was hoping would occur around the stadium was didn't happen for the most part and what did occur was seriously delayed. If anything, the economic climate is even worse now than when that article was written. I mean if you are going to call something "misinformation" you should at least be able to explain what is incorrect about it. I didn't see that in this article. It's more like they were embarrassed by it.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 08:03 am
0
0
Good eye, LL.. they felt the

Good eye, LL.. they felt the need to fly the mayor of Aberdeen, MD down here for a PR stunt but yet still cannot give any specifics of how much of their own money they are willing to invest in this stadium. They say it's too early for that. really? This has been going on for over 5 years, and they still have no specifics to offer the public? So why all of these PR stunts? The mayor there in 2007 seemed to be highly critical of the city's arrangement with Ripken Baseball and it even said he made a motion to try to sell the stadium because it was losing too much money for the city. It seems like we have two stories being told here. Which one is correct?

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/04/11 - 08:17 am
0
0
Bringing the mayor of

Bringing the mayor of Aberdeen and the suits of Ripken here to spin the ballpark reminds me of when Augusta sent Willie Mays, Lee Beard and Marion Williams up to Washington, D.C. to spin Ronnie Few. They told D.C. city aldermen what a great fire chief Few would make for Washington. And then they disparaged the city of Augusta. What they actually said would be rejected by the comments filter here.

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/04/11 - 08:22 am
0
0
The chairman of the Richmond

The chairman of the Richmond County Development Authority, Henry Ingram, said:

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.

He needs a teleprompter. He should not be allowed to speak extemporaneously!

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/04/11 - 08:29 am
0
0
Reporter Billy Byler

Reporter Billy Byler wrote:

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

Lesson for Augusta Commission members: when you assign Fred (What, me worry?) Russell a task, you had better set a deadline. Otherwise, he will be fiddling while the city rots.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 10/04/11 - 08:47 am
0
0
It says that for years,

It says that for years, mayors of Aberdeen, MD have been trying to renegotiate a better deal with Ripken Baseball on the stadium. You think it is possible that in exchange for a better deal, the condition was that the mayor had to come down to Augusta to spin the stadium deal in a positive light and help sell it here.

lsmith
105
Points
lsmith 10/04/11 - 09:07 am
0
0
If Sir Galahad Ripkin wants
Unpublished

If Sir Galahad Ripkin wants to build a new baseball stadium, let him have at it with his money. Augusta Richmond County already has one. I guess Ripkin doesn't like the neighborhood.....tough........
But, you can bet deke the wonder boy won't stop his quest for completion of this project. Look at the downtown tax maps for clues on motive.......
I still don't understand why the commission hasn't quashed this thing by now, what on earth were they thinking when they authorized Russell to work on numbers? That opened a crack in the door a mile wide.

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/04/11 - 10:25 am
0
0
Aberdeen, Md., mayor Michael

Aberdeen, Md., mayor Michael Bennett said:

“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.”

The mayor was confused about why he was brought here. No one told him that Ripken Baseball Group is already here! Taxpayers have already provided a great stadium for the GreenJackets to play in. The mayor thought he was here to sell a reluctant city to let Ripken come here and run a team. Mayor Bennett's handlers need to do better homework before they send their mayor off to embarass himself.

Bob Munger
0
Points
Bob Munger 10/04/11 - 10:32 am
0
0
I am neutral on the stadium.

I am neutral on the stadium. While I like the idea of redevelopment of the prime, riverfront Golf HOF property into SOMETHING, I am not convinced that the stadium is the highest/best use of the property. It's worth noting that the proposed Augusta Greenway's northern termination point would be very near this property.

seenitB4
81891
Points
seenitB4 10/04/11 - 10:48 am
0
0
Do you want fries with that

Do you want fries with that ballpark....the zombie park is back in the news.....is this what you call cramming down your throat?

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/04/11 - 10:54 am
0
0
The mayor of Aberdeen said

The mayor of Aberdeen said that the baseball stadium was funded equally between

1. the city

2. the state

3. Ripken Baseball

Good luck with getting the Georgia General Assembly and Gov. Deal to kick in one-third of this boondoggle.

Reading the Baltimore Sun article that Taylor so kindly posted a link to, I notice that Aberdeen's stadium is owned by the city, but the revenue from ticket and concession sales goes to Ripken Baseball. What a sweet deal for Ripken Baseball.

It occurs to me that one quick way for Aberdeen to start collecting a little more money would be to deed the stadium over to Ripken Baseball, assess the stadium's value at the price of construction (plus a little for the real estate), and begin collecting property taxes from Ripken Baseball. There is no reason the city has to own such an albatross.

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 10/04/11 - 11:04 am
0
0
LL, if I read the article

LL, if I read the article correctly one of the previous Aberdeen mayors tried to do just that but Ripken Baseball did not want to take ownership of the stadium. I mean why would they? They get all the benefits with none of the risk. It's a sweet deal. And no private entity is interested in buying it because it is a money loser.

Little Lamb
44030
Points
Little Lamb 10/04/11 - 11:22 am
0
0
Aberdeen has had at least

Aberdeen has had at least three mayors in the past 10 years.

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 10/04/11 - 11:25 am
0
0
Do we know anything more now

Do we know anything more now about this stadium than we did 5 years ago? Well I guess we probably do know that is is probably even more of a bad idea now than when we first heard the pitch for it. It amazes me how this thing keeps coming back again and again. People are not so much against the idea of a new stadium, they just don't want the government paying for it. It's that simple.

Vito45
-2
Points
Vito45 10/04/11 - 12:03 pm
0
0
This is an issue I've done a

This is an issue I've done a 180 on in the past few years. I once supported community financed amenities like this because having those amenities does make for a more attractive business climate, which helps everyone in the metro area. Now, my position is that it is OK to treat them like other industry we are trying to attract, i.e., a tax concession, provide them with the land, or things like that that make it attractive for them to locate or stay in the community.
For the major league ranks, if they can pay the athletes a gazillion dollars to play, they can jolly well afford to build their own stadiums.

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 10/04/11 - 12:21 pm
0
0
Vito, another thing to

Vito, another thing to consider here is that we already have a baseball team and we already have a perfectly fine stadium, so I just don't get it. If we want a community "amenity", how about we invest in something that we don't already have. I would think that a better transit system would be more attractive to business than another ballpark. Transit can actually get people to jobs and to shopping. Or what about a Greeneway like what they have in North Augusta. I think more people would rather have that than another ballpark. Or how about just do a better job maintaining the amenities we already have. Have you seen the Riverwalk lately? It's a disgrace.

countyman
19174
Points
countyman 10/04/11 - 12:42 pm
0
0
Dipshot.. The thousands of

Dipshot.. The thousands of ESI Iroman particpants just said the Riverwalk was amazing.. i haven't been to the weekly Augusta market recently, but in early September the Riverwalk looked great. I definitely think we can make the Riverwalk even better, but it's definitely not a disgrace.. It's by far the biggest tourist attraction in the CSRA.

Jim Jacoby doesn't build baseball stadiums across the US..

Riverman1
79774
Points
Riverman1 10/04/11 - 12:48 pm
0
0
What's wrong with you people?

What's wrong with you people? Mayor Copenhaver-Boardman has explained time and time again that you are against most everything. Go ahead and make Deke happy. Get David Fry involved. He'll make it happen. We will have restaurants and shops popping up all around it. Maybe a couple of hotels and the Cleveland Indians are rumored to be looking for a new home. Deke and Cal can make it all happen.

Dipshot
-5
Points
Dipshot 10/04/11 - 12:49 pm
0
0
The Riverwalk used to be one

The Riverwalk used to be one of the top area attractions. It has not been well maintained. Perhaps "disgrace" is a bit harsh but Compared to what it used to look like, it has certainly not aged well. About the ballpark, they need to present a proposal first, not just a "concept".. we all get the concept of a ballpark. What we want to know is how they intend to pay for it. We need to hear figures and who is going to pay what. Until they come forward with a concrete proposal all of this continued "talk" is just meaningless. It's getting really tiresome. They sound like a broken record, repeating the same thing over and over but still can't give us any details.

countyman
19174
Points
countyman 10/04/11 - 12:59 pm
0
0
If the Riverwalk used to be

If the Riverwalk used to be one of the top area attractions, then something had to replace it.

What attractions in the CSRA are more popular for tourist compared to the Riverwalk?

Augusta averages 1.5 million visitors, so the attraction would have to be in Richmond County.

Riverman1
79774
Points
Riverman1 10/04/11 - 12:55 pm
0
0
Countyman said, "The

Countyman said, "The thousands of ESI Iroman particpants just said the Riverwalk was amazing."

Yep, that was an amazing sight. They all screamed it in unison, not once, but twice. Some guy was leading them in the words and I suspect that was Countyman. Right after that, they kissed the sidewalk on the Riverwalk...all two thousand of them.

Riverman1
79774
Points
Riverman1 10/04/11 - 12:57 pm
0
0
Well, the people who spend

Well, the people who spend the most money come here for the golf, riding and shooting. Certainly not for the Riverwalk, although it's nice.

countyman
19174
Points
countyman 10/04/11 - 01:02 pm
0
0
If you attended the Ironman,

If you attended the Ironman, and people knew you were from Augusta. The participants would have asked you questions, and commented on what they liked about the city.

The people who come for the Masters visit the Riverwalk too. The Mayors masters reception and Par 3 Party are both held downtown..

Riverman1
79774
Points
Riverman1 10/04/11 - 01:03 pm
0
0
The National is in Richmond

The National is in Richmond County. Plus, the Ironman. But those who stay in Aiken and Columbia counties often visit downtown Augusta for the hospitals, restaurants and some other things.

Riverman1
79774
Points
Riverman1 10/04/11 - 01:04 pm
0
0
Sure, no argument about the

Sure, no argument about the effect of the Masters. I'm a big supporter of it...not that they need my support.

Riverman1
79774
Points
Riverman1 10/04/11 - 01:08 pm
0
0
Speaking of downtown

Speaking of downtown development, apparently, there was a Chronicle story about downtown Augusta small businesses that told about some guys who are partners in a downtown cafe. Anyone have the link to it or remember the story?

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs