Cal Ripken Jr. said Tuesday night that he is feeling a bit more positive about the future of minor league baseball in Augusta.
The Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, whose Ripken Baseball Group owns the Augusta GreenJackets, re-emphasized his commitment to keeping the team in the Augusta market, but fielding it at Lake Olmstead Stadium isn't in his plans.
"Being downtown plays an important role in having hundreds of thousands of people downtown, which translates into businesses and life down in the city," he said before the Greater Augusta Medals for Excellence in Sports awards banquet. "If that weren't to happen, we'd look to alternative sites (within Augusta). We love the Augusta market. It's got such great potential."
Ripken's organization has had its eye on 16 acres of state-owned, riverfront property as the potential site for a multi-use facility with a new GreenJackets stadium. Original plans called for the city to acquire the land from the state, then work on a public-private venture to develop it.
Now the land, once home to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, will go on the auction block after Gov. Sonny Perdue signs legislation passed two weeks ago that dissolves the hall.
"We definitely are encouraged by the progress," Ripken said. "It certainly hasn't gone exactly the way we had planned it, but stadium issues are complex."
The Jacoby Group, a development company working with the Ripken group, said it will bid on the land.
Jeff Eiseman, Ripken Baseball Group's vice president of baseball, said Augusta's role in a public-private venture remains unclear.
"We have not had formal conversations with the city," Eiseman said. "But in regards to the land being private, that hasn't really affected (our plans). We're glad it's gotten to this stage."