Originally created 10/24/06

Ripken open to idea of building stadium



Cal Ripken Jr. said on Monday his GreenJackets ownership group is committed to Augusta "for the long haul."

Although he said Ripken Baseball Group would entertain discussion of a new ballpark for the minor league baseball team in the future, he indicated such talk might be premature.

"We want to do whatever is best for the city and the community of Augusta, and if that means a new stadium down the road, we're certainly open for that," Ripken said.

Ripken, CEO of Ripken Baseball, and his associates met with Mayor Deke Copenhaver and representatives of Augusta Tomorrow on Monday at Enterprise Mill to discuss ways the second-year ownership group can improve its business partnership with the city.

When asked whether those talks included the possibility of a new stadium, Ripken said the group was using the visit as an opportunity to plan and discuss the future of the team in many different ways.

"There is no really specific agenda we have," he said. "I think we may be getting a little ahead of ourselves talking about a new stadium."

Ripken said the visit was intended mainly to check in on the off-season operations of the GreenJackets, the low Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants and South Atlantic League Southern Division champions.

"The off-season is one of the most important times for a minor league baseball team, so it's important for us to come to town and look at what we did right and what we can do better," Ripken said.

"We didn't come in to apply pressure (for a stadium), we're just trying to figure out how we can improve. We want to make this a win-win situation for everybody," he added.

Copenhaver presented Ripken a certificate of recognition for his contributions to the community as well as the success of the team in the first year of the Ripken regime.

"One thing that has struck me about Ripken Baseball is that they always seem to put more into a community than they take out," Copenhaver said. "To have Cal advocating this community is obviously huge for us."

This season, the GreenJackets' attendance at 12-year-old Lake Olmstead Stadium - the league's third-smallest ballpark - increased 22.2 percent to an announced 2,474 per game.

Ripken and Copenhaver each expressed excitement about the idea of a new ballpark, possibly downtown, but said there is no imminent plan for such a facility.

"In the long run I think it would be a great shot in the arm for Augusta," Copenhaver said. "But there's a lot of work to be done to get to that point."

Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or steven.l.sanders@augustachronicle.com.