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Baseball is a step closer to finding a new home in downtown Augusta.

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Mayor Deke Copenhaver throws the first pitch for the home opener.  Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Mayor Deke Copenhaver throws the first pitch for the home opener.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver and Bill Ripken, of the Ripken Baseball Group, will hold a news conference this morning to announce the formation of an exploratory committee to do just that.

"It's still in the infancy stages, but it's a very exciting project," the mayor said Monday. "This is just the first step to see if it's a viable project."

After being approached months ago by the Ripken Group, the organization that owns the Augusta GreenJackets, Mr. Copenhaver recently was presented a drawing of the proposed stadium.

The proposal would move the GreenJackets from Lake Olmstead Stadium, off Milledge Road, to land on Reynolds Street next to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens, which has been struggling financially.

"This could be really, really good for everybody involved," Mr. Ripken said. "If everything can be worked out in all areas, and all concerns can be addressed, and everybody says it's a good thing, why not explore it?"

The GreenJackets, a low Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, have played in Lake Olmstead Stadium since 1995. The park was built in 1994 and seats 4,322, making it the third-smallest stadium in the 16-team South Atlantic League.

Last season, Ripken Baseball's first year of ownership, the GreenJackets saw the second-highest increase in home attendance in all the minor leagues (22.2 percent). The team averaged 2,475 fans per game.

The idea of a new facility downtown has been a subject of speculation since last fall, when Mr. Copenhaver and Ripken Baseball President and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. discussed the idea at a news conference.

Estimates put the draw of a downtown baseball stadium at 400,000 people, said Mr. Copenhaver, who threw out the first pitch at Monday night's home opener. That traffic could benefit the Golf Hall of Fame and ween it from state funding, he said.

The stadium also would further downtown development, Mr. Copenhaver said.

For months, some downtown businesses have been posting fliers that read, "Bring baseball downtown," along with a GreenJackets logo.

It sounds like a good idea to GreenJackets manager Roberto Kelly, a former major leaguer.

"I think it would be good for the city," he said. "This lets the people of Augusta know the Ripkens are serious about building baseball around the city, which is good. (A new stadium) would be a big step."

The exploratory committee will visit downtown stadiums in Durham and Greensboro, N.C., and Greenville, S.C.

Ultimately, the decision to build a downtown stadium will be up to the public, Mr. Copenhaver said. The voters would have the final say in a referendum.

Reach Greg Gelpi and Steve Sanders at (706) 724-0851.

Comments (36) Add comment
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inside info
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inside info 04/10/07 - 06:21 am
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Where would you Park???

Where would you Park???

dbruker
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dbruker 04/10/07 - 06:51 am
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There is ample parking

There is ample parking downtown. At 2500 people per game and two people per car, you only talking 1250 cars. A lot more people than that come to Arts in the Heart, the 4th of July fireworks, etc.

I think bringing baseball downtown is a great idea. Fans would have somewhere to go before and after the games, as opposed to getting in their cars and going home.

coco rubio
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coco rubio 04/10/07 - 07:55 am
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this is fantastic news....

this is fantastic news....

sign in
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sign in 04/10/07 - 08:13 am
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Shouldhave been here to begin

Shouldhave been here to begin with but what happens now to
the stadium at Lake Olmstead? Can't we ever have anyone
with any foresight in office?

allrise
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allrise 04/10/07 - 08:19 am
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Ripkens, Please don't let

Ripkens, Please don't let them talk you into building downtown. The bulk of the people in this area that support baseball , live in Columbia County. A far better site would be I-20 & Lewiston Road interchange. If I'm not driving to Lake Olmstead now , why would I drive downtown into that world. The city has no track record of being anything but an utter failure in backing anything .I guarantee you could average 8,000 per night if you locate in Columbia County as opposed to the ghetto.

redman
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redman 04/10/07 - 08:20 am
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Why do we need a new stadium?

Why do we need a new stadium? The current stadium is in great condition. There is plenty of room to add additional seats if there is a need to plus up the seating.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 08:29 am
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Seems like a waste of

Seems like a waste of waterfront land to me. The land is currently owned by the state of Georgia and is collecting no taxes. Theres 16 acres down there that should be sold to generate Tax dollars. Sure half is the Ga golf hall of fame, but the other half should be collecting tax money. I'm sure there will be some deal for Ripkin and a huge tax break if any taxes at all. When you consider that 2.5 acres of land right next to this property generates $250,000/year in tax money and the next lot to it over,1.35 acres, generates $220,000/year - That's a lot of $$$. This property would be put to better use to have it developed for commercial use that would be used more then twice a week. They should be looking to sell to a developer that's going to take advantage of the waterfront property. Tear down the levee in that area and put waterfront cafes along with a movie theater and shops and restaurants. Something like they did in Coco Walk in Coconut Grove Florida or Beach Place in Fort Lauderdale (maybe not to that scale but condos on top of a place like that would work) All great ideas that are built for the community to enjoy every night of the week and collect Tax money.

Newsreader
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Newsreader 04/10/07 - 08:35 am
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Has anyone thought about who

Has anyone thought about who will govern this Public-Private Partnership that will run the new stadium? The County Commission?!!! The Colosieum Authority???! The Downtown Development Board(AKA Billy Morris). The County Recreation Dept. None of these entities seem capable of doing their current task, why add more to their plate! If anyone wants a new stadium downtown, then let them form their own private group and pay the cost with rental or usage fees. As for the current stadium, NOTHING IS WRONG WITH IT! It is a great facility and in a good location. Heck, it really is already "downtown" by most standards, two blocks off Broad Street, seven blocks from Thriteenth Street. Plenty of parking. No security problems, easy to find, and get in, get out. If the people supporting the GreenJackets wanted to go to the bars and resturants downtown, then they would leave the stadium and drive those 9 blocks in about five minutes and partake of the offerings that are downtown. However, I think that the crowd downtown is a different demographic than what the stadium has. Mr. Ripkin, I hope that you realize your team is an Asset to Augusta, and there are others that want a part of your pie!!!

Philo-Publis
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Philo-Publis 04/10/07 - 09:00 am
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What?!?! You mean I won't

What?!?! You mean I won't have to drive through the slums of Augusta to go to the Greenjackets games anymore?? I'll actually be able to park my car and not worry about it being jacked while at the game?!

I'm just glad someone is trying to clean up the downtown image. The Richmond county Government should be ashamed that someone not from Augusta is more concerned with helping our Image than they are.

Having been to Pittsburg and Cincinnati, there is nothing more beautiful than a stadium overlooking a river! I for one would love to see a 5-10k seat stadium downtown.

Good job Ripkens!!!! Just make sure you keep full control of the facility! The Augusta govermment can't manage a fish bowl!

weekapaug05
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weekapaug05 04/10/07 - 09:13 am
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Well if there are all these

Well if there are all these Columbia county baseball supporters, why don't y'all get your own team you Augusta-Richmond County wanna-bes! There's no way that there would be 8,000 people per night! The Charleston Riverdogs don't even get that, and their stadium is sweet! And is it really so hard for you to leave your "secure" gated communities to venture out into the real world, drive 10 minutes down Riverwatch to the (slowly but surely becoming) beautiful downtown Augusta River Front?

lthomas
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lthomas 04/10/07 - 10:17 am
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I have been a season ticket

I have been a season ticket holder for 2 years now and I do not want the stadium to move downtown. The Richmond County government can't even manage their own affairs. And by the way I am also a Columbia County resident and have no desire to be a Augusta-Richmond County want-to-be

zcock
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zcock 04/10/07 - 10:49 am
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This is where the stadium

This is where the stadium should have been in the first place. Unfortunately, it takes time to realize good ideas. Looking at the artist rendering, I think that a statue of TY COBB should be at the main entrance to the stadium as well.

user3
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user3 04/10/07 - 11:32 am
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mason is a real jack [filtered word]. as

mason is a real jack [filtered word]. as if columbia county doesn't have meth bust every otherday. everyone out thier ca\ould be considered trailer park trash, but we don't say it. mason get a life or take or ole' racist [filtered word] somwhere else!!!!

allrise
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allrise 04/10/07 - 11:34 am
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Only a moron would want to be

Only a moron would want to be an Augusta-Richmond County resident. That's why Columbia County has boomed over the last 30 years and Richmond County has only the dregs left. Nice school system you got there.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 11:48 am
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I guarantee jeremychughs the

I guarantee jeremychughs the Ripkins are doing it for the money not to save downtown. There is a lot more crime downtown then where the current stadium exists. You think building a new stadium downtown is going to bring more people to a Greenjackets game? I think not! Now maybe if the stadium would hold 12,000 or more people we may be able to get some national acts here for concerts. That’s along as the Greenjacket games don’t interfere. However the proposed location could never accommodate that many parking spots. If indeed a stadium would go there I at least hope they have the sense to open an outdoor walking mall on the riverside of the stadium with some sort of riverfront dining and entertainment complex all in one. We should wait till the Marble Palace is replaced then tear it down and put a stadium there if you guys want one so bad for downtown. There is just too much potential for income from taxes to put a government owned building. The riverfront is under exploited it needs a (i.e.Town Center in Boca Raton) type complex that people will be proud to show out of town guests.

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 11:48 am
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. I could go on and on about

. I could go on and on about projects in other city’s that have built complexes that involve shopping/eating/drinking/entertainment and living. We need somewhere you can sit down and have a meal and be on the water, not having to go over a 20 foot levee.

AugustaVoter
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AugustaVoter 04/10/07 - 11:51 am
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Ok back to the real topic...

Ok back to the real topic... (Mason and everyone else) the baseball stadium idea would be a good one. The old stadium could be turned over to Augusta State baseball and also used as a premier facility to host high school games! The old stadium would be nicer if it were not located next to projects and had the area behind the outfield fence refurbished. Cal Ripken and his group are putting a lot of effort into helping Augusta get on their feet. That is more than we can say about Augusta National... Think about the baseball team just 2 years ago before Cal... Attendance was about 1000 per game! Let these people look into it and hopefully better things will come. Maybe we can get a convention center or new arena then too!

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 12:14 pm
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Augusta National pays a lot

Augusta National pays a lot in Taxes. In fact $472,655.53 a year in taxes on just the course alone. Probably more then $500,000 or more in the surrounding property they own. Not to mention the money it brings in for that one week a year for thousands of businesses and individuals that rent their homes tax free for the week. There is no comparison

AugustaVoter
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AugustaVoter 04/10/07 - 12:22 pm
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But what does the commission

But what does the commission DO with those taxes???? Line their pockets and take expensive trips... You are right, THERE IS NO COMPARISON!

justbatty
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justbatty 04/10/07 - 12:29 pm
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Bring Baseball Downtown!

Bring Baseball Downtown!

BigJohn767
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BigJohn767 04/10/07 - 01:17 pm
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It's been stated: There is

It's been stated: There is ample parking downtown. At 2500 people per game and two people per car, you only talking 1250 cars.

Where is this parking located? Just asking....

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 01:20 pm
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We do not need another

We do not need another Publicly/Privately owned project. If Ripkin wants to build it then let him buy the property from the city and pay taxes on the land.
Here we go with another feasibility study.
Sure Mayor Deke Copenhaver is all for this project isn’t his wife a Boardman? Don’t they own a lot of properties downtown? Who stands to benefit? Certainly not the tax payers. Another Lame duck idea.
Send them to Richmond Academy Stadium. If you didn’t already know the stadium there is half owed by a Boardman go to www. Augustaga.gov and click on the GIS map link and navigate you way thru to find parcel # 045-1-053-01-0. (925 BAKER AVE) Sure he pays $200 a year in taxes but I wonder what kickback he gets on that land.
Yes Augusta Voter your right but its deals like this that are in the best interests of those in power not the taxpayer. Deals like this cause the taxpayers that are just getting buy with a single home to foot the bill. We have to vote these yoyos out and get people in that can run this county like a business for the people not for themselves.

sartree
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sartree 04/10/07 - 01:40 pm
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would this end the ever

would this end the ever floundering plans to build a golf hall of fame?

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 01:55 pm
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Reminds me of another fishy

Reminds me of another fishy deal. It's also ironic that a local Judge would just so happen to get the New Judicial center built right across the street from commercial property he owns on Walton Way (not to mention it’s on the banks or the recently restored 3rd level of the canal). Wonder what the feasibility study cost? I seem to believe we had already paid for at least one of them then suddenly another one was conducted and it suggested the Walton Way Site. (Actually I believe it was on the 3rd feasibility study but I may be wrong). Something seems fishy there too.

Augusta Mom
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Augusta Mom 04/10/07 - 02:13 pm
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I think the downtown location

I think the downtown location would be great!!!! The old stadium was wonderful in "it's day"...but it's day has passed. I'm sure ASU would love to have it as a Home Field. The Mayor is only trying to uplift Augusta and this is our big chance. Let's forget about the stupid Drag Strip (that is only used by a few) and get behind this project so everyone can benefit!

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 02:35 pm
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I got an idea lets sell the

I got an idea lets sell the land to Progressive Redevelopment Corp., and the Augusta Affordable Housing Corp. to build a 132-unit mixed-income housing development.

Newsreader
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Newsreader 04/10/07 - 03:12 pm
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Folks, think about it. There

Folks, think about it. There is nothing wrong with the current stadium located by Lake Olmstead. They housing project is nearly complete in makeover, and there is plenty of parking. As for Augusta State using the stadium, there is no desire on their part, it is further from ASU than it is downtown. Certianly, if Mr. Ripkin wants to buy land and build a new stadium, he may choose to put it downtown, but a public/private venture would not be in Augusta's best interest. The citizens and taxpayers WOULD foot the bill and gain just another place that sucks income and regurgitates political perks, and spews waste into the fodder of local disgust. Fellow bloggers please support the Green Jackets! Taxpayers support better candidates that will run the City like a business, and seek a return on investments. Finally, when will those in Columbia County and North Augusta realize that they are part of Metro Augusta? As far a visitors go, they do not see the political boundries that seperate the counties from Augusta, it is all the same. We all are washed with the same brush, whether it be stupidity or brilliance, frugral or lavish, slum or dynasty. Just read the Golf Digest article.You will see.

gnx
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gnx 04/10/07 - 05:01 pm
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Mason - I-20 and Lewiston

Mason - I-20 and Lewiston Road exchange can barely support the traffic it carries now, let alone a stadium. Why give Ron Cross yet another excuse to spend another $75000 on yet another feasibility study that will go nowhere?

DeeVee
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DeeVee 04/10/07 - 05:30 pm
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Not that anyone will get this

Not that anyone will get this far down to read my comments, but the parking issue should be addressed. As far as the 1250 cars that dbrucker mentioned, how far is that from the stadium. I can tell you that the older, fatter, the one's with bad knees, and those with small children wouldn't be able to traverse that distace on such a narrow sidewalk from that unpaved area across from the commons. Then what about when someone gets a wild hair up their you know what and decides to finally occupy that site.

Unless someone decides to buy out those businesses accross from the gardens, the few remaining homes across from the Fire Department and turn that area into on big parking lot, this cannot work. I don't even want to get into the discussion about what to do about the church that's in the middle of the area I'm talking about (at 11th and Reynolds).

FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 04/10/07 - 05:52 pm
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The church owns most of the

The church owns most of the property around there. A Boardman owns a vacant lot just across the street and several lots and building only a block and a half away. Billy Morris already has a large parking lot and a hotel right next door and all the vacant lots across from the commons DeeVee. Go Figure lets see parking alone $10 X 1250 cars = $12500 just for one event. This project seems to be better then a barn! Lets get Billy to build it, not the city.

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