Commissioners support plan, but with questions

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Augusta is not even to first base in making a downtown baseball stadium a reality, but city officials say it would be an economic home run if the money to study and build it can be raised.

"I feel anything we can do to revitalize downtown Augusta and bring people to the city would be good for Augusta," said Augusta Commissioner Calvin Holland, a member of the Downtown Stadium Exploratory Committee appointed by Mayor Deke Copenhaver and Ripken Baseball officials.

The committee will study the feasibility of a proposed $20 million, state-of-the-art ballpark on the Savannah River between 11th and 13th streets, which could bring minor league baseball's Augusta GreenJackets downtown within three years.

The three main hurdles would be getting state approval for the state-owned land and finding a funding source, according to City Administrator Fred Russell.

"We need to decide how to secure the land from the state," he said. "And then we need a funding source for the study and to build the stadium. And the community would have to voice their support at the ballot box."

Although a $50,000 to $75,000 study has been proposed, it's too early to say exactly how it would be financed, the mayor and Mr. Holland said.

"Right now, everything is on the drawing board, and no decision has been made about where the money is going to come from," Mr. Holland said. "My main concern is that the city of Augusta agrees with this."

Mr. Copenhaver said the public-financing component of the public-private venture would be general obligation bonds, which would have to be approved by voters.

"As I have said, when it is time, I would be more than happy to put this project to the people for a vote as I firmly believe we can build broad-based support for it," Mr. Copenhaver said. "It will be a public-private partnership with Ripken Baseball participating. At this point, they are meeting with people in Georgia to see how this type of project is put together in our state."

Augusta commissioners would have to call for a referendum to issue bonds, and on Tuesday most weren't ready to commit to that, although they support the concept.

"We just aren't at that point at the present time," said Mayor Pro Tem Betty Beard. "I wouldn't be able to say. It's just going to have to make sense."

Commissioner Jerry Brigham said he would want to know more about the cost before committing.

"I'd have to have a whole lot more information before I could make a decision to put it to the voters," he said.

Mr. Brigham and Commissioners Marion Williams and Commissioner Bernard Harper said they had not been privy to the plan until immediately before the announcement. Mr. Harper said he heard about it on the noon news Tuesday.

"I believe as elected officials we should at least have a clue," he said. "We're going to have to sell it to our constituents. Why weren't we informed? Why weren't we in the loop?"

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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kudzo-n-roses
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kudzo-n-roses 04/11/07 - 11:00 am
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"I believe as elected

"I believe as elected officials we should at least have a clue," he said. "We're going to have to sell it to our constituents. Why weren't we informed? Why weren't we in the loop?"
"Mr. Brigham and Commissioners Marion Williams and Commissioner Bernard Harper said they had not been privy to the plan until immediately before the announcement. Mr. Harper said he heard about it on the noon news Tuesday."

LOL....... maybe you have just a little clue Mr. Harper?

magic
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magic 04/11/07 - 11:02 am
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I like this idea a lot. I

I like this idea a lot. I pray this happens. Augusta needs something downtown. My only complaint is that it can't be used just for a baseball field. It needs to be able to accomodate many diffent kinds of events: Futurity, powerfest, first Friday, and the Augusta Classic. I wish they would've used the money that was wasted on that dumb dragstrip for this.

yesyes
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yesyes 04/11/07 - 11:23 am
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No. NO. NO. Why do we need

No. NO. NO. Why do we need to move the stadium downtown? It's in a great spot where it is.

THESOUTHLOST
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THESOUTHLOST 04/11/07 - 11:49 am
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Put it in South Augusta.

Put it in South Augusta. Hell, you can not even get the Commission to back a plan to help people in need, but they break their necks to support a ball field. Oh I forgot, they can not build it in south Augusta, it might bring unwanted people into the area.

concernednative
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concernednative 04/11/07 - 01:09 pm
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Anytime a city/area grows it

Anytime a city/area grows it ALWAYS start with a boom downtown of the major city(Augusta). This is worth a try for the people of Augusta. Then the other parts of the city and suburbs then start to grow. So please don't start talking about putting in other places in Augusta or Columbia County.

native
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native 04/11/07 - 04:53 pm
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What are they going do with

What are they going do with the old stadium if a new one is built?

watching
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watching 04/11/07 - 06:35 pm
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What ever happened to the

What ever happened to the drag strip? Other drag strips around the nation are doing very well with respect to bringing in tax dollars. Lets build the drag strip first; then the stadium.

BakersfieldCityLimits
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BakersfieldCityLimits 04/11/07 - 07:20 pm
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Amazing how the morons can

Amazing how the morons can get behind a bseball stadium, and yet provide their employees with no retirement plan. Can't wait until the fight starts over what to name the stadium, any bets as to if the polititcs of race will enter into it? Not in Augusta, no way... right?

gettinitright
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gettinitright 04/11/07 - 11:04 pm
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Bring Baseball Downtown!

Bring Baseball Downtown!

bigbert9980
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bigbert9980 04/11/07 - 11:24 pm
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YES YES YES bring basball

YES YES YES bring basball downtown. Most medium/large cities build their baseball stadium downtown. It will bring people, money and revitalization to downtown.

How can you not support improvement and business downtown?

Please keep an open mind

bayouboogie
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bayouboogie 04/12/07 - 01:58 am
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I'm just happy that the

I'm just happy that the Commissioners can agree on something. Usually they are divided and nothing gets done. How about erecting a toilet on Broad Street. Oops!! I'm sorry they might be divided by the color of the toilet.

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