Similar proposal for a new home was made in '93

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The recent proposal for a riverfront stadium in downtown Augusta might sound like a new idea.

Fans gathered for the opening game of the Augusta Pirates at Heaton Stadium. The park was modified into Lake Olmstead.  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Fans gathered for the opening game of the Augusta Pirates at Heaton Stadium. The park was modified into Lake Olmstead.

But the idea of building a new ballpark on the Savannah River between 11th and 13th streets should sound familiar to long-time Augusta residents.

A similar proposal was introduced in 1993 but never panned out.

The then-Augusta Pirates, Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, had been playing at Heaton Stadium on Milledge Road since minor-league baseball returned to Augusta in 1988.

Heaton Stadium didn't meet minor league standards, so a new stadium was proposed to be built downtown on almost the same site as the current proposal.

City and county governments agreed to fund a new $5 million riverfront ballpark, but architectural hang-ups and political bickering stalled its progression, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

The county government had reservations about expensive drainage costs, among other things.

Former team owner Bill Scripps said he was within days of signing the proposed lease with the coliseum authority when things bogged down.

"There are some definite problems there, but I think we'll be able to work them out," Scripps told The Chronicle. "I'm confident they're going to come through for us."

Obviously, it didn't work out as commissioners wavered.

Ultimately, an agreement was reached to refurbish Heaton Stadium at its same location, and construction began on Lake Olmstead Stadium in September of 1994.

Mayor Deke Copenhaver, who is partnering with GreenJackets ownership group Ripken Baseball on the new proposal, said the same problems shouldn't arise.

"My understanding is that the initial location for the proposed stadium (in 1993) was closer to 13th Street, closer to a neighborhood that had some concerns," he said.

"This location would be on the other end of the site, with the (Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and Botanical Gardens) providing a buffer," he said. "And there's so much more they can do with lighting these days, that it shouldn't be a problem.

"So I don't think the issues from back then will be a problem this time."


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