Lake Olmstead park an option for community

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One of the main questions that has been raised with the proposal for a new downtown Augusta stadium regards the GreenJackets' current facility, Lake Olmstead Stadium.

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Lake Olmstead Stadium, home of the Augusta Greenjackets, sits beside at Lake Olmstead.  Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Lake Olmstead Stadium, home of the Augusta Greenjackets, sits beside at Lake Olmstead.

Located on Milledge Road north of Broad Street, it's the third-smallest park in the 16-team South Atlantic League with a capacity of 4,322, according to the team's Web site.

Completed in 1995, it cost approximately $3 million to build on the same site as the team's previous ballpark, Heaton Stadium.

The Downtown Stadium Exploratory Committee, which includes Augusta State athletic director Clint Bryant, has indicated ASU and Paine College's baseball teams could use the ballpark more frequently.

Charities such as the Salvation Army's Kroc Center and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation also could have multiple uses for the park.

Augusta State already plays as many as 10 to 12 of games at Lake Olmstead in the spring, according to GreenJackets assistant general manager Tom D'Abruzzo.

Since purchasing the team and the stadium in 2005, Ripken Baseball has invested approximately $1.5 million in improvements and basic maintenance upgrades.

Ripken officials say the park is adequate. But, they say, its access, design and location place considerable constraints on its growth in the community.

Ripken Baseball vice president Jeff Eiseman said only so much can be done with the stadium, which some say is outdated compared to others in the league, even in smaller markets.

"It was behind the times when I first got here (in 2005)," said GreenJackets manager Roberto Kelly, a former major leaguer who is employed by the San Francisco Giants organization. "They've made some improvements, but I'm sure the players and fans would want something new.

"We could use a new facility. We sure need it."

Adjacent to Lake Olmstead Park in an undeveloped part of the city, the current stadium is surrounded by vacant lots, the lake and a cemetery.

It provides mostly unpaved parking areas, which largely are free to the public. Two-lane Milledge Road provides the stadium's only access.

One of the reasons Ripken Baseball purchased the GreenJackets was the potential to grow as a partner with Augusta's business community, chief operating officer Chris Flannery said in April.

"When we purchased the club, the franchise was really wallowing along, hanging out in the bottom part of the league," Eiseman said. "There were a lot of vultures circling then, and we could've moved. The opportunity was available the day we bought the club, but we signed a lease at Lake Olmstead Stadium even though there was a park available in Columbia. We bought (the team) because we like the area, we care and we're invested in Augusta."

If the proposal fails, Eiseman said, it doesn't mean Ripken Baseball would move the team.

"If the park aspects were to fail, we'd lick our wounds, come back and try to figure out another way to do it. This isn't an all-or-nothing deal," Eiseman said.

"We're in it for the long haul."

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iletuknow
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iletuknow 07/29/07 - 06:48 pm
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"Underdeveloped part of the

"Underdeveloped part of the city" Does that mean it's located in a ghetto?

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