Don't swing yet at pitch for stadium

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An enthusiastic mayor teams up with a baseball hall-of-famer to convince the city to build a downtown baseball stadium.

The scene is Augusta, Ga. But the scenario has already played out in Aberdeen, Md. And according to reports in The Sun of Baltimore, Aberdeen is taking a financial hit as a result.

An Augusta committee headed up by Mayor Deke Copenhaver recently visited downtown stadiums in Greensboro and Durham, N.C., and members were very impressed with the vitality and atmosphere the facilities create. They are thinking Augusta could do the same thing on riverfront property along Reynolds Street next to the botanical gardens on the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame site.

Certainly the Aberdeen stadium is drawing plenty of folks.

"Every game has been a sellout since the 6,000-seat stadium opened in 2002," says the Sun.

Maybe that's because Baltimore legend Cal Ripken, who also owns the Augusta GreenJackets, is behind it - and has done a ton for promoting baseball and the city of Aberdeen, including holding a baseball academy where youths learn the "Ripken way."

"But even on days like this," the Sun reports, "when the city-owned stadium is packed, Aberdeen loses money.

"The Harford County community owes $6.7 million in stadium-related debt, and millions in interest, on a payment schedule stretching to 2022. The city's stadium fund has posted operating losses that total more than $1 million since 2001, forcing Aberdeen to dip into its treasury."

When the stadium was built, the city's entire budget was $7 million.

Earlier this year, the Aberdeen mayor who inherited the project flirted with trying to sell the stadium, but found it wasn't feasible.

The Sun says Aberdeen officials "never fully made public the extent of Aberdeen's financial strains," but that "their disenchantment was growing behind the scenes."

"Municipalities, especially this one, shouldn't be in this type of business," Aberdeen Mayor S. Fred Simmons said in a 2005 e-mail.

A key problem in Aberdeen is that the city relied on a nearby land development to cover the costs - but the development has yet to materialize.

In addition, says an Aberdeen official who spoke to us off the record, the city was clearly outgunned in negotiations. Ripken "has the best (sports) lawyer ever," the official said. "You would expect him to."

In contrast, city officials didn't realize how much revenue would be available from advertising, and didn't get the city a cut of it.

The Aberdeen official said no one from Augusta has asked them about their experience. "If (Mayor Copenhaver) ignores what's going on with the city of Aberdeen, that would really be a shame," the official said.

Copenhaver said he's been assured by the Ripken folks that the Sun articles were the result of a journalist with an ax to grind. Indeed, Chris Flannery, chief operating officer for Ripken Baseball, called the articles a "hatchet job."

"The city never said those things," he said.

He said Aberdeen is hurting from higher-than-expected infrastructure costs and the yet-to-materialize land development, but that city officials are generally happy with things.

"(The Sun) chose to focus on the bad news rather than the good news," Flannery said. "We're passionate about what we're doing here."

But the Aberdeen official we talked to said officials there were "real pleased with (the Sun reporters') articles," and that the newspaper had done extensive homework.

"I would say don't get into the sports facility business," the Aberdeen official said.

Does this mean Augusta shouldn't? Not at all. What it does mean is that Augusta needs to explore the idea of a riverfront stadium with eyes wide open. And should it come down to negotiating a contract, the city can't rely on its own resources, or even local attorneys; it needs the best in the business representing the city's interests.

The Aberdeen experience is a cautionary tale.

"We didn't have the right expertise," the Aberdeen official said. "And that's why we're in the situation we're in."

If Augusta decides to take the plunge, it's only right that all parties sink or swim together.

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sjgraci
2
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sjgraci 08/05/07 - 02:00 am
0
0
Billy Morris is against the

Billy Morris is against the stadium Downtown as he was 12 years ago. "Hatchet job", that is exactly what this editorial is, swung by Billy himself.

Da Voice Inside Your Head
7
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Da Voice Inside Your Head 08/05/07 - 02:39 am
0
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There is nothing wrong with

There is nothing wrong with the current stadium. There is no need to spend the money for a new one. The city does not need to be in the land development business. They already have one venue that has never broken even, not ever come close to making a profit. (Except for thr Hotel /Motel Tax).The Civic Center need major work. If your going to pour money down a rat hole at let it be a hole that can be used all year/all weather.Make the JBA bigger. But there are too many other things that the city needs than another venue that will sit empty six or more months a year. If Cal wants a new stadium, let HIM pay for it!

coco rubio
50
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coco rubio 08/05/07 - 02:53 am
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i'd like to know more about

i'd like to know more about the stadiums in durham & greensboro.....and the one in rome, georgia.....and i'm sure we'd have to negotiate fair terms.....i think deke & cal will do it right.......

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 08/05/07 - 04:49 am
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0
Great article. Of course the

Great article. Of course the Mayor should contact other towns with Ripken stadiums in them. That's just smart business. Relying on the Ripken point of view alone is silly. Of course it would be biased. I would love to see a stadium down town, and I would like to see it negotiated with eyes wide open. REWRITE THE CHARTER.

scoobydostwin
1
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scoobydostwin 08/05/07 - 07:45 am
0
0
A word to the wise should be

A word to the wise should be sufficient. Those that have businesses downtown are for it, and i understand that, but to go into this venture without good professional help would be foolish, coco. The taxpayers should not be expected to have to pay for your success. You are half right. Cal will do it right. I question whther the city will.

scoobydostwin
1
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scoobydostwin 08/05/07 - 07:50 am
0
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Another observation for you

Another observation for you Coco. Read the other editorial about the delays in completing projects funded by the SPLOST money. Do you still think that Augusta will do it right?

jleyes
24
Points
jleyes 08/05/07 - 12:47 pm
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interesting that the article

interesting that the article only claims to have Aberdeen officials "off the record", if it is such a problem up there why wouldn't they speak "on the record"?

Why hide your name unless you have something to hide yourself, like maybe the truth?

coco rubio
50
Points
coco rubio 08/05/07 - 12:48 pm
0
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i think this will be good for

i think this will be good for the whole community.....i'm not going to get into downtown -vs- other neighborhoods......and yes, i think the other projects need to be completed too......we should all expect more from our gov't and demand that things are done right......with that in mind, we have to plan for the future....and i think a downtown stadium would be a good move for the future development of our city......and i kinda expected the chronicle to be against this stadium.....i mean come on, that's prime real estate for mr. morris, right? so, instead of doing nothing and planning for nothing......i stand by my decision to support this downtown baseball stadium!!!

scoobydostwin
1
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scoobydostwin 08/05/07 - 01:36 pm
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I don't read anything in this

I don't read anything in this editorial that say" Don't build a stadium downtown". What it does say is ' Proceed with caution". Makes sense to me. Lets don't be like a blind hog in a pea patch. Coco, don't accuse Billy Morris of being self serving. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

coco rubio
50
Points
coco rubio 08/05/07 - 01:50 pm
0
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at least you know who i am,

at least you know who i am, mr. anonymous freelancer.......and i'm all for negotiating a good deal for the stadium......but, an editorial with "off the record" comments by city officials is pretty lame in my opinion......again, i'd like to see more research about other stadiums around the country in mid size cities like augusta.........that's all.

Michael Ryan
648
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Michael Ryan 08/05/07 - 01:50 pm
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Regarding why the Aberdeen

Regarding why the Aberdeen official was off the record, that was my idea completely. I didn't want diplomacy, I wanted the truth. Michael Ryan, editorial page editor

Little Lamb
45869
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Little Lamb 08/05/07 - 01:54 pm
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How about this novel idea,

How about this novel idea, "THE GREENJACKETS SHOULD BUILD THEIR OWN STADIUM ! !" The city is struggling with operating the civic center, they are struggling to figure out how to build a new courthouse, they are struggling with an "operations" agreement with Morris on the losses that will inevitably come with the convention center. Please don't let our city get into another entertainment venue.

LaTwon
1
Points
LaTwon 08/05/07 - 01:56 pm
0
0
beats the hell out of a

beats the hell out of a dragstrip. when fuel is 8 dollars a gallon
people will be moving back into town and north augusta is booming. they are going to spend our money one way or the other. what happens to the new/old one?

coco rubio
50
Points
coco rubio 08/05/07 - 02:02 pm
0
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nice to meet you, mr.

nice to meet you, mr. ryan.....i appreciate this forum for exchanging ideas......could you please let us know about the other baseball stadiums in durham & greensboro? i'd love to know more.......gracias!!!

scoobydostwin
1
Points
scoobydostwin 08/05/07 - 02:22 pm
0
0
Everyone who posts on these

Everyone who posts on these forums are anonymous with the exception of a few. If you would like to know my name give me your e mail address and I will send it to you. I am NOT against a stadium. I am only in favor of proceeding with caution. I am also of the opinion that some, like you, are in favor of one for self serving reasons. I don't fault you for being for it. I think though that those of us that read your comments should understand your motive.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 08/05/07 - 02:57 pm
0
0
Aberdeen, MD is about a tenth

Aberdeen, MD is about a tenth the size of Augusta.. and it's stadium is not located in it's downtown. But its much larger than Augusta's current ballpark at Lake Olmstead (IN fact Lake Olmstead Stadium is one of the smallest in the minor leagues). BUt Aberdeen's smaller size and tax base is going to make financing a large stadium a larger burden than it would be in Augusta. I don't think you go into building something like a new stadium downtown with the expectation that it is going to make a huge profit.. but rather the residual effects it will have on downtown revitalization. The problem with the current stadium is that it really has no residual economic impact on the community surrounding it. A downtown stadium would be different. The more attractions you cluster downtown.. the more you get to a critical mass of activity to support new businesses. IT makes downtown more of a destination than it currently is. The truth is, Billy Morris has designs on that property.. he probably wants another sweetheart deal where the city paractically gives him the land like it did for his hotel and office building. I wouldn't put much stock in what Billy Morris thinks is good for downtown.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 08/05/07 - 03:04 pm
0
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Do we know these other

Do we know these other cities? Do they have a "disfunctional" government? Does the community have forward thinking leadership?Do they have politicians whose only purpose is to build thier own egos and careers? Augusta is fast becoming the Detroit of the past. Ventures that would be successful any other place will not work in Augusta. People be real. As Chevy Chase once said, "we are living at the gates of hell".

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 08/05/07 - 03:07 pm
0
0
The hypocrisy in this

The hypocrisy in this editorial is so blatant it hurts. Remember a couple of years back when Billy Morris wanted the taxpayers of Augusta to foot the entire bill for his Sports Arena? The memorandum of understanding his team had drawn up was so one-sided in his favor that Augusta voters saw right through it and rejected it twice at the polls. Morris's Chronicle ran only "glowing" pieces about how the Sports Arena would be a "shot in the arm" for Augusta's economy.. with no substantive evidenceto back it up.. instead of advising cautious study of the proposal.. they cheered on "full steam ahead." Morris' group seemed to get annoyed anytime critics of the arena proposal raised legitmate concerns over the financing formula and the memorandum of understanding that would give Morris's group Augusta Entertainment, LLC virtually complete control over the facility. Only Augusta's independent weekly paper The Metro Spirit did an in depth investigative piece into al of the particulars of the arrangement. Several commissioner seemed to be ready to rubber stamp the project with no debate or discussion. Now Morris heeds caution.. how convenient for him.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 08/05/07 - 03:08 pm
0
0
One tenth the "brain size"?

One tenth the "brain size"? Or one tenth the people? Remember Augusta's status as the "second largest city in GA" is only a matter of "pen and paper". There is no way that Augusta compares to Savannah or Columbus in any meaningful category.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 08/05/07 - 03:13 pm
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Billy Morris is no different

Billy Morris is no different that the "Dekester". They are bvoth building empires for themselves. Do you think for one minutes that Deke Coperhaven is not going to reap rewards from his association with Cal Ripken. I beleive Cal Ripken is a gentleman. But he is also a businessman. A new stdium is good business for his organization. The "moral issues" lie with the leadership of Augusta and their use of the taxpayers money.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 08/05/07 - 03:14 pm
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I have been to Aberdeen,

I have been to Aberdeen, MD..it is MUCH MUCH smaller than Augusta. I was quite surprised that a city its size even had a minor league team and moreso a ballpark the size it has. Chattanooga, Greensboro and Durham are more appropriate cities to compare to Augusta.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 08/05/07 - 03:16 pm
0
0
Georgia was once known as the

Georgia was once known as the "Empire State of the South". We do have 159 little empires. Look at the history. Look at the facts.

deekster
24
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deekster 08/05/07 - 03:17 pm
0
0
Move the "Columbiana" where

Move the "Columbiana" where we serve King Ron Cross and he supplies our needs (-:

jack
10
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jack 08/05/07 - 03:17 pm
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The great plus for those

The great plus for those cities with successful down town stadiums is that they probably have FUNCTIONAL governments.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 08/05/07 - 03:19 pm
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Deke Copenhaver has done more

Deke Copenhaver has done more for the city of Augusta.. than Billy Morris could ever hope to do... and its really a shame.. with his money.. Morris could really do great things for Augusta.. but anytime he does get involved in downtown projects they come with huge strings attached for the taxpayers and always heavily favor Morris' interests over those of Augusta. Unlike Our former Mayor who used the position as merely a resume padder to move up in THe GOP, I think Deke wants to be mayor to truly make Augusta a better city. And in his short time as mayor, look at what all he has been able to accomplish.

deekster
24
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deekster 08/05/07 - 03:20 pm
0
0
Hillguy you have go to be

Hillguy you have go to be kidding? Greensboro, Durham, Chattanooga? Do you live in Richmond County GA? Try comparing it to Waynesboro or Swainsboro.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 08/05/07 - 03:24 pm
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What are his list of

What are his list of "objective" accomplishment? We haven't run out of water. We have replaced manufacturing jobs with "call centers". We have an enless list of lawsuits against the county. Oh Deke got to go to the Master's. He got a cap and autographed balls from "Cal". He will be moving up (-:

scoobydostwin
1
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scoobydostwin 08/05/07 - 03:43 pm
0
0
Aberdeen is 30 miles from

Aberdeen is 30 miles from Baltimore in an area that is heavily populated. There is a labor force of 300,000 within a 30 minute drive. The Aberdeen proving grounds are there. Many big companies, Frito Lay, Chorox and others have plants there. This is not a small town at all. I have seen pictures of the Ripken stadium. it is a beautiful place. The political scene there is one to envy. To compare it with Augusta would make one laugh.

Little Lamb
45869
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Little Lamb 08/05/07 - 05:16 pm
0
0
Roberto may be close to the

Roberto may be close to the truth about Copenhaver. He started out saying things to indicate he was about healing poisonous relationships among city government leaders. But now his actions look like he's setting himself up for what comes after he leaves office. His rabid, rah-rah promotion for a baseball stadium (to be paid for by taxpayers (EVEN THOUGH WE ALREADY HAVE A GREAT BASEBALL STADIUM ! ! ) leads one to the conclusion that he has lost interest in governing the city, i.e., paving roads, hiring cops, getting city workers to work hard for their pay, etc. Oh, wait, the mayor is a figurehead. The hard work of making a city work is the responsibility of the administor and the commission. Deke is merely a cheerleader trying to get the commission to spend other people's money (namely the taxpayers).

WHEUBANKS
1
Points
WHEUBANKS 08/05/07 - 05:17 pm
0
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Why should the government,

Why should the government, any government, be in the stadium building business? To help downtown? Why not help the Gordon Highway area? Or South Augusta? The Regency Mall area has seen a hugh decline in the last 10 years. Why not build a ballpark or dragstrip to bring crowds to that area?

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