News 12 Special Assignment: Moving Home Plate

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, November 15, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Moving home's being called the next big step for Augusta. It's a so called economic engine that city leaders hope will bring people back downtown by the thousands.

Janna Crown is no stranger to Augusta. She has lived here all her life. But staying in the city she says is becoming more of a drag. "There was always a lot of fun stuff to do downtown and they just don't do it anymore."

City leaders hope bringing a ballpark to downtown will change that. The project is being modeled after stadiums in Durham and Greensboro, North Carolina.

"These are all cities that have done this type of project. Where they may have had naysayers at the beginning no one's complaining now. It has totally revamped their city," says Green Jackets General Mangager, Nick Brown.

"Looking at it from strictly a design standpoint, I get really excited walking that piece of property and seeing how the botanical gardens can merge...even the golfing synergy with the baseball name the Green Jackets...I think there is a lot there," says Cal Ripkin, Jr.

"It is not just a baseball stadium. If you look at Turner Field in Atlanta...think Turner Field but shrunken down a bit. It is a true mixed use entertainment complex that would be in use 12 months out of the year," says Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver.

The game plan is to move the Green Jackets from Lake Olmstead to along the Savannah River, but things have been stuck for months now...the hold-up is the feasibility study.

"The feasibility study I know is something that we've all been waiting on. It's just having had to go out to the private sector to raise the funds, and that has not been as easy as we anticipated."

Here are the numbers...the study would cost $48,500 dollars. The city has raised all but $2,500 in private money. The mayor says, "These things take time and we want to do it the right way."

The current Green Jackets stadium was $3 million dollars. It seats about 4,500 people. The new stadium would be $20 million dollars seating 6,000 people. The general manager says he's willing to put his money where his mouth is to get the job done.

"We fully believe in this project and it's not just gone be the burden of the city and the taxpayers we're looking to invest in this project because we believe in it."

"Oh yeah, they'll say that. You wait three or four years down the road...then they want to put another one cent option to pay for it. That's why I say no; I don't agree to it," says Charles Bland.

Mayor Copenhaver hit the road looking for potential investors...destination Atlanta and Jacoby Development. It is possibly the beginning of a big partnership.

First Jim Jacoby visited Augusta, then he invited the mayor to his place for a closed door meeting...Jacoby's claim to fame is Atlantic Station, a $2 billion dollar development with shops and businesses and homes all in one place. The developer, Jim Jacoby, is now in talks with Augusta's mayor to bring something similar to downtown Augusta."

"Generally, towns of Augusta's size don't always get interests of people of that caliber so it's very exciting for me personally," says the mayor.

"I don't know so much about the park down here because I don't know if its gone do everything they say it's gone do for business, and I don't know if they have enough parking to be honest with you," says restaurant owner, George Harrison.

"I like the idea of people parking all over downtown because I think the restaurant owners and store owners would appreciate that type of traffic," says Clint Bryant, athletic director at Augusta State.

"We'd love to see that, definitely. More business is always better," says Terra Shepherd.

Mayor Copenhaver says, "A true mixed use facility generating activity on our riverfront 12 months out of the year and used by the community 12 months out of the year...that to me is a home run for Augusta."

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