Mayor to meet with governor, Ripken on Gardens

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June 11, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---It'll be a busy day ahead tomorrow for Augusta mayor Deke Copenhaver. He's planning to meet with two people who could influence the final outcome of the MCG Athens expansion and the Augusta Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens.

Georgia governor Sonny Perdue and GreenJackets owner Cal Ripken, Jr. will both be in town. The mayor says it's a good opportunity to discuss a plan of action for saving the gardens, a landmark that has historically been financially strapped.

He says it's a simple solution: join the botanical gardens with the new stadium.

"Part of this revolves around--we've got Cal Ripken in town tomorrow to address the Sports Authority and the baseball stadium," Copenhaver explained. "If you include the Golf Hall of Fame as part of the stadium project, then you're developing a facility that would get year-round traffic."

That year-round traffic would bring year-round revenue that could help ease the pressure of funding from the state. Copenhaver says he wants to concentrate his meeting with Governor Perdue on long-term budgeting issues for Augusta.

"Because you're looking at multiuse facility that I believe would generate enough revenue to cover the cost of running it where we're not going to the state year after year and asking for more money," Copenhaver said. "I'm just focused on meeting with the governor tomorrow, really enhancing the city of Augusta, educating more on what we've got going on here."

The mayor says he is confident that coupling the stadium and the botanical gardens as a package deal will benefit Augusta, and he says at this point it's the best option.

"There are a lot of creative ways we can come at this, but no, I'm not ready to give up hope yet," he said. "The Ripken folks are excited about it, I'm excited about it, and a lot of other people are too."

"I just believe the stadium is a great project, and if you incorporate it into the golf and gardens...there is no other moderately or major facility attached to the botanical gardens. It would be something unique to the United States of America, and that's what I want to see in Augusta," Copenhaver said.

Governor Perdue vetoed the full $633,685 appropriations for the gardens in the state budget.

It was announced that the botanical gardens will close June 30 due to lack of operating funds, but the mayor is holding onto hope that that won't happen.

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