April 10, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Downtown Augusta could soon have a new landmark, if the mayor gets his way.
Earlier today, Mayor Deke Copenhaver announced a committee to look into building a stadium for the Augusta GreenJackets downtown.
They already have a good idea of where it should go: next door to the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame's Botanical Gardens.
Both the mayor and GreenJackets co-owner Bill Ripken say a stadium built there would be a homerun for the team and for Augusta.
Mayor Copenhaver has formed a committee to look into the logistics.
"This is a project that I think can be widely supported throughout the community," he said.
"This area right here is great," Bill Ripken said. "I came down here yesterday when it was freezing, and I was downright giddy about what was going on. I think this setting right here, with this park and another possible park, is a great idea."
"I just think it's a win-win situation," Mayor Copenhaver said.
As the Augusta GreenJackets continue to grow their fan base, they are quickly outgrowing their home.
"We've grown," Ripken said. "We had the second highest attendance in minor league baseball last year, and there are 150 minor league teams out there."
If built at the botanical gardens, the stadium would sit on six acres, and the ten acre gardens would be open to the public.
The mayor says that's a good move for Augusta
"One of the marks of a truly great city is that you have public gardens," he said.
Bringing more attractions to the downtown area is just what businesses want. Many of them have been running a grassroots campaign to build a stadium downtown.
You can see the signs everywhere.
"I think it's the greatest thing that could happen," said Jeff Goelrelich of Ruben's Department Store. "Downtown needs it. It would be good for the community and good for baseball."
The stadium would cost about $20 million and be both public and privately funded.
This is not a done deal. The committee will make their recommendation in August.
If approved, the first pitch would not be thrown until 2010.
While the Golf Hall of Fame site has room for the gardens and the stadium, parking will have to go elsewhere. Mayor Copenhaver says there are approximately 4500 parking spaces around downtown that could service GreenJackets patrons, and that other avenues will also be explored.
If the GreenJackets move, the Salvation Army and ASU are both likely candidates to use Lake Olmstead Stadium.
"Both could use the facility," Mayor Copenhaver said. "One thing that I love is the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation that works with at-risk youth teaching them life skills through baseball. That also could be done at the stadium with the Salvation Army. That's something we're discussing with them at that facility. It would not be abandoned. It would continue to be used."
To see a rough plan of the proposed downtown stadium, click here.