Russell: 'Private investment' to 'drive' new push for downtown stadium, tax dollars 'not on the table'

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- There is a new push for a stadium in downtown Augusta. The recent GHSU/ASU merger has city leaders saying they have found a way to pay for the development without putting taxpayers on the hook.

The ASU Alumni Association is supporting the merger.

"If I can get a large donation into the 10s of millions, I would love to name this university after somebody that is a big donor," said Dr. Ricardo Azziz.

The merger is also renewing talks of developing the abandoned 17-acre Golf and Gardens property.

"I am going to be listening to any proposal that is reasonable," Azziz said.

City Administrator Fred Russell is expected to present his vision to commissioners in the next 30 days.

"There is potential for some retail on that property and potential for a multi-use stadium that maybe the Ripkens and the university could share," Russell said. "Soccer, baseball, field hockey. Student housing? Potentially, yes."

The big question is who will foot the bill.

"Private investment," Russell said. "Private sector ... that's who needs to drive this particular train in my mind, and we've got people willing to at least look at the schedule."

Russell says he has identified investors willing to spend big bucks.

"There are ongoing conversations with a couple developers out of Atlanta that have a good track record of getting things done," Russell said. "They are interested in looking at investing in Augusta."

Russell says local taxpayers are not on the line.

"At this point, city tax dollars are not on the table," Russell said.

"If somebody else is willing to share the costs with us, then we might be willing to invest in it as well," Azziz said.

The schools hope to have their SACS accreditation proposal ready by October 2012.

The Augusta State University Alumni Association Board of Directors released this statement:
"As alumni of the Junior College of Augusta, Augusta College and Augusta State University, we would like to express our support of the consolidation of ASU and Georgia Health Sciences University. This is an exciting time and a new day for our alma mater, for GHSU, for Augusta, the region, the state and beyond.

We take tremendous pride and pleasure in the accomplishments of our fellow alums, the contributions of our faculty, staff and students. Founded nearly 40 years ago, our association has existed to support those accomplishments, to promote the interests and welfare of current and future generations of ASU alums and to afford a medium of participation for our members and the community.

As a group, we are 35,000 alumni strong. We are friends of the university. We are business partners. We are donors. We are knowledgeable. We are Jaguars.

As we move toward the future, it is our desire to remain a guiding force in the consolidation of these two great universities. With excitement, we look ahead to future opportunities for our alumni to connect with each other and our university. We also look forward to future growth of the alumni base, our association, all while acknowledging the exciting and challenging times that lie ahead.

We stand behind any progress that brings more recognition to our alma mater, to Augusta and to this region.

And we do so with Jaguar spirit."


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