Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Wednesday the city of Columbia held a public forum about building a new stadium for a minor league baseball team coming to Columbia.
Mayor Steve Benjamin says before they build a stadium at the old department of mental health campus, they will first enter a 30 year lease agreement with a minor league team. We are betting on Bull Street," said Jason Freier with Hardball Capital.
Freier is the owner of several minor league baseball teams. He says it is against league rules to talk about if a team is leaving, but says that's the only way a team can come to Columbia.
"Demographically the city of Columbia is very appealing; it is one of the largest cities in the country without any professional sports. But what got us interested in coming here is the Bull Street Development."
A feasibility study shows that the new stadium would cost a little more than 40 million dollars.
Mayor Benjamin says it would come from a mix of private and public funding.
Those at the forum like former council member Hamilton Osborne Jr. Says he doesn't think it's a good use of public funds.
"I just hate to see my city get into a situation like that. I think there are better ways to spend public money," said Osborne.
USC Athletic Director Ray Tanner commented on the potential minor league coming to the city and says:
"I'm all about the city of Columbia. As far as baseball is concerned, we are two entirely different products. I don't see it as a situation where they won't be successful because of us or we won't be successful because of them."
Osborne was on council when the Bombers played in Columbia and he said it was a fiscal nightmare.
"Their attendance was never what they expected so they blamed the city and said we weren't doing enough for them. They came to us with an endless list of demands and threatened to leave the city and we told them to leave and they left," said Osborne.
Freier says he is confident that the city can attract fans and have the stadium used for other events like concerts and races.
"We have tremendous faith in the track record that Bob Hughes has and its just a great location if you look at access and where it is in the city. It is extremely rare to find a parcel of land of that size right in the urban core of the city," said Freier.
Thursday, January 9:
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM: District I Community Forum | Earlewood Park Community Center
Tuesday, January 14:
4:00 - 5:30 PM: Baseball in Columbia | Live presentation from City Hall
Thursday, January 16:
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM: District II Community Forum | Cecil A. Tillis Center
Friday, January 17:
1:00 PM: Rotary Club of Five Points