Warner Robins seeking public input on minor league idea

chwright@macon.comJanuary 17, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- The city could go from Little League to minor league.

Warner Robins officials and some community members are asking for input from residents on the idea of bringing a minor league baseball team to town after a Wednesday meeting where they decided it could be a great economic boost and summer entertainment for locals.

“There are a number of people that thought, particularly with the Little League interest here, it could be” a viable idea, Councilman Mike Brashear said Thursday.

Mayor Chuck Shaheen wrote in an e-mail that he agreed to “help mediate with Major League to bring a Minor League team” to the city when some residents asked him to do so. He did not say when that occurred.

“Seems like there is a lot of interest in that area,” Shaheen wrote.

The idea came up last year, but it didn't go anywhere. Shaheen said at the time that a representative from the Augusta GreenJackets had explored Warner Robins as a possible city to relocate to, but an official with the team said there hadn’t been any dialogue with Warner Robins about the idea.

Sam Satterfield, a local business owner who was in Wednesday’s meeting, said the Augusta team has not been contacted recently about coming to Warner Robins, nor has any other team. He and Brashear said no official steps will be taken until public input is gathered.

However, Satterfield said, he met with the assistant general manager of the Rome Braves recently about the prospect, and the assistant general manager offered to help Warner Robins in the logistics phases.

“They think that it could create a good rivalry since they’re just two hours away,” Satterfield said.

Satterfield said after finding out whether the community is interested, it could be a long road to a team actually arriving. The group would need to develop a portfolio that includes a résumé and facility design, shop the portfolio to the more than 30 major league teams and have the facilities built.

Brashear said the aim is to find a private investor to fund any needed construction.

“We do not intend to fund this through the city,” Brashear said, adding sales tax dollars aren’t being considered either.

The councilman also said the games would most likely be affordable to local residents. He said admission to a Rome game is about $7, and parking is an additional couple of dollars.

“That’s certainly reasonable,” Brashear said. “That would be the ballpark figures -- no pun intended -- it would be to attend the ball game.”

Brashear and Satterfield said if Little League is used a gauge, it’s clear a minor league team could generate economic and tourism interest.

“We really think this could be something beneficial and very good for not just Warner Robins but also Houston County and the whole surrounding area,” Satterfield said.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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