Stadium builders toss inside pitch to Macon-Bibb Development Authority

pramati@macon.comSeptember 25, 2013 

Huntley Partners Inc. made its pitch to the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority on Wednesday night to fund a study to see if it’s feasible to bring back minor league baseball to the city.

Whether it will be a hit will be discussed at the authority’s Thursday morning board meeting.

That’s when board members will get more information about the cost, scope and time frame of doing the feasibility study, authority Executive Director Alex Morrison said.

“There was definitely some interesting information,” Morrison said of Wednesday night’s half-hour presentation. “I look forward to seeing the rest of the proposal. The notion of baseball is very exciting, but we need to see the full scope of their proposal.”

The bulk of the presentation at the downtown Tic Toc Room was given by Mike Woollen of Charlotte, N.C.-based Odell and Darren Varner of CHA Sports out of Kansas City, Mo. Both firms have extensive experience developing ballparks across the country.

Members of the authority were shown the potential economic impact a new stadium can have, in addition to revitalizing parts of downtown.

Woollen, whose firm is overseeing construction of a new baseball stadium in Charlotte, said that new stadium will fill the “hole in the doughnut” to the part of downtown in which it’s being constructed. The Charlotte Knights are expected to see revenue jump from $4 million a year to $13 million when they move into the new park, while the city itself has planned for 7,000 new residential units in that part of downtown.

Local developer Zan Thompson noted several stadiums across the country that have seen all sorts of positive gains with new ballparks.

For example, Greenville, S.C., had an investment of $16 million for its new downtown ballpark, and has seen a 31 percent rise in property values within a half-mile of the stadium. In addition, 110 new businesses have opened in that area over the past four years.

Rome, which built a $15 million stadium and lured the Braves’ South Atlantic League franchise away from Macon after the 2002 season, has booked 2,500 hotel rooms during each season thanks to 30 percent of the team’s attendance coming from outside the city.

Varner said the feasibility study would include many factors as to whether baseball could work in Macon, how a new stadium might be financed, and where it would be located. A stadium usually requires 10 to 12 acres.

The presenters said most recent stadium projects have been public-private partnerships, with private money accounting for four or five times every tax dollar spent.

Though Macon has a long tradition of affiliated minor league baseball -- Luther Williams Field is the second oldest ballpark in the country -- the city has been without an affiliated minor league team since the Braves left. Several independent league teams couldn’t make it out of their first season before folding.

In addition, two minor league hockey franchises and the Macon Knights arena football team also folded.

Morrison said the question of why those teams were unsuccessful and what would be different for a future team would have to be addressed if the study is commissioned.

“I think that’s one of the things they would have to answer for us,” he said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service