Reichert’s proposed baseball study delayed

lmorris@macon.comSeptember 26, 2013 

After listening to a second presentation in less than 15 hours on the merits of a baseball stadium in Macon, the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority took no action on the matter during its Thursday meeting.

Wednesday night, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert hosted a meeting at the downtown Tic Toc Room restaurant for the authority and members of a partnership headed by Atlanta-based Huntley Partners Inc.

The dinner meeting’s purpose was to make a pitch to the authority to pay for a feasibility study that would look at the merits of bringing minor league baseball back to the city.

While authority members expected a different presentation during its Thursday meeting -- including the cost of a study -- what they heard was basically the same as the night before, except shorter, said Alex Morrison, executive director of the authority.

However, knowing the cost may not have made a difference.

The consensus of the authority Thursday is to wait until the authority’s own master plan is completed before considering a baseball stadium study. The in-house master plan is to be finished in October, Morrison said.

Authority Chairman Chris Sheridan said that while the authority appreciated getting information about the impact of a potential ballpark, “the last thing we need is another study” until some other studies are completed.

“The (Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce) is doing an economic development study,” Sheridan said. “The mayor has just finished a study of the Second Street Corridor. It has been completed, but it hasn’t been absorbed. ... So the first issue is to conceptualize (the ballpark) idea along (with the other studies) and look at this being part of a much larger issue. We will take it under advisement.”

The Huntley Partners partnership comprises Michael Woollen with Charlotte, N.C.-based Odell architecture firm, Darren Varner with CHA Sports of Kansas City, Mo., and Macon land planner Zan Thompson with ZT3 Placemaker Studio.

“These (ballpark) projects can bring in 700,000 people a year, and (fans) can linger before and after a game,” said Woollen, whose firm is overseeing a new stadium in Charlotte. “(A ballpark) creates opportunities for ancillary development ... where the ballpark is part of a larger, mixed-use development.”

Most new stadium projects have been public-private projects, he said.

The feasibility study would include many factors, such as whether baseball could work in Macon, how a new stadium might be financed and where it would be located.

The initial phase of a study would determine if there is a good site for a ballpark, Varner said.

“It could be downtown or somewhere else,” he said. “It could be land the city already owns. We might need between 8 to 10 acres.”

Thompson said a ballpark, where about 65 home games would be played each season, also could be used to attract college tournaments and concerts.

Macon has a long tradition of affiliated minor league baseball -- Luther Williams Field is the second oldest ballpark in the country -- but the city has been without an affiliated minor league team since the Macon Braves left after the 2002 season.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To reach writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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