The next chance for a professional baseball team coming back to Macon could hinge on a feasibility study that Macon-Bibb officials are poised to discuss Tuesday.
A resolution to spend $50,000 on a market analysis and economic feasibility study for a minor league baseball team will go before the Macon-Bibb County Economic and Community Development Committee on Tuesday. The committee could decide whether to send the resolution before the full commission next month.
Management advisory firm Brailsford & Dunlavey was selected from eight companies by a committee comprising representatives from Mercer University, Macon-Bibb County and various boards, including the industrial and urban development authorities. The Washington D.C.-based company has been involved in 50-plus ballpark projects, including amateur, minor and major baseball leagues.
If approved by the committee and full commission, the study would be completed within 10 weeks of an initial planning meeting. One the main questions to determine is what kind of community support can be generated in Macon-Bibb, Mayor Robert Reichert said.
“If the community ponies up for the money for this, what can we expect? Will it generate jobs, generate economic development?” he asked. “The reason we settled with (Brailsford & Dunlavey) is because they had an excellent (resume) into the minor leagues. Nothing will get the project off the ground quicker, in our estimation, than getting the interest of a team affiliated with one of the major league teams.”
In 2002, Macon lost its Class-A minor league Atlanta Braves affiliate to Rome after Macon leaders failed to make improvements at Luther Williams Field, which Braves officials described as substandard.
Along with potential renovations at Luther Williams, the study will examine other locations such as the former Bibb Mill site on Coliseum Drive. In November 2014, Reichert unveiled a tentative redevelopment plan at the former cotton mill. That plan called for building a baseball stadium that would be surrounded by restaurants, small hotels and a parking deck.
Macon-Bibb is in a similar situation of having lost a minor league baseball team as Columbia, South Carolina, was several years ago. Brailsford & Dunlavey performed a feasibility study in the Palmetto State capital, which has since held a groundbreaking on a new stadium as it welcomes in another team.
“We went through a market analysis and developed a program that we think responds to the market, said Jason Thompson, regional vice president for Brailsford & Dunlavey. “You don’t want to go into Columbia and build a 12,000-seat stadium. You want to build a nice, cozy stadium.”
The company’s proposal said it will analyze the financial impact to Macon-Bibb over a 20-year period. The firm would work with Macon-Bibb to find public and private funding methods. Later on, the firm also could help negotiate a deal between a team and the city.
“We provide local officials with the info needed to make a good decision about spending money,” said Thompson, who would not be involved in the Macon study. “We’re not in the business of promoting ballparks being built in every single community in America.”
The $50,000 for the study would come from bond funds that are part of tax allocation district at the former Bibb Mill site.
Earl Barrs, owner of the 24-acre old cotton mill property, said he remains open to a baseball stadium being built at the location.
“It’s just trying to make sure we have a good chance for success and make it a part of an overall redevelopment on the site,” he said Monday.
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter