Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert would not be ready to close the door on minor league baseball even if a feasibility study fails to garner enough votes Tuesday.
Macon-Bibb County spokesman Chris Floore said Monday that a study performed by a firm specializing in baseball remains the best route to determining the impact of the sport in Macon. Any other alternatives would only be explored if Tuesday’s resolution to hire a Washington, D.C.-based firm is rejected by the County Commission, he said.
Brailsford & Dunlavey, which has been involved in more than 50 ballpark projects in amateur, minor and professional leagues, was chosen by a selection committee earlier this year. In April, the commission approved having companies bid on the feasibility study.
If Tuesday’s vote fails, “then we had to re-evaluate what our next steps are,” said Floore, who later added that “we are committed to trying to bring back a minor league team to Macon-Bibb County.”
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The firm was chosen because, in part, of its connection to the minor leagues and its ability to analyze a variety of factors, he said.
The $50,000 for the study would come from bond funds from a tax allocation district around the former Bibb Mill site on Coliseum Drive. The old cotton mill is the location of a tentative development that Reichert unveiled plans for in 2014. Those plans call for surrounding a new baseball stadium with restaurants, small hotels and a parking deck.
After failing to upgrade Luther Williams Field, Macon lost its Atlanta Braves affiliate in 2002 to Rome, which built a stadium for the team. Since then, Macon has been home to several other lower-tiered baseball teams -- the Macon Peaches, Macon Music and Macon Pinetoppers -- all of which had brief runs.
One local agency that could provide some insight into baseball’s impact is the Middle Georgia Regional Commission. If requested by commissioners, it could perform an economic analysis and also compare how teams have fared in similar markets, said Laura Mathis, deputy director of the commission.
The agency would, however, need to work with another firm to assess how much it would cost to make improvements to Luther Williams or build a new stadium, she said.
The Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce does not perform the type of study needed to bring baseball to Macon, said Mike Dyer, president and CEO of the chamber.
Floore said that although the Regional Commission could perform some portions of a feasibility study, a firm like Brailsford & Dunlavey can handle all aspects.
“What we’re bringing this firm in for is for much larger services,” he said.
Minor league baseball was a topic of discussion while putting together the recent Macon Action Plan, and the logical next step that was determined was to hire an outside firm, said Alex Morrison, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.
The Urban Development Authority had conversations with minor league baseball affiliates and leaders from other cities to see what worked for them, Morrison said.
It’s a question of finding out if Macon can support a team.
“The only way you can do that is with an independent contractor,” he said.
While the study would look at potential sites for a stadium throughout Bibb County, the dynamics of downtown are better suited for one, NewTown Macon CEO Josh Rogers said.
There are 25,000 people who work downtown and another 9,000 in the urban core. The number of downtown lofts has doubled in the past three years -- from 250 to 500.
The hardest task is keeping up with a demand that says the market can handle 1,400 new lofts over the next seven years, Rogers said.
Having a stadium downtown would maximize the economic benefits of baseball in Macon-Bibb, he said.
“I think the county and taxpayers benefit from having activities in downtown, too,” Rogers said. “For those types of events, people will spend money in the shops, restaurants and bars.”
To contact writer Stanley Dunlap, call 744-4623 or find him on Twitter@stan_telegraph.