When I first heard Tuesday about Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert’s tentative plan to build a minor league baseball park across the street from the Marriott City Center, I thought, no thanks, nope, no way.
Minor league baseball? Yes.
In that location? No thanks. Nope. No way.
As I have written before, I’d rather see a park built near Interstate 75 in southern Bibb County or Byron to draw more folks from around the area and make it a Middle Georgia team and not just a Macon team. We have seen the Macon teams fail enough times, haven’t we?
But the more I read about Mayor Reichert’s plan Tuesday night, the more it started to make sense if it’s done the right way (and a downtown stadium located just off I-16 could still include folks from outside of Macon to watch the team).
It seems like his plan, which again is just tentative, is being handled the right way. As The Telegraph’s Jim Gaines wrote Tuesday, “There’s no timeline, funding plan or formal approval.” It’s just a concept, but it sounds like a good one.
Reichert said, “I would not want to build it without someone saying that they were interested in coming if we build it.”
That’s good to hear.
It would be great to have a team. It would be a positive for the quality of life in our area for folks to have one more thing to do outside with their families and enjoy the Georgia summers. I’m all for that. Minor league baseball can be special again, if done right.
But we don’t need to dump a lot of money into a stadium without a commitment from a team to come to our area. If we can’t get that, we need to wait until we can. Or just dump this idea altogether.
If we can get that commitment, let’s do it. And if this location Reichert has chosen will work, let’s go forward quickly with it. This is a good time to do it with the Atlanta Braves planning to move their stadium to Cobb County in the next few years, and Reichert made reference to that Tuesday.
“I thought that with baseball in Atlanta changing the way it is and moving the Braves’ stadium up into Cobb County, it’s going to make it a lot more difficult for people from Macon and Warner Robins to get to a baseball game and home in one evening,” he told Gaines.
The Braves’ move is going to make it more difficult for Middle Georgia fans to get to their stadium to see the state’s big league club. Let’s take advantage of the window while it’s open and have our team here in our area.
So what kind of team could we draw? First, it has to be a team affiliated with a major league club. That’s non-negotiable. Non-affiliated teams or leagues? We have seen that before. It’s a non-starter.
Does it have to be a Braves affiliated team? Well, that certainly would be nice, and it would be preferable for the team to have ties to the Braves. But it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for it to be affiliated with another franchise.
Take a look at Greenville, South Carolina, which long was home of the Braves’ Double-A team. Greenville lost that team to Mississippi because it couldn’t get a new stadium built (sound familiar?), but then it did come up with a new stadium downtown (the city’s old one was a little outside of downtown). In doing so, the city landed a Red Sox affiliate -- the Drive -- and that has been a huge success.
So, yes, it would be great to get a Braves team, but it doesn’t have to be a Braves team to work. It just has to be done right.
This could be a success for our downtown, and that doesn’t have to end with the stadium. Reichert mentioned adding small hotels, restaurants and a parking deck to the area, and that would be huge to making this work. You can’t just build a stadium on that location with nothing around it and expect folks to flock to it to watch the team. Adding some nice restaurants and building some foot traffic around the stadium would be a big boost.
Plus, the stadium could be used for things other than the baseball team. It could host other games: maybe pitch to the GHSA to host its baseball championships in a centralized location or make a pitch with Mercer to host an NCAA regional or super regional). It could also host outdoor concerts, other events or even fireworks displays. The possibilities are endless.
We’re just getting started with this process, but it’s going to be interesting to see where it goes from here. It would be great to have a team, and this location looks like it would work.
Let’s just make sure it’s done the right way.
Contact Daniel Shirley at 744-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org