Augusta Team Report | May 17

Augusta is hardly the first team planning a new downtown and/or riverfront stadium, combining both in a proposal that's far from a sure thing. How would a new stadium affect baseball in the South Atlantic League?

RECORD: 27-12 (.692), Second place in the Southern Division (1 1/2 games behind Asheville)

Not many teams have a stadium newer than Augusta's Lake Olmstead Stadium, but that's not stopping the GreenJackets and the City of Augusta from pursuing a new park.

Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver is pursuing the idea, and that pursuit is kicking into full gear as his exploratory commission is visiting other new minor league stadiums to study the possibility.

The plan is for Augusta to build this new stadium along the city's waterfront, next to the city's Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and Botanical Gardens, which has been having problems recently. The idea is that, like has happened with many (but not all) new stadiums, the stadium would have a revitalizing effect, not only affecting existing nearby businesses, but also bringing new business to the area.

The idea certainly has merit, especially after the group visited Greenville this past week. Greenville is the new home of the old Augusta major league affiliate, the Boston Red Sox. They recently built West End Field, which was built entirely with private financing, but with significant land contributions by the city of Greenville. The park was actually built without a team in place, when the Atlanta Braves moved their team-owned Double-A affiliate out of Greenville and into Mississippi due to the lack of progress on a new stadium in 2004.

Greenville was able to attract the Capital City Bombers to move in as the new stadium was finished for the 2006 season. The park, sitting on an unusual piece of land, contains a mini-Green Monster in left (it's Greenville… get it?) and a very unique, very intimate setting. The result was an award-winning park.

That's not to say every new park has been a success, at least for the cities involved.

Charlotte, North Carolina, recently put in more than half of the construction for its new ballpark, but the team reaps almost all the benefits of the new stadium directly with little indirect repercussions around the city.

So where would a new Augusta stadium fit in?

Augusta is looking at a waterfront design, so instead of a mini-monster the team might make its own version of the "Cove Shots" that have become popular in San Francisco, but that would be a gimmick more than anything. And waterfront stadiums are hardly rare after San Francisco broke that mold.

But a move to downtown might benefit Augusta, an old-time town in Georgia whose largest sporting event is not the baseball team. Placing the new stadium near a golf-related venue makes sense for the team, considering even their mascot is golf-inspired.

But one has to wonder how financially sound the move would be. Augusta has had baseball for a long time, but this incarnation of the team has only been in town since 1988. They played in old Heaton Stadium before it was replaced by Lake Olmstead Stadium in 1995. Lake Olmstead, while not a jewel as celebrated like some parks, is a comfortable park with few detractors. It's also quite new, and was built at a $3 million price tag. And while Lake Olmstead is surrounded by more woods and neighborhoods than homes, it's hardly miles and miles from downtown.

Ultimately the decision for the move will be decided by Augusta voters and no one else. But this impending move should have a lot of people watching.

Roster Moves: David Newton, the AZL team closer in 2006, was moved from San Jose to Augusta after posting a 6.35 ERA in 10 games in High-A.

Player of the Week: Bret Pill

Pill -- a projected slugger in college who never developed like teams wanted him to, -- is starting to come out of his shell. Pill went 6-for-12 early this week before taking an 0-for-4 on Tuesday to finish the week's performance. He also drew four walks and hit two doubles. Unfortunately he still has just one home run on the season.

By The Numbers: 15 of 17

That's the streak that the Asheville Tourists went on to dethrone Augusta from its first-place perch the past couple of weeks, since April 27. During the same time, the GreenJackets went 9-8, including losing six of its last seven games.



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