Study: Macon can support minor league baseball team
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – One development firm says Macon-Bibb County can support a minor league baseball team.
Representatives from B&D Venues tell commissioners there are eight places where a new ballpark can be built. Some leaders argue building a facility downtown isn’t the best option.
Downtown loft and business space developer Bryan Nichols says he doesn’t mind having a baseball park downtown.
“Doing a development like that outside of downtown, to me, just really wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Nichols said.
He added a team would bring more people to the area’s stores and restaurants.
“Most of the stuff that we have downtown would fit perfectly in with a baseball game. Macon has become more of a sports oriented city just over the past few years,” Nichols said.
Results from a feasibility study show having a minor league team in the city is possible, but county leaders have some decisions to make.
“If the county decides to move forward with this project, then a site has to be determined,” Richard Neumann with B&D Venues said.
The development firm studied eight possible locations for a ballpark and ranked them in order.
- Those locations are:
- Mid-City Square
- South Capricorn
- Old Telegraph Office
- Bibb Mill
- Luther Williams Field
- Renaissance on the river
- Bibb County Jail
While Luther Williams Field was on the list of choices, developers say it isn’t the best option because of costsd to renovate and restore.
While some commissioners had questions about the proposals, Commissioner Scotty Shepherd wasn’t happy about the study’s findings altogether.
“Putting one downtown, we couldn’t get them to go to Luther Williams, how are we going to get them to come downtown,” he asked, referring to the Macon Braves departure from Macon.
Shepherd wants to see a stadium in the southern part of the county — he says the move could attract a fan base as far south as Cordele.
“I don’t think the people here downtown would ever support anything like that,” Shepherd said.
A proposed $37.7 million would be budgeted to build the stadium — the study showing the facility would create nearly 500 temporary and permanent jobs.
“If the right ballpark is built on the right site with the right team/owner/operator as the partner,” Neumann said.
In November, when B&D venues was first hired to do a baseball feasibility study; the firm said that Macon-Bibb could support a Minor League Baseball team again.
With the feasibility study complete, B&D came back to Macon-Bibb to outline their findings. The company says the biggest challenge will be securing corporate sponsorship revenue. According to B&D, it will not be possible to renovate Luther Williams Field to fit MiLB criteria. Therefore, the county will need to come up with roughly $37.7 Million for the ballpark, which doesn’t include land acquisition, parking, or off site infrastructure.
The next steps at this point are to select a location, find a source of funding, and talk to MiLB owners about relocating. According to B&D, if plans move forward, and construction begins this year or next, a team could be in Macon-Bibb by 2018.
Mayor Robert Reichert and commissioners plan on taking a trip to South Carolina in the spring to check out two minor league ball parks before making a decision moving forward.