A new stadium for the Sand Gnats at Savannah River Landing?

Amidst all the news about the new report critical of the management of the Savannah-Chatham police force, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of online chatter today about some other big news from Thursday.

From Eric Curl’s piece in the Savannah Morning News, Savannah City Council open to new stadium:

Savannah City Council members said Thursday they would like to further consider a proposal by the Sand Gnats’ minor league baseball team owner for a new multi-use stadium.

Mayor Edna Jackson and city aldermen agreed that a feasibility study would need to be conducted before the city could support the construction of a stadium at the stalled Savannah River Landing site. […]

[Hardball Capital CEO Jason] Freier said the project would cost the city between $1.6 million and $1.9 million a year for thirty years. A majority of the cost of construction, maintenance and operations would be covered by private investment during that time period, he said.

I was against any serious talk of a stadium going back more than a year ago when it seemed that backers of the project were hoping to divert $20 million currently in the bank for a new arena. But now that the arena money is secure and voters have approved the arena project a second time in the recent SPLOST vote, why not give some thought to a stadium?

But, wow, so many issues:

  • There’s a great deal of affection for Grayson Stadium. What happens to Grayson if the Sand Gnats move? (Without a new stadium, it seems likely the Gnats will move anyway.)
  • The quoted cost at Thursday’s workshop is considerably higher than earlier estimates of about $20 million.
  • What would this mean for Savannah River Landing? Would we have to abandon the Oglethorpe Plan extension — a plan that has already required significant infrastructure and that has attracted worldwide attention? (See my 2012 post Savannah River Landing: will Oglethorpe plan be part of its future?)
  • Given the city’s commitment to a new arena, would a stadium divert energy and compete for business with that project?
  • Hardball Capital frequently cites all the public events at the stadium in Fort Wayne that was built largely with public money. Why then aren’t there more things besides a farmers’ market on the stadium’s event calendar?
  • If the city builds a new stadium at Savannah River Landing, presumably that would remain on public land in perpetuity, which means more maintenance down the road and no additional property taxes.
  • Would we really see development follow a new stadium? Or will SRL eventually develop in a logical way, with a new hotel next to the Marriott, a couple of other big buildings next to that, etc.?
  • There’s no mention in Eric’s article of the cost of simply acquiring the land at SRL?

I actually think that if the arena money is spent prudently, we could  cover a large portion of the bill for a new stadium via the 2014-2020 SPLOST. So I’m not opposed to further study of the feasibility of the idea.

But there are a lot of questions and issues that would have to be addressed.

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