Savannah residents are being asked to weigh in on a new Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) ballpark, as city officials want to determine public sentiment toward the project.
The poll is part of a $55,000 ballpark feasibility study performed by CH Johnson Consulting. Sand Gnats owner Jason Freier of Hardball Capital has proposed a ballpark on the Savannah River Landing site east of downtown, but city officials have stopped discussion of new ballpark pending the results of the study. It's feared in Savannah that Freier will be moving the Sand Gnats to a new ballpark in Columbia, S.C., which has approved a new-ballpark plan for 2016. The Sand Gnats currently play at Grayson Stadium, with Freier clear about the ballpark's unsuitability as a future venue for the team: the ballpark is landlocked with little opportunity for expansion or renovation. From Savannah Now:
On Monday, the city posted an online survey that attempts to gauge public interest in building a new multi-use stadium, as well as thoughts on funding such an endeavor....
Freier also expressed some anxiety about the survey, which he said can be an unreliable way to determine support. A majority of poll respondents were initially opposed to a new stadium in Fort Wayne, Ind., for the Hardball-owned TinCaps, Freier said, but sentiments were reversed after the stadium opened five years ago.
“If you do it right, you find that everybody likes it on the back end,” he said.
Indeed. It's a truism that folks hate the idea of a new publicly financed ballpark until it opens. In Fort Wayne, there was organized opposition to Parkview Field; now that the park is opened and creating economic development in downtown Fort Wayne, it's proven to be extremely popular.
The issue of Columbia is a big one, but just because relo papers have been filed doesn't mean it's a certainty Savannah will be without baseball: the Sand Gnats franchise could move, but another MiLB team should be shifted to Savannah. Or the Sand Gnats franchise could remain put and another MiLB franchise shifted to Columbia.
RELATED STORIES: Savannah to Columbia? Relo paperwork filed; Freier: We're still pursuing new Savannah ballpark; Freier: I may acquire new team for Columbia; This year should determine future of Sand Gnats; Sand Gnats exploring Columbia move?
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