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Sand Gnats exploring Columbia move?

Savannah Sand GnatsColumbia (S.C.) Mayor Steve Benjamin wasn’t too subtle in describing a potential baseball partner for his city, leaving little doubt he was talking with Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) ownership about a new facility.

In a newspaper interview, Benjamin talked about the existing owner also owning a new team in the Midwest League, built with a private/public partnership in the last few years. Now, there aren’t too existing owners who built new ballparks in the Midwest League in recent years. That, of course, would be Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, an amazing achievement pulled off by Hardball Capital, which owns both the Gnats and TinCaps. (The interest in Sand Gnats management was confirmed by three other MiLB owners.)

Logically, the Sand Gnats are the only ream available for a move. We’ve been told for league travel balance teams won’t be allowed to move out of their geographic areas. Moving Hagerstown to Columbia, for example, just ain’t gonna happen — and besides, they’re talking new ballpark with Fredericksburg. Savannah to Columbia keeps the league geographic structure intact.

Right now there’s a lot of baseball talk in Columbia, complicated by the fact that the city never actually sold Capital City Stadium to a developer — nope, no Wal-Mart on sacred baseball grounds any time soon — but no matter, as the city wants to move on a new development:

Benjamin told The State he plans to visit later this month a stadium that the undisclosed owner has built in the Midwest. It and its public/private funding model could serve as a template for a new stadium here, he said.

The stadium would be the centerpiece of the redeveloped 181-acre State Hospital campus on Bull Street, considered to be the most significant land deal in the city’s modern history. Bull Street developer Bob Hughes of Greenville has said a stadium is a key to the development’s success.

“We have a rich baseball history here and we have to find a way to perpetuate it,” Benjamin said.

Developer Bob Hughes has a little experience with baseball as a core part of development: his portfolio contains redevelopment efforts in Greenville, which included the building of Fluor Field for the Greenville Drive (Low Class A; Sally League).

RELATED STORIES: Will pro baseball return to Columbia?Final days for Cap City StadiumShanahan: Blowfish negotiating move to Lexington CountyColumbia sells Capital City Stadium siteLooking back at Cap City StadiumClass A ball returning to Columbia?Columbia sells Capital City Stadium; Wal-Mart on the wayFuture of Columbia baseball in play


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