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MiLB approves team move to Columbia

New Columbia ballpark

Hardball Capital’s Jason Freier says he’s received permission from Minor League Baseball to move a team to a new Columbia (S.C.) ballpark in 2016 — but the team on the move is still up in the air.

Freier says that after the city of Columbia approved the new ballpark lease last week, MiLB issued an official letter approving a team move.  One permission was conspicuously absent: approval from a league, as we still don’t have the identity of the team moving to Columbia. Freier also owns the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League), a team that could be moved from Grayson Stadium to the new ballpark; an alternative scenario has Freier acquiring a High Class A Carolina League team that could play out of either Columbia or Savannah. From The State:

“This certifies that every approval has been granted,” Freier said.

He said on Wednesday he has had approval since August from Minor League Baseball and Major League Baseball to move a team to Columbia. The final letter of notification of that approval was sent Oct. 17 to city manager Teresa Wilson.

“We have full approval from Minor League Baseball,” Freier said. “Then you have to be sure Major League Baseball doesn’t have any objection. There are no more obstacles.”

Submission to MLB is really a formality; MLB doesn’t usually even respond to submissions like this.

The new ballpark is slated to open for the 2016 season; a name-the-team contest is currently underway, and team name and colors is expected in spring 2015. Populous has been hired to design the ballpark, while Barton Malow Co. has been hired for construction. The $35 million project is backed by $29 million from the city and $6 million from Hardball Capital.

Freier says his model for the ballpark and its integration into the Bull Street area is Parkview Field, home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low Class A; Midwest League). Not a bad model: Parkview Field is undoubtedly one of the most successful Minor League Baseball ballparks opening in the last decade, generating economic development in downtown Fort Wayne.

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