After five years of working on a new-ballpark strategy, it appears 2014 will be a make-or-break year for the future of the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) in the city.
Jason Freier of Hardball Capital, owner of the Sand Gnats, has been approaching city leaders for years now, lobbying for a new ballpark — ideally as part of a larger development, using the construction of Parkview Field as an example. Now, there’s no doubt that the home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low Class A; Midwest League) has been an unqualified success for that city, generating scads of private investment as well as invigorating downtown.
But these arguments haven’t swayed Savannah officials, some of whom believe Grayson Stadium is perfectly adequate as a pro-baseball venue. Economically, the argument is that it’s not, and a new ballpark would be an improvement for city residents. So the two sides have agreed to talk further, with initial chat about an economic-development study planned for coming months. Some folks, like local businessman Reed Dulany, don’t care about baseball: they just want to see the potential development driven by a new ballpark. From Georgia Public Broadcasting:
Mike Toma, an Armstrong Atlantic State University economist, says it’s completely possible that a new stadium would pay for itself by attracting new homes and businesses.
But he says the question merits further study.
And what would the alternative, losing the Sand Gnats, look like?
“Clearly that would create a gap in some individuals’ entertainment portfolio,” Toma says. “But I don’t know that that would cause a net economic loss. Those dollars probably would just be diverted into some other form of entertainment.”
Image of 1969’s Savannah Senators at Grayson Stadium courtesy of the city of Savannah.
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