Columbia (S.C.) is the second-largest U.S. market without pro sports and could support a return of Minor League Baseball, but questions remain about a funding source for a proposed $41.8-million ballpark.
A report prepared by Brailsford & Dunlavey indicates the market is robust enough to support minor-league baseball, despite some potential competition with the USC Gamecocks, one of the top-drawing college teams in the nation. In June, South Carolina was fifth in the nation in college-baseball attendance at 7.445 fans a game. Of the top ten draws in college baseball, only three (Arkansas, Texas and Creighton) face competition from professional baseball, and the competing teams — Round Rock Express, Northwest Arkansas Naturals and Omaha Storm Chasers — do pretty well at the front office.
In the end, a new ballpark as part of a Bull Street development could generate some $400 million in revenues over 30 years, according to the Brailsford & Dunlavey study, as reported by The State:
The money would come from tax revenues, personal earnings and private business earnings – including from hotel rooms, restaurant meals and shopping dollars spent by visitors to the city and the Bull Street area, where Mayor Steve Benjamin has suggested the ballpark be built.
But the study, commissioned by City Council, does not suggest exactly how the city should pay to build a stadium, expected to cost about $41.8 million, according to the study.
Benjamin said Saturday he was not looking at hospitality taxes – the city’s 2 percent tax on restaurant meals and prepared foods that is designated for tourist attractions. But he would not say what source or sources of money he has in mind. He said wants to wait for staff recommendations.
Benjamin had earlier spoke of discussions with Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) owner Jason Freier about a new ballpark, but as of late Freier had approached Savannah officials one more time about a waterfront ballpark.
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