Veteran minor-league owner Jason Freier will be on hand tonight for a Columbia (S.C.) City Council discussion about a proposed ballpark development.
Freier, whose Hardball Capital owns the Fort Wayne TinCaps (Low Class A; Midwest League) and the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) and was instrumental in the Parkview Field development that helped revitalize downtown Fort Wayne, has been quietly working the Columbia market since receiving permission to explore a team move there in January 2013. That’s included meeting with every council members and community groups about a proposed Bull Street development that would include a new ballpark for an unspecified team. From The State:
Freier, who is based in Atlanta, said he plans to attend Tuesday night’s City Council meeting to hear more about a city-commissioned feasibility study on a proposed ballpark. He also owns a team in Savannah.
He said he hopes the council will be in a position to decide soon whether to partner with him on a stadium as part of the Bull Street redevelopment project. Then, he said, he’d “kick it into high gear” and finalize specifics on costs and revenues.
Downtown neighborhood leaders said conversations with Freier in small groups, arranged by an aide to the mayor, Sam Johnson, have covered general information about the investor’s background and his intentions in Columbia.
A study from Brailsford & Dunlavey indicated the Columbia 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 fact, Columbia was touted as the second-largest U.S. market lacking pro sports (the largest: Tucson).
The discussion tonight won’t center on approval for a project, but the decision to move head on discussions will be part of the agenda.
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