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Price of new Columbia ballpark project goes up $2M; vote due tonight

New Columbia ballpark

Despite the total of city borrowing for a new Columbia (S.C.) ballpark going up by $2 million, the City Council is expected to approve a $31 million borrowing plan tonight.

The original price of the ballpark and associated work was $29 million, but that figure was bumped with the addition of a mile-long pedestrian pathway connecting Main Street with the Bull Street neighborhood where the ballpark is planned, as well as improvements to the Columbia Museum of Art exterior, where the pathway begins. Technically, this isn’t directly due to the ballpark, but it’s being lumped in with ballpark spending.

The additional borrowing isn’t expected to change what most people expects to be a 4-3 vote in favor of the ballpark project. Mayor Steve Benjamin, who spearheaded the city effort to return pro baseball to Columbia, has said repeatedly there’s enough support on the City Council to move forward with the plan. If it moves forward, veteran MiLB operator Jason Freier has promised a team in 2016.

Hardball Capital, Freier’s investment firm, will pay $6 million up front for ballpark construction. The total cost of the ballpark and other development is now budgeted at $37 million, and the city would bond the remaining $31 million, backed by hospitality tax revenues. Other sources of funding for the city includes shares of ticket revenues past 275,000 annually and half of any naming-rights deal, up to $350,000. If the Bull Street development hosting the ballpark does not attract $30 million in private investment, Hardball Capital will pay the city up to $516,000 annually. In addition, Hardball Capital will pay for surface parking (a ramp is planned down the road) and up to $250,000 for capital maintenance annually. A developer donated the land.

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