After the departure of the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low A; Sally League) for Columbia (S.C.) in 2016, a summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League team could set up shop at Grayson Stadium for the coming season.
The team would be owned and managed by Jesse Cole and Fans First Entertainment (formerly Team Cole and Associates), who will continue to own the Gastonia Grizzlies and manage the Martinsville Mustangs in the Coastal Plain League. The league has already approved a new team in Savannah, and the city will be discussing the issue this week, as a memo went out to the Mayor and City Council on Friday. The initial proposal is for a three-year lease (with two one-year renewals) at $20,000 per year, with no capital improvements from the city. From the memo sent by city officials:
As you know, the lease agreement for the use of Grayson Stadium between the City and Savannah Professional Baseball (Sand Gnats) expires September 30, 2015. The ownership of the team has made a commitment to move the team to Columbia, SC. A $37 million dollar stadium is under construction in Columbia.
Grayson Stadium was built in 1926 and has undergone numerous renovations and upgrades. Minor league teams have come and gone. The stadium has played host to many of the greatest players in the history of baseball: Hank Aaron, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard, Lou Brock, Curt Flood, and many more.
City staff has worked diligently to find a team to replace the Sand Gnats. Early in this process it has become evident that in order to bring a Major League Baseball affiliate team to Savannah it would require a new stadium or extensive renovation to Grayson. The cost of both these options at this time is prohibitive.
It’s no secret that the Coastal Plain League has been discussing a southward move for several years now, as there are plenty of good markets with former MiLB facilities (Albany, Savannah, Macon) that would be perfect for summer-collegiate ball. The move by Jesse Cole and the Coastal Plain League will keep Grayson Stadium, a classic old ballpark, in use for years to come.