How Benjamin, et al., are selling Bull St. ballpark

bull street

In case you don’t get these emails, I thought I’d share. The image above shows what the top of the e-blast looks like. Here’s the text:

In case you missed it, Sunday’s Op-Ed in The State made it clear that there WILL be a vote on the Bull Street baseball stadium this Tuesday evening. This vote will set the future direction of our city – survive or thrive!
Please share this article with your respective networks, post it on social media, and like it on the Building Bull Street page. WE NEED TO SHOW OUR GROWING VOICE OF SUPPORT!!!
Once you’ve read the article, please take a moment to contact Mayor Benjamin and Council members Cameron Runyan, Sam Davis and Brian DeQuincey Newman to thank them for their leadership.
The important final vote will take place this Tuesday, April 8th at 6pm. Plan on joining us at City Hall for this very important moment in our citys future.

That’s followed by the text of the op-ed that was in The State over the weekend, which you can read here.

The vote is supposed to come today.

39 thoughts on “How Benjamin, et al., are selling Bull St. ballpark

  1. Kathryn Fenner

    This ballpark has been ill-conceived from the start, and publishing the fact that the mayor has locked down four votes ahead of time really offends me. As the wonderful Rev. Wiley Cooper said to council at the last Bull Street purchase hearing, “what have you heard that will change your minds?”
    There has been no meaningful consideration by the Gang of Four about the true costs and benefits of this project, nor of any superior locations for it. When the mayor has moved on to his next big job, we will be stuck with empty city coffers. Cameron is the only one with long term political interest in this. I hope the big guns can get him to see the light!

    1. Doug Ross

      How is the process used to push for the ballpark different from the process used to purchase the Palmetto Compress warehouse? That was a 5-2 vote (Plaugh, Baddurah against).. so just one more vote was flipped against the ballpark.

      What will be interesting will be when the ballpark is built (and it WILL be built), how much credit the naysayers will take when it proves to be successful.

      Charlotte opened its new stadium this year and expects 600,000 fans to attend games alone. That’s huge. Done right, the ballpark can become a centerpiece of a new area for growth in the city. Why NOT have Bull Street and the Vista do well?

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I expressed my discomfort at the time at how the mayor rammed PCW through. Subsequent contemplation, illuminated by his subsequent actions! led me to believe we got played by the former owners and their friends on council. PCW was well worth saving and will be something special, and make money for the city upfront. It will pay more taxes as a far more valuable piece of real estate. No new infrastructure is being paid for by the city, etc.
        The stadium is wagging the dog. Instead of deciding we need a stadium and deciding where it might best be located, the powers that be decided Bull Street needed a stadium, so we are stuck with it.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          The advantages of locating the stadium at Gervais and Huger are the availability of plentiful, existing parking and existing residents at a high density who can stroll over. There are an increasing number of high density rental projects full of potential fans. People who would welcome a stadium, not people who will be wary of moving next to a concert arena, not to mention folks who bought homes nearby in low density residential areas.

          1. Doug Ross

            I don’t believe the number of people who stroll over to a baseball game is as high as people estimate. A couple hundred out of several thousand… maybe.. and certainly not in the middle of summer with the weather and the students being gone from the area.

            1. Silence

              That’s what I’ve been saying the whole time. Spring (college baseball season) is a good season to watch baseball in Columbia. Summer is not.

            2. Doug Ross

              Oh, I think a team will draw at least 3,000 per game average the first year. I just think most people will drive to the game — anyone with a couple kids isn’t going to walk. Most of the people I see at the Columbia Blowfish games are either older adults or families. So I’m guessing you need space for about 800-1000 cars. The lot at Capital City Stadium is about what you have to replicate either in one place or many…

            3. Silence

              Columbia is just not a very walkable or bikeable city in the summertime. No matter what the transportation planners and urban planners pretend. It’s hot, very humid, and there’s more hills than people think.

            4. Kathryn Fenner

              Well, the experts say folks who go to minor league baseball are the sort who would stroll over, but not drive a fur piece.

            5. Kathryn Fenner

              I agree that Columbia is not walkable to me in summer, but I sure see a lot of pedestrians in the Vista, Five Points and points in between. A lot of people do not seem to mind the heat as I do.

            6. Doug Ross

              “Well, the experts say folks who go to minor league baseball are the sort who would stroll over, but not drive a fur piece.”

              Which experts? That goes against every indication from every baseball game I have ever attended – high school, college, minors, or majors. We have a perfect example with the Gamecocks. How many people walk to that park? 5%? 2%?

              When the Capital City Bombers were in town, they regularly drew several thousand people per game and there weren’t many walkers in that bunch. Even now with the Blowfish, you’re taking a risk to walk to the park — the chances of being accosted by a homeless person are pretty high.

              I just spent the weekend in Boston to go to a Red Sox game. EVERYBODY drives or rides the public transportation to the game. The number of walkers is probably less than 1000 out of 39,000.

            7. Silence

              Who in their right mind would try to walk to a Bomber’s game? Maybe if you lived in Olympia. I would bet that even folks from Hollywood/Rosehill and Wales Garden didn’t walk there.

              I could walk to the proposed Bull Street Stadium, and I even might, but I’m probably one of only a few “fortunate” enough to live within a quarter mile of it.

              Of course I could stay home in the A/C and just listen to it for free. In my bedroom, or my living room, or my dining room, or my kitchen, or my bathroom, or out by my swimming pool.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    This is one of the things I love about local government… it tends to throw out all the partisan and ideological posturing, because it deals with immediate, practical things. People disagree, but they’re more likely disagreeing over REAL things than the symbolic nonsense you get in Washington, which is all about the parties jockeying for advantage.

    Here we have Kathryn, who I think would not object to the liberal label, siding with the likes of Joe Taylor against overreaching government and ill-considered spending (as opponents see it). And we have Doug the Libertarian, who seldom sees a government program he likes, all for taxpayers underwriting a ballpark.

    This is great…

    1. Doug Ross

      Let’s be clear – I am for the ballpark to be funded PARTIALLY by the government using expected revenue streams that will be generated by the park. I also think it is a far better investment in terms of economic development potential than the disaster known as Innovista.

      Every real job created returns money into the city’s coffers… as does every complementary business and home in the development.

      By biggest concern would be the traffic impact and the noise impact on the surrounding areas. But I don’t think the noise will be excessive — games are usually done by 10:00.

      Here’s my offer – if I win the Powerball any time in the next few months, I’ll pay for the stadium myself. But I get to call the team the Columbia Libertarians…

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Yeah, but….the numbers of jobs and other spin-off revenue have been challenged by people whose understanding greatly exceeds mine. The costs are said to be understated and the benefits over-stated. If an independent analysis showed benefits exceed costs, I’d be all for it, but we HAVE to rush to approve this without any independent justification.

        1. Doug Ross

          “Yeah, but….the numbers of jobs and other spin-off revenue have been challenged by people whose understanding greatly exceeds mine. The costs are said to be understated and the benefits over-stated. ”

          Sounds exactly like the Penny Tax initiative… which was going to create 16,000 jobs and save each driver hundreds of dollars a year in maintenance costs. Pure fantasy.

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            I voted for the penny tax because I liked what it was going to be spent on. I never expected it to be a moneymaker!

      2. Silence

        Games done at 10:00 PM isn’t great when babies go to bed at 8:00 PM. And don’t get me started about concerts. Just ask those poor (and I use that term ironically) homeowners at the City Club, who found out the hard way that Coble Plaza was a nighttime concert venue… and supposedly not in the City’s jurisdiction.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          “Games done at 10:00 PM isn’t great when babies go to bed at 8:00 PM.”

          Which is exactly why you won’t get many people with young kids going to night games. I sometimes take my 2 year old son to the day games (Saturday and Sunday) at Carolina Stadium, but not night games. Accordingly, any night games this minor league team plays are pretty much ruled out for me.

          The more I think about this, the worse of an idea it is.

          1. Doug Ross

            Sorry – I meant Blowfish. There are plenty of kids who come to games. Between one of the later innings, they let all the kids run across the field from one side to the other. I’ve seen hundreds of kids participate.

          2. Doug Ross

            Come out to a Blowfish game this summer and see how many kids age 6-12 are there. Toddlers aren’t old enough to enjoy anything going on at a baseball game.

            My kids are too old to use swing sets at the public parks. Should we not build those either?

            1. Bryan Caskey

              No, that’s a good point, and you’re right. Once you get to about 6 or so years old, a baseball game becomes a great place. In light of your comment I withdraw my previous comment regarding children.

              As an aside, how many times does THAT happen on the internet – the rare moment in which someone makes a point that causes someone else to change their mind?

  3. bud

    I’m shocked, shocked I tell you that Doug could be in favor of taxpayer funding for this ultra-boondoggle of a project yet be opposed to accepting the Medicaid money. The complete illogic of that is too much for my brain to comprehend.

    1. Doug Ross

      Because the Medicaid money comes from deficit spending. I don’t believe in perpetuating deficits. Spending more than you have is the pinnacle of being illogical.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        um, because what money will we, the good taxpayers of Columbia, be using to pay for this stadium? Does it exist now? Is there any credible study to show it will?

        1. Doug Ross

          It doesn’t appear that much current money will be used to fund the $29 million dollar loan. Future taxes will be used… plus the city gets a cut of all sorts of revenue streams – concessions, parking, use of the facility for non-baseball events. On top of that, Hughes expects to build at least $60 million dollars in taxable property around the ballpark – hotels, office space, etc.

          This is a much bigger revenue stream than the phantom $100K “profit” from the Palmetto Compress Warehouse… which may not be generating taxes before the stadium does if they don’t even close on the deal until the fall.

          Columbia is the largest city without a minor league baseball team. This isn’t rocket science – every other decent sized city in the state has a team and supports that team. Everyone needs to get over WHERE the ballpark is built and focus on what it can bring,.. just because each council member doesn’t get his or her way for his or her own little fiefdom doesn’t mean it is a bad deal.

          1. bud

            Hughes expects to build at least $60 million dollars in taxable property around the ballpark – hotels, office space, etc.

            Isn’t that picking winners?

            I just cannot fathom a worse example of government interfering in the market for something that might, possibly result in a payoff at some future time. Unless something can be worked out to share Carolina Stadium this preposterous waste of money should be dropped. I’ll be damned if I want tax money going toward the entertainment of baseball fans and the enrichment of some plutocrat.

            1. Doug Ross

              Thankfully, bud, your communist approach to life doesn’t match the real world. There are smart business people who get rich because they are better at turning capital into profits than other people.

              if we lived in your world, we’d all be in shacks sharing a common bowl of gruel.

  4. Mab

    I forget — who called Mayor Stevie a bully? Was it Moe Baddourah? I think so; I think it was Mo. If so, mo Mo, so help me Mo.

  5. bud

    As a general comment I cannot think of any government involvement in the market that is more offensive than the public funding of professional sports arenas. These projects essentially pit one city against another to compete for the “privilege” of hosting a sports team. It amounts to a huge transfer payment from the taxpayers to some ultra-rich dude so that he can enjoy the largesse of the sports team without assuming the normal risk of a typical business project. All of these projects should be funded 100% by the entreprenuers that stand to make enormous profits. Libertarians should be screaming at the top of their lungs to stop this type of corporate welfare. But nooooooo. All we hear is the projected benefits and the excuses based on the type of funding. BULL! This is nothing but corporate welfare, PERIOD. Tragically cities all across the country are engaged in this Ponzi scheme for the rich. And it’s a crying shame.

    1. Silence

      Like Joe Azar said, “$29 Million is a small price to pay to get rid of Cameron Runyan.”

  6. Brad Warthen

    I see they passed it tonight, by the predictable margin — the four who signed the op-ed piece versus the other three.

    I sure would feel better about this if the city were embarking on it with something closer to consensus….

Comments are closed.