GreenJackets Seem Close To Securing New Home

After years of waiting, the finish line appears to be closing in for the Augusta GreenJackets to find a new home.

The North Augusta city council on Monday night gave final approval, by a 6-1 vote, to the Project Jackson master agreement. Project Jackson, if completed, will look like many of the new stadium developments popping up across the minor leagues. The new stadium will be the centerpiece of the development, and will be surrounded by a mix of residential and commercial projects.

“Ecstatic, ecstatic,” Greenjackets president Jeff Eiseman said on Tuesday. “We’ve been waiting for the green light for four years, and to finally have this happen, I’m still pinching myself.”

The city’s website suggests the final project will include a 175-room hotel, offices, condominiums, apartments, townhomes, single-family dwellings and restaurants in addition to the stadium, a parking deck, a conference center and a public park.

The city has selected Brasfield & Gorrie, who worked on expansion projects to the football stadiums at Louisiana State and Alabama, as well as the Braves’ new home of SunTrust Park, as the contractor for their new stadium, which is set to be completed in time for Opening Day 2018. Greenstone Properties would be master developer for commercial projects surrounding the ballpark, as well as stadium parking decks.

“I never lost faith in this process,” Eiseman said. “I certainly didn’t anticipate that it would take this long to occur, but it’s well worth the wait. This has been a complicated project because it’s coupled with the private development and having to solidify that master development agreement, which ensures that there’s $160 million-plus of private development to offset the debt service that the city has on the public components.”

The North Jackson project was first broached in 2012, but has been subject to many roadblocks along the way. The most notable was a lawsuit brought by North Jackson resident Steve Donohue in December 2013 that claimed the financing for the stadium was being used for purposes beyond its intended means. The case was heard in May 2015, and the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the city’s financing methods a month later.

With that roadblock out of the way, the team and the city can focus on getting going on construction in anticipation of having the stadium ready roughly 15 months from now. The finished product, Eiseman says, should be a treat for both the team and its fans.

“It’s going to be a thoroughly modern experience. There will be large LED displays–not just the video board, but built into the walls as well. We’re looking at LED field lighting as well as LED colored lighting that can create lots of different effects. And some of the technology on our field will be state of the art. I won’t let any cats out of the bag, but let’s just say that what we’re probably doing out there is something unique that no other minor league baseball team has ever done before.”

The GreenJackets have played at Lake Olmstead Stadium since 1995. If the move goes through, it will leave the Rome Braves as Georgia’s only low Class A team and one of only two minor league teams in Georgia. The Braves’ Triple-A club plays in Gwinnett County.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that the potential move would leave Rome as the only minor league team in Georgia. Triple-A Gwinnett also plays in the state.

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