Columbias collegiate summer-league baseball team, the Blowfish, might be moving across the Congaree River.
Bill Shanahan, president and co-owner of the Coastal Plain League team, said Thursday he is in early talks with the mayors of Cayce and Lexington about building a multi-purpose stadium that could hold as many as 5,000 fans. No agreements have been reached, Shanahan and the mayors said.
Shanahan announced his departure plans two days after Columbia City Council voted to sell the home of the Blowfish, Capital City Stadium, to make way for a proposed Walmart shopping center. The start of construction on the $40 million retail facility is six months to a year away, city officials said.
The Blowfishs last game in Capital City Stadium could be this summer, perhaps as late as August should the team make the playoffs, Shanahan said.
He said he could not find a suitable relocation site in Columbia or Richland County, including in the much-discussed prospect of a minor-league park in the proposed Bull Street neighborhood.
I am not in the conversation about Bull Street at this time, Shanahan said during a news conference at the stadium. If the community truly wants professional baseball, we can make that happen but thats on the horizon. He did not elaborate on the role his company, HWS Baseball, might play in bringing a minor-league team back to Columbia.
Shanahan came to Columbia in 1992 as part of a new ownership group to take over a New York Mets farm club that had been here since 1983. The then-Capital City Bombers left town in 2004. Shanahan said he turned to collegiate baseball as an interim step during discussions about building a new stadium in Columbia.
He characterized the Lexington County project as a public/private partnership. A similar 2006 plan for a 6,500-seat multi-use hockey arena in Lexington County was highly touted but never materialized.
Asked why his plan would work where the other failed, he said, A lot of people believe in Bill Shanahan and what Ive been able to achieve.
Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre said he has had preliminary conversations about a couple of sites. Hes pushing a little bit harder than I can accommodate, Halfacre said Thursday. But we would love to continue the conversations.
Cayce Mayor Elise Partin said she has talked with Shanahan and his real estate agent, but neither a site nor an agreement has emerged.
Were not at the point where were looking at anything specific, she said.
Shanahan would not say how much of an investment his company would make in Lexington County. HWS owns three minor-league teams in Mobile, Ala.; Modesto, Calif.; and Niles, Ohio along with the college Blowfish team.
Though he hopes a Midlands facility would become home to football, soccer and concerts, Shanahan said his focus is on collegiate summer-league baseball.
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