Come next summer, Lexington sports fans will have a shiny new Blowfish baseball diamond in the rough.
The shaggy, uneven terrain of the old Wildcat Hollow football field will be smoothed over for the $3 million complex – and Blowfish president and owner Bill Shanahan gave the media a sneak peek of what the finished stadium will look like during a luncheon at the site Tuesday.
“If you talk about a hotbed of baseball, this is the hottest of hotbeds,” Shanahan said about Lexington County, which will host the Dixie Youth World Series Aug. 8-14 just across the street from the Blowfish site. “Go Blowfish, go baseball and go Lexington County.”
Shanahan said moving the team to Lexington County was a no-brainer. He recalled that game nights at Columbia’s Capital City Stadium recognizing Lexington County, whether student reading programs or chamber of commerce appreciation nights, seemed to draw huge audiences.
“Our biggest nights at Capital City Stadium seem to be the nights that we saluted Lexington County,” Shanahan said. “So the population growth out here of nearly 300,000 now and growing, as well as all the other new developments out here and adding this, I see is a home run.”
Renderings of the Blowfish’s new 3,000-seat home depict a humble-size stadium with a clubhouse overlooking the first base line and an awning sheltering the seats behind home plate. The stands are connected by a paved concourse – an improvement over the Capital City bleachers that just sort of floated along the baselines – giving the stadium a more upscale feel.
The dimensions of the playing field will be built with a nod to iconic Major League fields. Right field will be the distance of Fenway Park’s right, centerfield the distance of Wriggly Field’s center, leftfield the distance of Yankee Stadium’s left and the space behind home plate the same as Dodger Stadium.
“We wanted top bring a little bit of tradition of Major League Baseball to this ball park,” Shanahan said.
The project will be headed by Architect P. Douglas Quackenbush, who built the University of South Carolina softball stadium that opened last year. Quackenbush says that stadium construction should begin late fall and take about eight months to complete. He is still trying to lock down a contractor.
The stadium will fit snugly into the space already cleared by the football field, so no trees – or the nearby pond – will be harmed by construction.
“It’s been an exciting opportunity; we’re talking about a piece of ground that has a history and a legacy,” Quakenbush said. “Plus, Bill is a great client because he’s really, really excited about baseball and he has a great vision of what he wants this ballpark to be.”
In addition to getting a new stadium, the team is getting a new name: the Lexington County Blowfish.
The Blowfish, a summer team composed of collegiate players, was forced to look for a new home when the city of Columbia sold Capital City Stadium and the surrounding land to Atlanta developer Bright-Myers.
The new stadium, which also could host other events such as concerts, is getting about $3 million from a $23 million Lexington County Recreation and Aging Commission to build the facility.
Randy Halfacre, president and CEO of the Greater Lexington Chamber of Commerce, said taxpayer wallets will go untapped by the development.
“What you’re gonna see is your tax base will pretty much remain stagnant because of all the income that goes into the general fund at the county,” Halfacre said. “Anytime you grow your economy, you minimize the need to increase your tax base.”