The capital city’s new minor league baseball stadium will cost $37 million – not $35 million – but the difference is coming from the team owner and a shifting of public money intended for the larger Bull Street development, the mayor said Tuesday.
Hardball Capital of Atlanta, which will run the city-owned, year-round ballpark, has agreed to raise its commitment to $7 million from $6 million, Mayor Steve Benjamin announced at the close of City Council’s meetings.
Benjamin said the extra private money will be spread across the construction, not targeted to any particular amenity or to increase stadium capacity. Efforts to reach Hardball owner Jason Freier after the announcement were unsuccessful.
The other $1 million comes from an agreement by the master developer of the 165-acre property, Hughes Development Corp. It will transfer $1 million of the city’s commitment of $31.25 million for water, sewer and other utilities for the larger site and dedicate it to stadium infrastructure, Benjamin said.
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That is not new public money going to the stadium, the mayor said. Rather, it’s a shifting of funds.
Bob Hughes has said he plans to build a 120,000-square-foot retail and office building 5 feet, 1 inch away from the first base side of the stadium. Called the First Base Building, it likely will house restaurants or sports bars, he announced the day before Thanksgiving.
Hughes also said his company has letters of intent from 41 retailers and restaurants that want to open in the proposed massive Bull Street complex.
There will be no more public money added to the stadium project, the mayor said.
“Not any additional (public) dollars and that was crystal clear from my council,” Benjamin said of a proposal by Freier to increase the city’s investment in the stadium.
Freier had privately floated the idea of adding $3 million to $4 million more in public money, to which he would add $1 million, sources told The State newspaper last week.
Benjamin said he hopes that as construction bids for various parts of the stadium are accepted, they will be under budget. “The goal is still to deliver the venue for $35 million,” he said.
Removing soil to start construction is now expected to begin three days before Christmas, city officials and one of the developers said Tuesday night. For months, city leaders have been saying groundbreaking would occur by year’s end. The stadium is projected to be complete in time for the start of the 2016 minor league season in April of that year.
The Dec. 22 groundbreaking date is based on final approval by the city and the state environmental agency on permit approvals. A ceremonial groundbreaking will be held in January.
Council also voted Tuesday to accept eight acres donated by Hughes to build the stadium. He previously had said he would transfer 10 to 12 acres, but the footprint of the stadium fits in the eight acres, said Gregory Tucker, the city’s project manager for the Bull Street development.
Council also authorized a $1.6 million package for “early site development,” meaning soil removal and grading, demolition of several buildings, asbestos removal, removal of 38 trees, erosion control, storm drainage and other services.
The votes on accepting the land donation and the site preparation contract were approved 5-0 with councilwomen Tameika Isaac Devine and Leona Plaugh absent from the meeting.