Editor's note: This story updates a previous version.
The much-discussed, much-disputed Bull Street baseball stadium and multi-use performance venue cleared its first hurdle Tuesday as Columbia City Council approved a licensing agreement between the city and Hardball Capital with a 4 to 3 vote. But the session lasting more than four hours was not without drama. Some residents spoke passionately against the plan, motions were made to delay the vote and tension between Councilwoman Leona Plaugh and Mayor Steve Benjamin was palpable.
The two approved ordinances establish development agreements with Hardball Capital and Hughes Enterprises, which will provide less than a quarter of the project’s funding combined. The city is on the hook for $29 million of the $38 million project. Bonds backed by hospitality tax revenue will be used to pay for the stadium, but taxes will not be increased, Benjamin said. Hardball will provide $6 million, and Hughes will provide $3 million.
The entire Bull Street project — including the infrastructure already committed to and the newly approved stadium — is projected to cost $137 million over the next 30 years, when financing is taken into account.
Plaugh, Tameika Isaac Devine and Moe Baddourah were the three council members who voted against the plan. While Baddourah was against the proposal outright, Devine expressed willingness to revisit the plans at a later date if the council reviewed additional studies concerning the benefits and risks of building a minor league baseball stadium and conducted a cost-benefit analysis. She expressed considerable concern with the proposed 2015 opening date of the stadium, calling it “aggressive, but unrealistic.”
In her efforts to delay the vote on the stadium and performance venue, Plaugh also called for a more thorough analysis of risks and benefits, as well as to incorporate affordable housing projects into the Columbia Commons area, of which the stadium would be a part.
Community turnout for the vote was high; the Columbia City Council chambers were packed full, with people crowding onto benches and standing against walls. More than a dozen Columbia residents and community leaders made impassioned pleas both for and against the stadium’s construction. Multiple young professionals approached the podium to say the stadium would help retain more recent college graduates and, in turn, attract more business growth. Parents and grandparents said they could see their families growing up going to baseball games at the stadium.
But others said the plan was too hastily made and that the money would be better used elsewhere. Residents complained of roads peppered with potholes, outdated park and community center facilities and decades-old water and sewage systems. Baddourah agreed, saying that spending so much on the stadium project was like putting all the city’s eggs in one basket and could deter new businesses from coming to Columbia.
Speaking about the effects on hospitality tax revenue and whether the city will have the ability to fund new requests, Baddourah said: “Newcomers will not be welcome because there will be no money ... unless the eggs start hatching chickens all over the place."
Kit Smith, a 20-year veteran of the Richland County Council, spent several minutes enumerating many things she said were lacking from the plans. She went well over her allotted time, clearly antagonizing Mayor Benjamin.
Resident Edith Watley called the arrangement between the city and Hardball a “sweetheart deal” in which Columbia got the short end of the stick.
“I wish I had their negotiators when I was getting divorced,” Watley said.
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
Accepting Applications for Shakespeare’s Kidz!
Students ages 10-16 are invited to join South Carolina Shakespeare’s new youth company, with classes running September 20th-December 11th followed by a final performance. Learn and hone audition skills, monologues, and scenes from Shakespeare and modern works! Contact Katie Mixon with questions about scholarships and applications: PKatieMixon@gmail.com.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
Music Break at Music Farm Columbia
Join COR for an evening of networking for music and business leaders on September 3rd, featuring performances by Josh Roberts and the Hinges, Death of Paris, Fat Rat Da Czar, and Lazy A and the Green Thang. Free admission for musicians and members! Register here.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com