Editorial: Baseball is back in town


City of Greenville has landed a team to replace the Braves. The new stadium should spur more development.

Local baseball fans won't have to suffer through a single season without seeing Minor League players take to the field in Greenville County. With little fanfare and few words, Minor League Baseball settled the matter of which team would be allowed to play in Greenville by giving the Capital City Bombers permission to move their single-A Red Sox affiliate from Columbia to Greenville.

The new stadium will go where city leaders tried to make a deal work to save the Greenville Braves -- in the city's West End near Pendleton Street and Augusta Road. This location was the most attractive of the three offers on the table, and the deal between Greenville and the Bombers was favorable to local taxpayers. Minor League Baseball officials get a pat on the back for using common sense in this matter.

The Greenville Braves left their aging Municipal Stadium on Mauldin Road -- and this area -- last fall after repeated efforts by the city of Greenville failed to provide a new stadium for this AA team. To the city's credit, it dusted itself off and went about finding a new team. And it did it with this in mind: protecting the taxpayer's wallet.

The city was about ready to sign a deal with the Capital City Bombers when the city of Mauldin got into the action. Mauldin planned to build a stadium for the AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, and Mauldin got something that Greenville couldn't nail down -- financial help from the Greenville County Council in the form of a multicounty industrial park that would be used to finance up to $6 million in special source revenue bonds.

As this competition was heating up, another Single-A team made a run for the right to play in Greenville, the Los Angeles-based Mandalay Baseball Properties that wanted to bring one of its single-A teams to this area, first to the Greer area and then to Powdersville. And while all this was happening the Diamond Jaxx were notified that the city that had built them a sparkling new stadium in Tennessee was opposed to the team moving and leaving an empty stadium that was far from being paid off.

On its face, the city of Greenville had the best plan all along, even allowing for the single-A franchise vs. a double-A team in Mauldin. The details were more fleshed out between Greenville and the Bombers. The public contribution was minimal, only $4 million from the city to buy the property and another $3.5 million for streetscaping. The Bombers were matching their enthusiasm for this area with a significant financial investment of between $10 million to $15 million for the stadium.

Greenville's plan also will put the stadium in the vibrant downtown area, a place where there's an active nightlife, lots of restaurants and dynamic development. In recent years, downtown stadiums have shown more promise in attracting baseball fans than those in more distant suburban locations. And with Greenville's new stadium will come more private development that will add to the entire county's tax base.

So welcome, Capital City Bombers, or should we say, Greenville Bombers. There are a lot of baseball fans here ready to adopt a new team.