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Residents want to know the costs of Bull Street's potential ball park


Should Columbia build a Minor League Baseball stadium on the old Bull Street property? Mayor Steve Benjamin says yes, but there are still some questions neighbors want answered.

Benjamin would like to have a minor league team playing ball in Columbia by the 2015 season, which doesn't leave much time for a decision to be made. He says in order to make it happen, city council needs to ask a lot of questions now and come to a decision.

"We're talking about having to have shovels in the ground this Spring," said Benjamin.

The tight deadline is something Columbia City Councilman Moe Baddourah is not sold on. He says things are developing too fast.

"We just received some updates at council meeting last week and we're expected to vote on it this Tuesday coming," said Baddourah.

The mayor is hosting a series of forums where residents can ask questions about the proposed project. The biggest question seems to be where the $35 million Benjamin says it will take to build the stadium will come from?

"I believe that we should find out how we're going to fund the infrastructure first and I believe that the city stadium, or that the baseball stadium, should be privately funded," said Benjamin.

The mayor says the City of Columbia will own the stadium, but the company Hardball Capital will be a lessee.

Another big question: Will taxes increase?

"This venue can be built without any additional tax burden, no tax increases," said Benjamin. "This is something that can be done and done effectively with a good, solid public/private partnership."

Councilman Baddourah isn't so sure.

"The money has to come from somewhere, and so it's a huge concern, and I'm not for raising taxes for sure," said Baddourah.

Next Tuesday, the city's chief financial officer will present various financing sources to the city council. The mayor hopes councilors can come to a decision quickly.

At this point, there's still no word on which Minor League Baseball team could be coming to Columbia, but Benjamin says if there's no stadium, no team can come.

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