Project Jackson: Comparing NA Plans to Greenville, SC Stadium - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

Project Jackson: Comparing NA Plans to Greenville, SC Stadium

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Greenville, SC -

North Augusta city leaders are busy pitching the financing plan for Project Jackson.

Support for the project is popping up on signs throughout North Augusta, but some residents don't want the city to build a baseball stadium.        
                                                                                                                                                  City officials have compared the project to the minor league baseball stadium in Greenville, South Carolina. News Channel 6's Mike Miller went to Fluor Field in Greenville to see how the seven year old stadium is doing.

In the months since plans for a baseball stadium in North Augusta were announced, there has been plenty of buzz.

Bryony Nickolson, North Augusta, SC:  "We are very excited about it. We feel like it's going to bring stuff to North Augusta. I mean, we are originally from Charlotte, so we feel like there is not a lot around here."

Project Jackson includes a stadium, a conference center, a parking deck, a hotel, townhouses, restaurants and much more. It would be located on the Savannah River, between the Hammond's Ferry and River Club subdivisions. But the plan is facing some opposition.

Steve Donahue, Riverclub HOA President: "It will never be the same. The litter, the noise, the light pollution, the crime, no matter what the mayor and the city administrator tell the public, it all goes up."

Several weeks ago, North Augusta leaders made a trip to Greenville, South Carolina to compare the Greenville Drive's stadium to what they hope will happen with Project Jackson.

David Leibell, Anderson, SC:  "Man, if there was one place in South Carolina to live, it would be down here at the West End."

Neil Christian, Clemson, SC:  "Oh, it's wonderful. It's great. It's a nice attraction for people all over the area to come to."

Lindsay Oehmen, Greenville, SC:  "People are great. The fans are great. You can see the players right up close. My kids love it."

Not one person had a bad thing to say about Fluor Field, which is also known as "Little Fenway." Dana Williamson owns a body shop near the stadium.

"It's unbelievable when you are here for a baseball game. The traffic that is coming in. The baseball stadium is packed almost every night. It is a crowd that hangs around in this general area. They are on foot."

North Augusta officials want to use the Greenville development as a template for the riverfront.

However, Fluor Field was a private investment. The construction of the stadium was one hundred percent funded by the owners of the Greenville Drive. The current proposal for the stadium in North Augusta is one hundred percent funded by the public.

Fluor Field was built for 15 million dollars.
The new GreenJackets stadium is estimated at 25 million dollars.

Steve Donahue, Riverclub HOA President:  "And the mayor said he wants to mirror Greenville's success. He wants to mirror everything except A - the way it was financed and B - that it was at a truly blighted area."

North Augusta officials plan to use tax-increment financing, or TIF, to fund the stadium and development. Donahue says TIFs are generally used to redevelop blighted areas. He says the Riverfront isn't blighted because there will be development there even if Project Jackson doesn't happen. He says that wasn't the case in Greenville and folks there seem to agree.

Neil Christian, Clemson, SC:  "This was all run down, empty store fronts, a bad part of town."
 
Lindsay Oehmen, Greenville, SC:  "You didn't pass a certain area, so this area has come a very long way."

Many Project Jackson opponents say they would be okay with the proposal if the baseball stadium was left out.

Steve Donahue, Riverclub HOA President:  "I may not like it as well, but at least it doesn't stick in my craw that they are using my tax dollars, the tax dollars that ought to go to run the government, run the schools and run the county, to build stadiums."

Neil Christian, Clemson, SC:  "Do you think a city should pay for a baseball stadium?" "Not really. I mean, maybe you chip in a little bit, but I like it when the team builds it. It does several things like keeps the prices down."

David Leibell, Anderson, SC:  "I wouldn't have known that all of this would have happened. But now looking at this place and loving what I see, if I were to live in Augusta I would pay. I would put my tax money down for this."

Lindsay Oehmen, Greenville, SC:  "I mean, seeing what it has done for the city and for what it has done for this part of the town and neighborhood, I don't think it's a bad idea."

For now, it's a waiting game in North Augusta to see if Project Jackson will happen. The Aiken County Council and the Aiken County School Board need to approve the TIF plan before Project Jackson can move forward.
North Augusta officials say they are giving both parties as much time as they need to make a decision.

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