The State Newspaper April 8, 2005 Editorial

THE STATE NEWSPAPER  COLUMBIA S.C.APRIL 8, 2005

(written by newspaper editorial)

IT MAKES SENSE FOR THE city of Columbia to allow Bill Shanahan to lease Capital City Stadium for a summer collegiate league team for top pro prospects.

The stadium is sitting vacant — the first time in 22 years — now that the Bombers have moved to Greenville. Considering the fact that the city continues to pay off the debt from renovations in the early ’90s, the least it can do is put the park to some use.

Mr. Shanahan wants to use Capital City Stadium to field a team of college players who are professional prospects. The team would be part of the Coastal Plain League, which has 14 clubs in Virginia and the Carolinas. Each team plays 52 games a season, 26 at home. In addition to the park being home to this new summer league team, it also would be used for concerts.

Mr. Shanahan knows a thing or two about what it takes to make baseball successful in Columbia. He regularly drew crowds to Capital City Stadium as co-owner and general manager of the Bombers from 1992 to 1996. He was a skillful promoter and was involved in the community.

In his last year in Columbia, the stadium’s season attendance record of 2,400 fans per game was set. His last exhibition game, between the U.S. and Cuban national teams, sold out the 6,000-seat stadium. Last year, the Bombers averaged just less than 1,500 a game — and that included sales to season ticket holders, who didn’t always attend.

Mr. Shanahan, who lives in Mobile, Ala., continues to be successful. He is president and general manager of the Class AA Mobile BayBears.

In reference to his desire to bring a summer league team to Columbia, he said it’s not the game on the field that is most important. The key, he said, is to create excitement and family entertainment. It’s certainly important to make the experience enjoyable, but we also believe what game is presented matters.

While we agree with the city’s decision to negotiate a contract with Mr. Shanahan, this isn’t the level of baseball we’d like to see long-term in Columbia. Columbia deserves to have a minor-league ball club.

We still would like to see city officials recruit a pro team. And that team should play in a much better stadium than Capital City. We would prefer to see the University of South Carolina work with the city to build a joint-use stadium that would serve a minor-league team as well as the Gamecocks. As it stands, the Gamecocks plan to build a separate stadium in the Vista, which could kill the city’s chances of ever landing another minor-league team.

Representatives of the clubs the Bombers beat out for the Greenville market recently visited Columbia. Mayor Bob Coble said both teams — the Class AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx and the Class A Hagerstown (Md.) Suns — would probably require a new stadium or heavy renovations to Capital City Stadium.

We won’t know what it will take to land one of the teams unless we make a sincere pitch. And we’re unlikely to be able to put it across the plate unless the city persuades USC to change its mind. As unlikely as that might seem at this point, it would be worth the effort.

In the meantime, the city should allow Mr. Shanahan’s team of pro prospects to play ball.