The City of Greenville added a minor league baseball team in 2005 as part of a larger plan to change the face of downtown. Columbia is in a similar situation with plans in place to build a new minor league stadium on Bull Street.
Columbia is building the stadium as part of an effort to redevelop the Bull Street property, and they can look to the Greenville Drive just to see how a minor league stadium can impact the surrounding area.
One of the biggest impacts of the Drive has is the number of people who come downtown to see their games. Total season ticket sales have been between 325,000 and 345,000 each season.
All of these people coming downtown have certainly helped businesses in the area. A report done in 2010 found that 110 new businesses had opened within a half-mile of the stadium since the team arrived. Not only are new businesses opening, other businesses have relocated to downtown.
“We’ve doubled our business, doubled the size of our business since we’ve moved down here and it’s been a fabulous move for us,” said John Whitmire manager of the Greenville New York Life insurance office.
Whitmire was so excited about the prospect of moving downtown that he set up the lease as soon as the plans for the stadium were announced.
“We, New York Life of Greenville, signed a lease on a building that doesn’t have a brick laid down on it,” said Whitmire.
Greenville already had plans to redevelop the downtown area as well as to raise money for the new minor league stadium. But the city got a great deal, the stadium was built with private money. This is one of the main differences between Columbia and Greenville. Columbia leaders have a agreed to provide most of the money to build the stadium.
The cost of the stadiums will also be quite different, the Drive stadium cost about $16 million and plans for the Columbia stadium put its price tag close to $35 million.
The new minor league team in Columbia is expected to move in after the stadium is completed in 2016. The city and Hardball Capital, which is the company that will bring the minor league team, are still negotiating the final deal.