By all measures, Columbia (S.C.) should be a pretty good market for Minor League Baseball: the city has a population of 129,272 and sits in the middle of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of 767,598. The area is growing. It would seem to be the perfect place for a Class A team of some sort, and more than one owner has looked at a move there, we hear, going to the point of seeking official permission to explore the area.
Interestingly enough, they were denied permission. Currently the Columbia Blowfish, a summer-collegiate team in the Coastal Plain League owned by a Minor League Baseball operator, have set up shop there and are seeking a new ballpark in suburban Lexington County.
Now, it seems unlikely that Minor League Baseball can totally ignore the market and just cede it to a summer-collegiate market. And we know there's one plan for what could be a pro ballpark as part of a larger development in the city. It's just that support within Columbia itself for any public financing of pro baseball would appear to be tenuous at best.
But now our old friend Ron Morris, a veteran sportswriter for The State, hints that there's a larger plan for pro baseball that calls first for construction of a Blowfish ballpark, which could be later expanded for a pro team. While we're not too optimistic about multi-phase ballpark plans -- somehow or another the second phase is usually dropped -- one might make sense here.
In any case, Columbia is a market worth watching when it comes to a pro facility: it's just too good an area not to house a Class A team of some sort. More than one owner we've chatted with recently expressed surprise that there wasn't much action there: apparently there are talks under the surface, but it could take years.
UPDATE: Today (Aug. 16) Bright-Myers, which is purchasing Cap City Stadium, announced it would not be tearing down the ballpark, meaning the Blowfish could return for another season. Many, including team ownership, was planning for this year to be the last at Cap City Stadium.
This article first appeared in yesterday's Ballpark Digest newsletter. Subscribers get early access to weekly features and other news. Are you a subscriber? If not, click here and enter your information.
RELATED STORIES: Final days for Cap City Stadium; Shanahan: Blowfish negotiating move to Lexington County; Columbia sells Capital City Stadium site; Looking back at Cap City Stadium; Class A ball returning to Columbia?; Columbia sells Capital City Stadium; Wal-Mart on the way; Future of Columbia baseball in play
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