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      Capital City leaders green light contract to operate minor league baseball stadium

      Capital City leaders green light contract to operate minor league baseball stadium

      COLUMBIA (WACH) â?? The Columbia City Council has voted to move forward on building a minor league baseball stadium on the former South Carolina of Mental Health Bull Street campus in downtown, Columbia.

      Members passed an ordinance in a 4-3 vote that authorizes city manager, Teresa Wilson, to execute a contract with Hardball Capital LLC to run the venue.

      However, making that final decision didn't come easy as several working citizens, taxpayers, and college students filed in one after one on Tuesday night to witness what some say could make Columbia thrive, and what others say will be an economic failure for the capital city.

      â??Iâ??m excited about baseball,â?? said Diane Wiley, during public input.

      â??What do we get in return,â?? said another woman opposed to the baseball stadium idea.

      Mayor Steve Benjamin has said in the past that the minor league baseball stadium would be used as more than a baseball stadium, but as a multi-entertainment venue used as a catalyst to generate more revenue for the city. Benjamin has also said the project would not involve a tax increase.

      Members of the council have challenged Benjamin on the idea of bringing baseball to Columbia.

      Councilwoman Leona Plaugh opposes the idea.

      â??I believe itâ??s our own constituents who really suffer,â?? said Councilwoman Plaugh during Tuesday nightâ??s meeting. â??

      Plaugh argues that by adding 29 million dollars in addition to the $57 million dollar Bull Street investment will become a problem for taxpayers in the future. She adds that it will be a lost in opportunity cost for the city.

      Plaugh attempted to defer the motion for final reading of the ordinance, but council members voted to table the motion.

      The ideal opening for the stadium is projected for 2015, if construction begins as early as June of 2014.

      Councilwomen Leona Plaugh, Tameika Isaac Devine, and Councilman Moe Baddourah voted against the ordinance.