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Thursday, March 20, 2014
Some consider it the best rivalry in baseball, and it could soon be coming to North Augusta if all the right pieces fall into place.
The series between Clemson University and the University of South Carolina that occurs on the diamond three times a year may be heading to the CSRA, but the major sticking point is the construction of a multi-purpose baseball stadium along the Savannah River.
The numbers speak for themselves as far as the importance of these games, which should certainly be among the selling points for the construction of a stadium in North Augusta.
This year’s match-ups between the two rivals were each sold out with about 21,000 fans going through the gates for the series, which is split between Clemson, Columbia and a neutral site.
Part of the push by North Augusta officials in their pursuit of a stadium was the fact that while the facility here would primarily be used for GreenJackets’ baseball games, it would also be able to attract other events.
A baseball stadium that only offers minor league games each summer can’t drive the economic and tourism opportunities envisioned as part of Project Jackson – the proposed 457-acre development that not only includes a stadium, but also a parking garage, hotel and shops.
That’s why the overall vision for the development should include concerts, festivals and sporting events such as the Carolina-Clemson game.
North Augusta’s plans are currently handcuffed by a lawsuit that contends the City has circumvented the law in pursuit of the project. However, should the plans emerge unscathed from the litigation and a game between the Gamecocks and Tigers takes place here, it would likely create unrivaled exposure for the community.
The Peach Jam and the Nike Nationals, which spotlight the best high school basketball players in the country, undoubtedly bring a jolt of economic benefits to the community. Adding the attention garnered from hosting a South Carolina-Clemson game would undoubtedly help trigger additional positive publicity.
The schools have already used Charleston and Greenville as host sites for the series, but bringing the teams to this end of the state would tap into additional exposure for the universities.
Both athletic directors have thankfully expressed interest in bringing the game to North Augusta. Ray Tanner, former head baseball coach and current athletic director for South Carolina, said bringing the game to places other than Clemson and Columbia helps to “showcase” both programs. And Dan Radakovich, athletic director at Clemson, referred to North Augusta as an “attractive option” should the stadium ultimately be built.
North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones also indicated that the game would be the biggest sporting event ever in the city limits – potentially drawing 6,000 to 7,000 people. Having that kind of draw, especially with two teams that are perennially high in the rankings, would be one of the biggest incentives for Project Jackson.
Having such a game here would also give our community the extra latitude it needs to attract other top tier events in the future.