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Thursday, March 20, 2014
The baseball series between Clemson University and the University of South Carolina, which has been called “college baseball's most heated rivalry” by SEBaseball.com's Mark Etheridge, takes place as a three-game series each baseball season.
One game is hosted by each school, with the third neutral-site game being played in Fluor Field in Greenville in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and Riley Park in Charleston in 2012.
North Augusta Mayor Lark Jones is hoping to bring the game to North Augusta in the baseball stadium that is planned with Project Jackson.
Project Jackson is a proposed 457-acre development along the Savannah River front consisting of possibly a hotel, stores and a baseball stadium.
“I think, from my discussions with both schools, they are wanting to expose the schools to the whole state,” Jones said. “I am very pleased that both Clemson and South Carolina have indicated a willingness to play that neutral game throughout South Carolina to bring their teams to their fans all over the state. So, they will go to Charleston and Greenville occasionally, but I think it's just fantastic that they would consider coming to North Augusta, pending venue ... Ideally, we would like to host the game as the grand opening event for the new stadium here in North Augusta in 2016.”
South Carolina Athletic Director Ray Tanner expressed interest in playing the game in North Augusta, once a venue is built and ready for play.
“North Augusta is interested, once the stadium is finished, and we're interested in it,” he said. “Dan Radakovich at Clemson is interested, and we like to showcase the teams to the state. We've sent the (request for proposal) to a number of cities, North Augusta included, and would split the gate 50/50 (between the schools).”
The school has such requests in Charleston, Myrtle Beach, North Augusta and Charlotte, N.C., Tanner said.
“We are interested in all of those locations,” he said.
Jones said he feels the biggest rivalry in South Carolina should stay in the state.
“Now, Charlotte has a nice new venue that's getting ready to open up, and there are a lot of Clemson and Carolina fans in the Charlotte area,” he said. “But, there's just something wrong in my mind about Clemson and South Carolina playing a neutral game outside of the state. The only neutral game they should be playing (outside of the state) is in Omaha.”
Radakovich, Clemson's athletic director, called North Augusta “an attractive option,” for the game.
“We've begun, along with the athletic administration at USC, the selection process to determine future host sites for the series; and North Augusta is certainly a part of the process, along with Charleston, Greenville, Myrtle Beach and Rock Hill/Charlotte,” he said. “North Augusta, as is each of the locations, is an important area for our state and the Clemson family. With the new ballpark opening in 2016, it's certainly an attractive option for this great game.”
Standing in the way of a Clemson-South Carolina game taking place in North Augusta is building the baseball stadium to hold the game.
Jones said the venue is only one piece of the puzzle.
“(We need to get) a stadium designed, a stadium built and, in order to do that, we've got to have the development agreement with that developer and assurances that $100 million of improvements will be built simultaneously with the stadium so the property taxes will be generated to pay for the stadium,” Jones said.
The City has to submit a request for proposal to Clemson and Carolina by May 19, and “convince them that we can do all of that and that we are the best and logical choice to host the game,” Jones said.
While building a stadium and convincing the schools to come to North Augusta are in front of the City, the idea of bringing the game to a new location in the state may appeal to the universities.
“One thing we've got going for us is this: In Greenville or Charleston, this game is just another event,” Jones said. “If they come to North Augusta to play, it will be the biggest sporting event we've ever had inside our city limits. Now, some North Augusta football devotees may argue with you, but the baseball game has the potential to draw 6,000 or 7,000 people. It would be a big draw for the city.”
T.J. Lundeen is a reporter for The North Augusta Star. Follow him on Twitter @lundeentj for more updates.