The New Stadium of the Greenjackets
The Augusta GreenJackets front office staff can’t help but smile each time they step foot on the grounds of THEIR new home.
Team president Jeff Eiseman stood with a sense of pride as he looked from the concourse over SRP Park’s field during its construction phase.
“Awe and sometimes disbelief,” Eiseman said of his feelings on the park.
Team vice president Tom Denlinger grinned under a GreenJackets hard hat outside the front gate of the stadium.
“This place is beautiful,” Denlinger said. “Every time you come, it gives you that tingly feeling.”
The GreenJackets staff is hoping fans will receive similar feelings of pride and excitement after years of announcements, meetings, legal battles and eventually construction to create what the team and city of North Augusta hope is the crown jewel of the riverfront.
December 2017 marked five years since the initial announcement that GreenJackets owners would seek a new ballpark and development near Hammond’s Ferry. Much has happened since, from city council readings and lawsuits over the $200 million-plus public/private partnership, to the final game at Lake Olmstead Stadium in Augusta, to the groundbreaking for SRP Park.
It’s all led to what Eiseman believes will be North Augusta’s signature landmark that’s first seen when people drive across the Savannah River.
“Here we have one river, and it’s such an underutilized asset and it’s such a critical part of the metro region,” Eiseman said. “To have this in a public space on the water and Greeneway, it’s going to set us apart from just about everybody in baseball, at least at our level.”
SRP Park is a key piece to a major riverfront development named Riverside Village, which includes a hotel/conference center, offices, apartments, single-family housing and retail. Chris Schoen, of master developer Greenstone Properties, previously said the development would draw 300,000 to 500,000 people per year, with baseball as a catalyst.
The team and city get to show off the new ballpark for the first time April 10 when University of Georgia and Clemson University play a non-conference college game starting at 6:30 p.m. The GreenJackets, the Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants in the South Atlantic League, officially open the new park to minor league baseball April 12 against Lexington at 7:35.
The area has responded to the new development by grabbing tickets as quickly as they become available. The GreenJackets have sold four times the amount of full season tickets compared to their previous home at Lake Olmstead, while the Georgia-Clemson game sold out in around 10 minutes.
“We could never imagine selling out in 10 minutes,” Denlinger said of the Georgia-Clemson game. “It shows the appetite for people to come see SRP Park. Our opening day is two days after that, and it’s going to be just as much of a spectacle to be a part of, and we can’t wait.”
North Augusta shares the excitement of having the development on its riverfront along Hammond’s Ferry.
“You have to think, this is going to be fantastic,” North Augusta Mayor Bob Pettit said. “It’s neat.
“We’re very excited. It’s going to be a part of a big feature. It’s the future. It’s going to help rejuvenate the downtown area.”
The ballpark will sport the latest amenities found in newer minor league stadiums.
Features include a 360-degree concourse, which offers fans a view of the field no matter the location or angle. Unlike Lake Olmstead, SRP Park gives fans the ability to grab a hot dog or purchase a cap while keeping eyes on the game.
Intimacy is a common theme throughout the park. A stroll through the front gate immediately offers a view of the field from behind home plate, and a walk around the concourse gives the feeling of closeness all over the stadium. The same applies to the second level, where a seat on the front row has a retro feel by hanging close to the field.
Accessibility is another constant. A new feature found in ballparks is the ability to get to shops and restaurants inside or outside the stadium. There will be outside storefronts for the ballpark’s food and apparel options, so fans can get a taste of baseball year round.
Other features include greater technology, such as concession-ordering capability by phone, high-definition video boards and state-of-the-art lighting, and smaller touches throughout the park, including high ceilings to the team store, a kids zone beyond the outfield, a berm for sitting, and a two-story restaurant building with Southbound Smokehouse and SweetWater brewery.
Beyond the stadium, the development will offer housing and hotel space. The hotel across the street, a Crowne Plaza, is expected to be complete around December and will feature conference space and a rooftop bar.
Apartments will be available in a building further down the street toward Hammond’s Ferry and will be accompanied by a parking deck. A separate parking deck for the stadium is being constructed over the course of the year along with other aspects of the development. There is also a building beyond left field offering office space.
The development, anchored by SRP Park, has been planned as a destination for the area, not just North Augusta. It’s something Denlinger said the entire area could be proud of.
“Our home obviously is in North Augusta,” he said. “We are fortunate to have Riverside Village and SRP Park as our home. It’s going to be a beautiful destination for the whole CSRA to come out and enjoy and be a part of.”
Article appears in the April 2018 issue of Augusta Magazine.