After the 2015 season the South Atlantic League’s Savannah Sand Gnats are history. The announcement made yesterday confirmed that the New York Mets single-A club will be relocating to Columbia, South Carolina for 2016.
This is the second time Savannah, Georgia has lost their baseball team to South Carolina, the first following the 1984 season when the town’s Double-A Braves shuffled off to Greenville, SC. That same season the St Louis Cardinals moved their Single-A team into Savannah, this is the same franchise that plays there today. The loss of these Sand Gnats will leave the city without a minor league club for the first time since 1967.
The big issue with keeping a team in town is the state of their home ballpark Grayson Stadium; built in 1926 it is one of the oldest venues still in use in the Minor Leagues.
Grayson Stadium (baseballpilgrimages.com)
“An investment would have been needed to acquire another team so as to keep one in Savannah. We were willing to do so as long as was there was some plan in place for a suitable long-term facility… Unfortunately we were not able to get that from the city.” – Hardball Capital CEO Jason Freier, to Benjamin Hill of MiLB.com
Stadium issues shouldn’t be a problem for the team for quite some time once the club moves to Columbia, come April 2016 the team will be playing in the brand new Spirit Communications Park, still under construction.
“[The Mets] have stuck with [the Sand Gnats] in a difficult situation. Now they’re going from one of the most difficult to one of the best — a top-of-the-line brand-new ballpark.”
No doubt about that. Spirit Communications Park will add double the seating capacity in addition to private boxes and the modern amenities required to keep fans coming back and attract serious business partners. All necessities in today’s baseball landscape.
Still, it is always a shame to see another ballpark of an era gone by sit empty.
No indication on what the new team will be called (they wouldn’t just go with Columbia Mets, would they?) but we’ll obviously keep you posted as we hear what we hear.
So long, Sand Gnats.
(pic courtesy VisitSavannah.com)