jeff6City Council and the Houston Astros baseball club have signed a 30-year lease agreement for a Single-A minor league baseball team in Fayetteville. Astros Team President Reid Ryan and Mayor Nat Robertson signed the deal following formal council action in city hall. “This has been a very enjoyable process,” said Ryan. “We’re in this for the long haul,” he added. He’s the son of baseball hall of famer Nolan Ryan who once played with the Astros. The Fayetteville team will be joining the Carolina League along with a new Texas Rangers minor league club in Kinston. Both teams are moving to North Carolina from California.

City Manager Doug Hewett told council Fayetteville is “poised to make history” in bringing professional baseball back to the city. “I’m very proud to lead this renaissance that will bring about a quarter million people to our downtown for approximately 70 games a year,” said Robertson.

In separate action earlier, the city voted to retain baseball consultant Jason Freier of Hardball Capitol to oversee development of the $33 million stadium in the center city. Council also approved bond underwriting attorneys who will manage the sale of bonds to finance the stadium. The city hopes to break ground on the ballpark next summer. It will open in the spring of 2019 in time for the baseball season. In the meantime, the Fayetteville team will call Jim Perry Stadium at Campbell University home. 

City Council sees the stadium as a catalyst for economic development in downtown Fayetteville. A $15 million renovation of the former Prince Charles Hotel building is already part of what’s projected to be $100 million worth of investments. The city’s economic and development director, Jim Palenick is on record as saying that upon completion of the projects and realignment of the Bragg Boulevard / Murchsion Road gateway to downtown, Fayetteville will have become a proven market for high-dollar development. “Five years down the road, Fayetteville will be perceived much differently,” he says.

The council’s baseball committee, which spent six months putting the Astros deal together, envisions the stadium as a multi-purpose entertainment facility. It will be designed after a larger stadium owned by Freier in Columbia, S.C., but on a smaller scale. It will feature a 360-degree concourse, outfield berm seating, a large picnic area and, of course, a grandstand. The stadium should accommodate about 4,500 fans.  The playing field will be capable of reconfiguration for soccer and football. Concerts and festivals can also be staged there as envisioned. 

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