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Plans for $425 million Spartanburg baseball stadium project move forward

Krys Merryman //October 5, 2023//

Plans for $425 million Spartanburg baseball stadium project move forward

Krys Merryman //October 5, 2023//

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The project would transform four blocks of downtown Spartanburg, placing a Minor Leage Baseball stadiium as the focal point. (Photo/Provided)The Spartanburg City Council approved the first reading of a development agreement for a planned $425 million downtown baseball stadium development at its most recent meeting.

The project — known as Project Core — is a master plan for the next district of downtown Spartanburg. Combined with improvements underway along W. Main Street, according to the city, Project Core will transform the downtown’s western gateway, an area that has become increasingly attractive to mixed-use development.

Spartanburg City Manager Chris Story said this deal with Johnson Development Associates is the largest economic development project in the city's history. First announced in May, the centerpiece of the transformational development will be a new Minor League Baseball stadium to serve as the future home of the current Down East Wood Ducks of Kinston, N.C. The team is expected to be renamed in the move to Spartanburg, according to the city of Spartanburg.

In addition to the city and Johnson Development, other partners on the project are Spartanburg County and OneSpartanburg Inc.

The development will cover a total of around four blocks of downtown Spartanburg, bounded by W. Henry Street to the south, W. Main Street to the north, S. Daniel Morgan Avenue and Spring Street to the east, and CSX Railroad tracks to the west.

In addition to a 3,500-seat stadium, the development area will include 200,000 square feet of office space, more than 375 apartment units, a 150-room hotel, parking facilities to house at least 1,500 vehicles, and a large public plaza and event space. Construction on the project will take place in phases, with the stadium and first parking structure expected to be completed by spring of 2025 and subsequent phases to be completed over several years, according to the city of Spartanburg.

Billy Dunlap, OneSpartanburg Inc.’s chief tourism development officer, said the project will be “significant” to the economic development of the city moving forward.

Under terms of the agreement, Johnson Development Associates will invest $305 million to construct multiple structures for the development’s office space and commercial component, a new 150-unit hotel, and three parking facilities.

The city also agreed to transfer several parcels within the main project block to Johnson Development Associates immediately, as well as parcels bounded by S. Spring Street, S. Daniel Morgan Avenue, and W. Broad Street, and a parcel along S. Daniel Morgan Avenue adjacent to the Hampton Heights neighborhood at a later date.

Also included in the agreement is a restriction preventing the city from offering a higher ratio of incentives to any development for five years from the signing of the agreement and another restriction stating that no incentives can be offered to a hotel project in the downtown area for three years. Prior to the vote at the September meeting, several City Council members voiced concerns regarding the hotel restriction, questioning the wisdom of limiting potential competition during a time of unprecedented growth in downtown Spartanburg, according to the city.

Essentially, the transformative, historic scale of investment included in the project was the deciding factor, with the City Council approving the agreement in a 6-0 unanimous vote. Council member Rob Rain, who is employed by Johnson Development Associates, recused himself from the vote, the city said.

The Project Core agreement will require a second and final reading for final approval and will be on the agenda at the City Council’s next meeting on Oct. 9.

As the first reading passed without any opposition, the agreement will go on the city’s consent agenda and will most likely be approved with no further discussion, said Christopher George, Spartanburg’s communications manager.

Although the city doesn’t have final renderings of the project or site plans to share at this time, they are anticipating a groundbreaking for the stadium within the next month, George said.