Capital City Stadium Still Stands in Columbia, SC
Photos Courtesy of Donny Wise.
If you have been to Columbia, South Carolina, you might have noticed that Capital City Stadium is still standing. The former home of both minor league and summer collegiate baseball hasn’t hosted a game since 2014, and the site was supposed to have been in the finishing stages of a redevelopment plan.
However, those plans changed when Weddle Real Estate pulled out of the plan to build a 310-apartment unit and 20,000-square-foot retail in December after it bought the land for $1.6 million in June 2019. The complex would have been called The Ballpark, but the pandemic, the resulting high-interest rates, and the even higher cost of materials have paused the project for the time being.
There is also the solution of devising a way to keep stormwater off the property that's located in a flood plain. Weddle received tax incentives from the city and county and had a $5.4 million flood radiation plan, including off-site measures to control stormwater runoff in nearby streams.
Another reason the structure still stands is city officials are debating whether to raze it or let it stand until another deal arrives. The stadium is eligible for state abandoned building tax credits if a developer decides to preserve it. Bulldozing the grandstand and building would mean losing the incentive.
It is the third attempt to convert the site for life after baseball. In 2011, a proposed Walmart was turned down, and in 2017, Kroger pulled out of placing a supermarket because it housed baseball for 87 years in Columbia. There was always talk about the stadium’s last day, even during my lone visit in July 2013.
The ballpark has lived many lives; it first opened as Dreyfuss Park after the Pittsburgh Pirates owner personally financed the construction. It was renamed Capital City Park in 1946 but was knocked down in 1972 after a decade without minor league baseball.
It was rebuilt in 1983 for the arrival of the Columbia Mets and reconstructed one last time in 1991. That current structure hosted baseball by the Mets, Capital City Bombers, or Blowfish until 2014. It is also that same structure that stands in ruins with tattered signage from the Blowfish days, overgrown grass, and weeds popping through the concrete.
A walk through the concourse displays a crumbling facade, tangled ivy, graffiti-painted walls, and rotting wood. The home and away dugouts also feature graffiti, and the press box area is boarded up with wooden planks in the windows. The place looks like any other ballpark would be after its main tenant relocated almost a decade ago.
The city and area have other ballparks to watch baseball at Segra Park in the Bullstreet District opened in 2016 and is home to the Columbia Fireflies. The Blowfish relocated to nearby Lexington and now play at Lexington County Blowfish Stadium, and South Carolina Gamecocks fans have been enjoying games at Founders Park since 2009. However, the area’s old and cranky ballpark still refuses to call it quits, and there's no telling when it will finally meet the wrecking ball.
Perhaps the failed redevelopment is a sign that it should be left as a baseball or sports-related complex, albeit on a much smaller scale. Could it be cleaned up and revamped for a soccer-specific field or city or high school sports? It is easy for this reporter to say that it’s not my money going into the planning.
There have been other abandoned ballparks brought back to life. Joe Davis Stadium in Huntsville, Alabama, was rechristened as Wicks Family Field and houses Huntsville City FC of MLS Next Pro. The Double-A Huntsville Stars left after the 2014 season and welcomed the new soccer team this year to the city.
There have been a lot of baseball memories invested at Capital City Park dating back almost a century. The site has been home to three separate structures, but many spring and summer nights were spent enjoying a minor league game or other baseball-related event. For some it’s an eyesore, to others, it’s an old friend just hanging out where they always have just down the street.