South Carolina athletics director Ray Tanner has no problem sharing the city with a minor league baseball team if it comes to that, he told the Columbia Rotary Club on Monday.
“I just think it’s a different product,” said Tanner, who coached the Gamecocks baseball team for 16 years before retiring in 2012 to take over the athletics director’s office. Minor league baseball “is an entertainment experience, and baseball is part of it. We’re baseball. We have other things going on, but theirs is entirely different.”
Tanner, who coached South Carolina to two national championships and presided over the construction of Carolina Stadium, met last week with Jason Freier, the CEO of Hardball Capital, who has promised to bring a minor league team to Columbia if a stadium is built as part of the Bull Street Development. The two men agreed both teams would have to be supportive of each other, but Tanner believes they would be mostly separate entities.
“Could we co-exist? Certainly,” he said. “I don’t see it as we are going to be in competition with the minor league team. You can’t convince me that’s an issue. We live in a city where you shop at one grocery store over another grocery store, and the other grocery store stays in business.”
Tanner also stressed to the Rotary Club that he is not advocating for the construction of a new stadium.
“The city council and the mayor, they are the ones that make the decision if it’s the right thing for the Bull Street development,” he said. “I don’t know enough to take an educated stand on that, but should they go in that direction, is it going to be competition for us? I don’t see it that way.”
South Carolina explored a partnership with a minor league baseball team early in Tanner’s tenure as baseball coach, Tanner said, but the conversations eventually ended.
Freier will speak to the Rotary Club at its meeting next week.
Also Tuesday, Tanner told the club:
• South Carolina plans to break ground soon on the new indoor and outdoor practice facilities behind the Farmer’s Market parking area.
• An overhaul of the plaza area surrounding Williams-Brice Stadium will begin at the end of the 2014 football season and be complete by the beginning of the 2015 season.
• A playground at Carolina Stadium will be complete in time for Opening Day on Feb. 14.
• AT&T U-verse remains the only major distributer to have signed a deal to carry the SEC Network, which will go on the air in August. However, Tanner believes more deals are imminent and urged the Rotarians to go to getsecnetwork.com to lobby cable providers to pick up the network, which will broadcast the Gamecocks’ 2014 season opener against Texas A&M.
• He fully supports men’s basketball coach Frank Martin, whose team fell to 0-6 in the SEC on Saturday. “I know it’s a little frustrating for him,” Tanner said.