Columbus Council voted to OK a lease with Diamond Baseball Holdings to bring a Minor League team back to Golden Park, after about a 90-minute closed meeting.

That means the city will spend up to $50 million in a bond issue to upgrade the 1920s ball park to Minor League standards.

The lease council approved was for 20 years, with the option of five-year renewals.

Mayor Skip Henderson said later Tuesday that the team will be the Double-A Braves, based in Pearl, Mississippi, outside Jackson. His statement was followed by a press release by Diamond Baseball Holdings saying the Atlanta Braves’ Double-A club will continue to play as the Mississippi Braves in Pearl, MS, through the 2024 season.

“This is an exciting day for Columbus and the result of hard work and dedication from a number of parties invested in the future of our community,” Henderson said. “. . . This project, anchored by the return of professional, affiliated baseball to Columbus, will have a transformative impact on not only our downtown area but the lives of our residents as well.”

Councilors in executive session were presented the lease agreement, a document the city attorney circulated privately among the representatives before the meeting.

Proponents have told city leaders the Minor League venture could draw $350 million in private investment in mixed-use development around the ball park, with residences, offices, hotels and retail shops.

Those opposed have said it’s a gamble that may never pay off, as a Minor League team is unlikely to stay here, and could leave the city with little to show for its expense.

Henderson has said the stadium must be ready to open for the first pitch of the 2025 season.

Ledger-Enquirer file photo

The Columbus Astros play at home game at Golden Park in 1986.

Credit: Joe Schwartz / Ledger-Enquirer file photo

Several other stakeholders in the development weighed in with their support of the project, including the head of hte Development Authority of Columbus.

“This is a great day for Columbus and the surrounding area. Being able to attract Minor League Baseball back to Columbus is a big deal, especially having the Braves’ Double-A affiliate. I believe this is the #1 brand in all of baseball, especially in the Southeast,” said Heath Schondelmayer of the DAA.

Among those attending Tuesday’s council meeting was Shea Guinn of Diamond Baseball Holdings.

After council approved the lease, Guinn spoke briefly, saying the company was ready to move on the project. He finished by saying, “Go Braves!”

Council held a specially called meeting Dec. 21 to give city administrators the OK to seek financing for the bonds, to renovate Golden Park, but it has not yet voted to issue those bonds, so another vote will be required.

Among the upgrades needed are dugout improvements, additional locker rooms, including some for female umpires, press box expansion, team offices, more seating, and luxury suites, the mayor said.

Comparable ball field development can be found in Greenville, S.C.; Spartanburg, S.C.; and Birmingham, Ala., he said.

Golden Park over the decades has hosted many Minor League teams, but all have pulled out when attendance dropped.

Here are some of the teams that have been based there over the years:

  • The Columbus Foxes, named for former Atlanta player Jim Fox, the team manager, played at Golden Park 1926-1932.
  • The Columbus Red Birds, affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals, played there 1936-1955.
  • The Columbus Yankees, affiliated with the New York Yankees, 1964-1966.
  • The Columbus Astros, affiliated with the Houston Astros, 1970-1988; renamed the Mudcats 1989-1990.
  • The Columbus RedStixx, affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, 1991-2002.
  • The South Georgia Waves, associated with the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2003.
  • The Columbus Catfish, associated with the Dodgers, 2004-2006; then with the Tampa Bay Rays, 2007-2008.


The Columbus Foxes are among the many teams to have played at Golden Park in Columbus, Georgia through the years. Ledger-Enquirer file photo  Read more at:

The Columbus Foxes are among the many teams to have played at Golden Park in Columbus, Ga., through the years.

Credit: Ledger-Enquirer file photo

Early moves

City leaders have been talking about redevelopment in the South Commons area that includes Golden Park since February 2023, when council voted with no public discussion to remove restrictive covenants on the property.

That restriction in a state law said the property “shall be kept open and used only for the purpose of a public park and playground and devoted to such amusement and pleasure as ... the City of Columbus may designate.”

Councilors discussed this during a Feb. 28 closed-door session to discuss real estate, an exception to the state open meetings law, which allows private meetings involving “negotiations to purchase, dispose of or lease property.”

Council then voted on a resolution asking state legislators to remove the covenant, with the resolution presented as a last-minute “add-on” to the city manager’s agenda, so it was not on the council agenda publicized before the meeting.

The Georgia General Assembly later removed the restrictive covenant, opening the property to private development.

In May, the mayor added a last-minute resolution to council’s meeting agenda saying the city “wishes to explore the possibility of bringing a minor league MLB baseball team back to Columbus,” and resolves to offer its “enthusiastic support” of that effort.

It authorized the mayor and his staff “to continue discussions with Diamond Baseball Holdings and other parties to explore opportunities to relocate a minor league team to Golden Park.”

That and the vote on exploring bond financing were the only discussions council has held publicly. Otherwise it has weighed its baseball options in private, using the same open-meetings law exception for real estate.

Council got a private briefing on the baseball proposal Dec. 12, but took no vote then.

City Attorney Clifton Fay announced at Tuesday’s meeting that councilors again were holding a closed session to discuss real estate, as they delved further into the baseball venture.

Besides Guinn, of Diamond Baseball Holdings, others included in council’s private session were Columbus Chamber of Commerce President Jerald Mitchell and W.C. Bradley Real Estate Division President Pace Halter.

Halter, who with Green and Columbus Development Authority Chairman Heath Schondelmayer was at council’s Dec. 21 called meeting, said then that his company was only a “facilitator” for the project, and not directly involved in the expected development.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with the Ledger-Enquirer