In a close vote, Columbia City Council has tentatively OK'd a contract to build a publicly funded baseball stadium in the Bull Street neighborhood.

Council voted 4-to-3 on Tuesday to authorize the contract on first reading.  A final vote could occur in a couple weeks.

The State newspaper reports the deal includes an agreement with Atlanta-based Hardball Capital to bring a minor-league baseball team to Columbia to play in a projected $35-million ballpark.

The newspaper reports the city would pay $29-million of the stadium construction costs with a loan to be repaid from taxes collected from restaurant and bar patrons.

Supporters of the project are hoping construction of the 8,500-seat ballpark could be finished in time for the start of the minor-league season in April of next year, but one of the city's attorneys says the facility might not be ready until the 2016 season.