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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Could this be our field of dreams, and if we build it will they come? Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo thinks so.

“After several tries and weathering a tough economic climate for the last few years, we believe we have finally gotten a proposal that gives the city what we ask for,” Saffo said.

He is talking about a new convention center hotel and baseball park for downtown Wilmington.

Jeff Hren is cautiously optimistic.

“I think a ballpark downtown would be a good idea if it would be economically viable,” he said. “What are we doing building a ballpark downtown if it can’t pay for itself?”

Does that sound familiar? That is what people said when the Convention Center was proposed.

Kim Hufham with the Convention and Visitors Bureau says the hotel is a must.

“We have some associations and groups that we’re working with that require that the hotel be adjacent to the convention in order to even come,” Hufham said.

Brian Stewart loves baseball. He is the head coach at Ashley High School, and he thinks a ballpark would be a good addition to the city.

“I think it would be great for downtown,” Stewart said. “All of the revitalization they are doing with the Convention Center, especially if they made it multi-use, and who knows? They could possibly work out something with Cape Fear Community College and possibly have baseball at the community college level.”

While people are talking and it is generally positive, the city is not quite ready to take you out the ballpark just yet. The proposal is just that. Mandalay Baseball Properties has six months to figure out a potential deal with the city including cost, location, teams available to relocate and whether there’s public support to do it.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest1234

    We don’t need a ballpark. What we do need is a concert venue where bands, mainly large ones, can play. Trask Coliseum just doesn’t cut it. The sound quality is terrible. Why not put that money towards something that will be profitable.

    Mr. Mayor, we warned you against the convention center and you didn’t listen. Now you’re looking in every nook and cranny to find funding to keep it alive. Don’t repeat the same mistake twice!

  • Guest2020

    It is way past time for Wilmington to quit electing officials who are in the developers’ pockets. Has anyone besides the builders of the convention center, even made any money off of it? I don’t see how the ballpark would be that much different.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    …IF they were all full-time jobs. Most likely that number includes the entire team and every game day parking attendant, beer and hot-dog hawker, cashier, etc. I’d be suprised if the stadium had more than two-dozen full time employees.

  • PublicAvenger

    What a horrible waste of money, and a joke. Remember the Port City Roosters ? After 2 seasons, we couldn’t even get 100 people to see them for free, at most games.

  • Guest45

    Remember Saffo, three strikes and you and the good old boys might be out. Strike one was Convention Center, Strike two was Annexation, Strike three will be that Ballpark. There are no walks or errors in this game.

  • Mike T

    This is exactly the kind of information required for an intellegent decision. Your support of my post is appreciated weather you ment it or not. No one should favor destined failure. I don,t know the numbers but I am also not afraid to find out. I have been to all the parks I named and I see the excitement they generate. In the case of Winston Salem 3,600 per night doesn,t sound that bad. Using a stadium for multiple purpose fits Wilmington with our mild wheather.
    Thanks again, its so nice to have someone out there with something between their ears.

  • justin

    I think you need to look at Mandalay’s record, especially their relationship with the Winston-Salem Dash, Billy Prim and the BB&T Ballpark debacle… The ballpark was $15M over budget and a year behind. The project required a tax-funded bailout from city officials. Average ballpark attendance of just 3,600 for the 2010 season, so that’s only half capacity. If it wasn’t for several community events, like the Brew Fest, and concerts relocating to the park, they would have been in the hole again. The $48M project (originally projected to be $33M) was made possible by 54% public funds ($26.7M) and only 45% private ($22M). Revenues for the first year were just over $8M and payments back to the city were shy of $1.5M for 2010 – so that’s about 18 years before the city breaks even. The ballpark and team employ 345 people, so not a huge employer either.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    …then let private dollars fund it.

    When they want the taxpayers on the hook, you know they have their doubts about its viability. If it was a sure thing, they wouldn’t want to share the profits with the city.

  • jj

    If we build the park then I think the city should recieve all the money it brings in. I am talking about concession and tickets. I do not think we should build it and then the team gets all the money.

    Also, when the city (me as a tax payer) ask for a ballpark. I believe after voting down the convention center twice the city decide to build it anyway.

  • Das Weibstück

    I think race car track would sell more tickets !!

  • Peyton Garrett

    I agree with Mike T. Look what has been done in Durham and the properties surrounding that ballpark. Never been to the others. I have been to 5 county in Zebulon another nice park. A ballpark could really open up the whole North side for private enterprise. Like I said before, let the process play out. See what the numbers are going to be. The participation of all parties involved financially before crying “foul”. Pun intended. “Chicken Little” ain’t here yet. The sky is not going to fall anytime soon.

  • Mike T

    Wilmington should at least look into the potential of real professional quality baseball. The Atlanta Braves and Mandalay has done plenty of study into the potential of a successful franchise here in the Port City. There levels of investment would be very substantial. Between these organizations and the city, one might think that a good business plan could evolve. Some people might think that the Braves put a US map on the wall and threw a dart at it and hit Wilmington. I am positive that didn’t happen. For many of the nay sayers out their, I suggest you come out from under your rock and go see the beautiful baseball complexes at Durham,Greensboro, Winston Salem and Asheville. These cities have invested in their inner city and enhanced their downtowns. Their programs are successful examples of high quality family entertainment for their entire region. Public/Private partnerships work !!

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    Just saw Tom’s comment and yes, the Indians have left Kinston and are moving to Zebulon…so they’re two hours up I-40.

    Read the stories about that sale and move and you understand that these teams move around quite frequently….which makes you wonder what we do with an empty stadium if we can even attract a team and they then move a few years down the road….

  • ChefnSurf

    Saffo, and to be honest, a few others will do whatever it takes to promote their own personal legacy, no matter how much it costs the taxpayers. Wilmington is already stuck with one white elephant already. In addition to the convention center, do they really think they can justify another egocentric project to lose other people’s money on?

    I can just picture them brainstorming on how to to pay for this latest boondoggle. “Hey, let’s annex Raleigh!”

  • Robert Green

    It is always Christmas under the Billy Saffo regime.Always shopping around on a beer budget with champagne taste!

  • guesty

    He is using one of the shovels to move the crap he says.

  • Guestsmiley

    I am so excited! Can’t wait! Thanks, Mr. Saffo, this will be great for Wilmington!

  • taxpayer

    They promised Billy he could throw the first pitch! :) Time to get those shovels out of the storage shed and spray paint them gold for the groundbreaking ceremony.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    The people supporting this stadium evidently haven’t bothered to take a look at the true demand in this area. Cold, hard FACTS indicate that if you build it, they WON’T come.

    Within an hour and one-half to the South or Northeast we already have minor league teams, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the Kinston Indians. Drive a little further and you can see the Bulls in Durham.

    Meanwhile, we have a perfectly fine stadium and team here in Wilmington, the Sharks at Buck Hardee Field. Attendance is less than stellar and they play to a limited fan base, which is sad because you can see some pretty good ball played there.

    Every single aspect of life is dictated by supply and demand, and judging from the number of people traveling to the existing farm teams and attending the games at Buck Hardee Field, one has to wonder how we create demand when we already have an adequate supply of good baseball with very little existing demand.

    As far as a new stadium bringing jobs, once the temporary construction jobs are gone, the actual number of people employed will likely rival Titan for an unimpressive number.

    What won’t be temporary is the tax increase. That will be with you forever.

    Never, ever forget this basic, universal law: If there was money to be made, they wouldn’t be coming hat-in-hand to the city. Private venture capital would fund the entire project. When they ask for taxpayer money, you KNOW it’s going to be a money losing scam.

  • Just another Guest

    Seriously? A ball park and a team? This was a failure in 95-96, didn’t the consider that? What about the soccer team, has that brought anything to Wilmington really? And that the County isn’t going to participate should be a MAJOR RED FLAG! This council and mayor is running this city into the dirt, sliding into first…..OUT!

  • taxpayer
  • SurfCityTom

    from the count. They are all employees of, and paid by, the major league club.

    The same holds true for the manager & coaches.

    My company audited the Kinston Indians for the past few years; the majority of true employees were part time. I believe there were fewer than 10 full time positions.

    So much for job creation.

    As for revenue, not everyone will be willing or able to drop $5 for a beer; $3 for a coke, popcorn, or ships; or $3 for a hot dog. If you attended an Indians game this past year, that was the going rate. And their stadium was paid for.

    So much for economics.

  • taxpayeriam

    Jeff Hren is a id— the millions spent and owed on the c-center,has the center even been able to cover the cost of the company over seeing it.Hope the county stays away from anything to do with the ball park and anything else the city wants the county taxpayers to help fund.The egotistical bunch running Wilmington need to be run out of town.Just give give another dollar,someone needs to look into who has benefited and will benefit from all the deals that are going on in and around Wilmington.

  • Mky Jct Voter

    NO to this White Elephant. I doubt the voters will get to vote on it. It will be rammed down out throats to be a tax increase of course. We’re going to be paying for that convention center for years to come. Why add that ballpark just to pump up the city leader’s pockets and egos some more.

  • Whiffed

    Do we get to vote on it, or is this going to be like the colossal failure convention center? No amount of cheerleading to the contrary will convince me that place is a failed business model. (Who attends conventions these days?)

    This is stadium is pre-ordained…the political weasels will stuff this down our thoats. I say Billy holds a bake sale out in Landfill…er, Landfall, I meant.

  • SurfCityTom

    I-40 into Pender County. Lower land costs. Easy accessability for Wilmington and the surrounding counites. No competition; Kinston lost the Indians.

    That makes too much sense; and increases the liklihood the ballpark & team could be operated on their own revenue.

    And that eliminates the ability of city property owners to unload overpriced real estate onto the taxpayers’ backs.

    Remember that when election time comes around.

  • Guest461

    They just HAD an election, remember? A WHOPPING 15% went to the polls. The same ol’, same ol’ are STILL in there pulling the same ol’ stunts.

    Either the voters in the city are exceedingly stupid, exceedingly lazy, exceedingly old and feeble or exceedingly out-of-touch. All I know is that they keep getting exceedingly steam-rolled by their city leaders and don’t seem to care.

  • Roger Maris

    There has been talk that one was being built across the river too. Not holding my breath on this. http://lincolnparkdev.wordpress.com/

  • Ash

    With all the issues Wilmington has saying they don’t have money to do this and that but yet they want to build a stadium and only way to pay for it is our hard earned money. So they raise our taxes. Which is totally uncalled for. Wilmington is already crowded as it is and then add on tourist season. Now they are trying to add a baseball stadium. Can you say hello traffic jams. There is going to be no easy way to get traffic in and out of the stadium. Parking is already tight even though they want to add parking.

    This will just add more issues to downtown Wilmington. They think crime is bad now yall just wait til the stadium opens. You will have nothing but drunks walking around fighting with each other.

    One baseball stadium is enough in Wilmington. I don’t like the idea, and plus my taxes paying for that stadium totally against that. Wilmington should put the tax money towards something else. Try and revitalize downtown as it is.

    This stadium will be endless problems will never be paid off. It’s crazy and one of the most ignorant ideas ever!

  • taxpayer

    Listening to Mayor Saffo expound upon the benefits of a baseball stadium, he said the facility could be used for concerts and weddings. For those fathers out there with daughters…who among you has not dreamed of walking your daughter…down the first base line…on her special day.

  • NHHS62

    We have a field that could be used that has been used for pro ball in the past. Godwin Stadium was built in the 40s and is as good a place to watch baseball as anywhere I have ever been. I have seen as many as 2500 folks in the stands that are there now. I am sure with a few upgrades it could handle a crowd of more than that. It is also a great place to play the game. I am sure it would be alot cheaper to do upgrades to an existing facility than to start from the ground up! I bet you would have more support for that idea than the one that is being proposed now. I would support Godwin upgrades more than the new stadium. Lots of history at Godwin and that would a selling point too!

  • Guest2312311131

    This is a good idea since there is so much parking available downtown all the time.


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