ONLY ON 3: Saffo backtracks on campaign promise about tax-funded ballpark; other teams wait for decision

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Submitted: Thu, 02/02/2012 - 4:51am
Updated: Thu, 02/02/2012 - 4:00pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Several things must fall into place before a baseball stadium becomes a reality in Wilmington. Some important issues: How are we, meaning the taxpayers, going to fund it? Where would it go? And which team would play here?

Last fall Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo appeared on The Big Talker FM with Chad Adams to talk baseball. Adams asked the mayor if he supported a taxpayer-funded baseball stadium in Wilmington.

“No,” Saffo said. “No. And that’s one of the issues when people come to us and tell us we want to bring a ballteam to your community how are you gonna pay for it?”

But it looks like the city may consider shelling out the tax dollars after all despite what the mayor said while campaigning for reelection.

“I did make those comments,” Saffo said today. “I’d rather see some sort of sales tax pay for it, because everybody who comes in, Brunswick and Pender County, could help pay for this.”

Or it could mean an increase in Wilmington property taxes.

Mayor saffo says he’s actually received a lot of support since announcing the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball Properties are interested in bringing a team here; a team that could come from Virginia.

The general manager of the Lynchburg Hillcats, Paul Sunwall, has already been put on notice.

“We’re just a piece of the puzzle right now depending on what happens down where you are,” Sunwall said during a phone interview today with WWAY.

As they’re waiting, so are others.

Andrew Aguilar is the general manager of the Wilmington Sharks, a summer wood-bat college league team. As he prepares for the team’s 16th season in Wilmington, it’s uncertain whether they will see many more.

“It would be one of those things where it would be direct competition, one of those things where one would not be able to be here,” Aguilar said.

Of course, it’s all very early in the game. City Council still has to vote to move forward with negotiations.

Aguilar says he’s been down this road before. He ran a team in Mississippi until it struck out after the Braves brought a minor league team to town.

Mayor Saffo says the city has to weigh not only the economic benefits of what a stadium could do for downtown, but also how it would benefit the quality of life for the area.

Council will take up the issue Tuesday night.


  • OU812 says:

    Just another example of how a politician will tell a bold faced lie to get into office. If it’s such a great idea and money maker, don’t you think private investors would have already built one? Why just a baseball stadium? Why not football, soccer, tennis, lacrosse,racetrack, music venue….where does it end? It doesn’t as long as you have liberals spending everyone elses money. You voted Saff-O in or didn’t vote and allowed him to be put back into office. Enjoy your new tax bills

  • WilmWatcher says:

    If you have an IQ above 2.3, then you realize that this is a bad deal for Wilmington. Sign the petition against it:

    Check out our Facebook page:

  • ChefnSurf says:

    Just my own personal opinion, but whenever I see him I get that feeling. Goodness knows, I really would like to be wrong on this.

  • Guest Reply says:

    If they build it next to the Convention Center…a foul ball might bust out a window over there. And then again…if a new hotel is built there too…hotel customers can look out their window and watch for free.

  • Scott says:

    Its ok to live here but if you going to see(pros sport)colleges football game in charlotte or Raleigh chapel hill.Wilmington,
    NC doesn’t have the room for place pros baseball or football.Our, taxs is getting to expersives(NHC)Everybody are moving to other countys outside of lived&work.


  • Guesthal stevens says:

    Put it next to the convention center. I think we should keep all the white elephants in the same area, And while your at it bring that new road going across the river in to center field.

  • Guest Reply says:

    Then turn it into a beagle farm for breeding purposes!

  • Guest1010 says:

    I feel it would be a great move to go ahead with the stadium…once the city has the money needed to have it built without raising taxes to do it.

  • Guestgivmemymony says:

    If the stadium and hotels are given a green light, I hope this would not give Titan more wind to get their way to open shop here! Construction worker’s would have plenty of work and we have access to plenty of cement just the way things are.

  • Guest hal stevens says:

    Do you really expect honesty from a real estate sales man, if he told the truth he would starve to death.

  • Guest hal stevens says:

    Wow what a good idea. Raise the sale tax. Them we will have the highest tax in the state. what ever happen to the idea of living with in our means? Must have died with the last administration. that’s it raise the taxes then raise the water bill again then raise the room tax . Wonder if the folks in raleigh will let you put a tax on gasoline also. Then look at the money you will have to throw away. I take it the the convention center is still not able to stand by itself?

  • Guest1165 says:

    Raising taxes is not going to benefit the quality of life for anyone I know.
    Everyone needs to go to the Council meeting on Tuesday night and pack the hall and protest this newest hare-brained scheme that our lying city council has come up with.
    Who on council is running this year? Let’s get rid of them. I’d think Berger is an paranoid schizo on the county commissioners and I would rather have 2 of him than Bill Sucko.

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    which side of the mouth saffo talks out of. Lies on both sides however.

  • Guest2020 says:

    Is it really news that Saffo is willing to renege on his promise? He’s sleazy and I don’t see why Wilmington keeps electing him.

    Isn’t downtown overburdened with parking issues as it is? Where in the world do they think people are going to park?

  • Brian says:

    Saffo, please resign. How can we have confidence in your leadership when you’ve been caught in a lie?

  • Billy says:

    The town of Green Bay is way to small to have an NFL franchise, but they do. It seems that the way their team is owned is a proven success for a small market. Instead of putting a forced team and stadium in or having a divisive referendum, why not let Wilmingtonians that want a team put their money where their mouth is. Buy stock-get tickets. Buy more then get season tickets? I would love to see a stadium by the river, as long as it can host other events, i.e. live music for Azalea Fest, Little League Championships, NCAA baseball regionals. The Avett Brothers would have been awesome by the river. Coupled with the three new hotels it could bring in great rewards for Wilmington. Depending on the stock prices, count me in. Depending on the increase on taxes, count me out.

  • Nathan says:

    Billy the NFL is different, as the big city teams have to share revenue share revenue with the smaller market teams, such as Green Bay. A Wilmington baseball team would probably not have that arrangement.

  • GuestPEP says:

    In case folks have forgotten, Wilmington has tried the minor league baseball before and it failed.

    It makes no sense whatsoever to burden the residents southeastern NC with more taxes to fund another minor league team and a sweetheart deal for the city to buy the land from Saffo’s friend for the stadium.

  • Guest111 says:

    I find it hard to believe that anyone is shocked or upset that Saffo went back on a campaign promise. Where have you all been?

  • Peyton Garrett says:

    I will give City Council the benefit of the doubt…..For now. I want to see what the proposal is before passing judgement. Whatever teams are courted, supposedly the Atlanta Braves, will not just come in and play for free. It just depends on what They are willing to pay to play here. Let’s hear out the proposal and see what the numbers are before a thumbs up or thumbs down is decided by the public. A ball park and all that goes with it could be a very good thing for the North side of Wilmington. It would be ideal to have financial participation from outside the county. Let’s see some hard numbers before making these decisions.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    you haven’t seen the stadium plans. There will be a Mayor’s Skybox with an onsite salon for keeping the hair perfectly coiffed. Rumor has it there will be an in-box hot dog cooker and popcorn popper with available peanuts should a certain County Comissioner attend games.

    These are important considerations and may have influenced the change in direction.

    I guess though they missed the stats released yesterday by the NC Department of Labor which noted Wilmington area unemployment was up to 10.6%.

    Maybe this is their proactive attempt to turn that tide.

    And, did any one miss the post concerning possible changes to the planned convention hotel?

    As someone once noted, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings”.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    “Saffo Lies.”

  • Erlkoenig says:

    Taxo saffo will then implement the fat lady singing tax.

  • Guest Reply says:

    Their box seats will consist of these viewings and issues for review:
    1. People cutting the grass in the field (seasonal).
    2. People picking up trash blown onto the field from else where. It won’t be from stadium crowds.
    3. City Council going their for family outings and picnics (for free/seasonal).
    4. Telling us it will be used for a Hurricane Center…but it has no roof!
    5. A tax write off!
    6. A place for discarded hot dogs and popcorn boxes.
    7. Figuring out how to use it in the Winter months.
    8. Used as a beagle farm (yearly function).

    Y’all chose!!

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