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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The proposed ballpark has gotten its fair share of attention lately. Tuesday night City Council unanimously voted to start negotiating with Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves. However, two Wilmington men are trying to stop it from going any further and taking the issue into the hands of the people. Ben McCoy and Joshua Fulton, who previously ran for City Coucil, started a petition to hopefully change how the city can pay for the ballpark.

“It doesn’t matter what your political ideology is or where you stand or what you believe in,” McCoy said. “Your taxes are going up so that Bobby Cox and friends can make money from your risk and your investment.”

“We don’t think they should be gambling with our money essentially,” Fulton said.

The two have organized a citizen-initiated ordinance.

“Citizens of Wilmington can basically introduce whatever ordinance they want if they have enough signatures,” Fulton said. “This powerful tool has not been used by any municipality in the state of North Carolina within the last five years, according to General Counsel for the State Board of Elections.”

They have started a petition to prevent City Council from enforcing a tax raise to pay for the ballpark. City Council has two decisions when handed the petition: they can approve it as-is or put it to a public vote. About 3,000 signatures from registered Wilmington voters are needed for the citizen ordinance to be successful.

“The challenge is getting the message out and reaching everyday people that are outside the normal circles,” McCoy said.

To do just that, the two set up the Facebook group “Stop Tax-Funded Stadium in Downtown Wilmington,” where there’s a link on the wall to sign the petition.

“People need to get involved, they need to wake up,” McCoy said. “They need to get off the couch, they need to determine this issue and see where they stand on it and take steps to support your position.”

Fulton and McCoy have also organized a protest for February 18th at noon behind the Convention Center where you can sign that petition. Copies of the initiatives will also be available for citizens to sign at Wilmington Commercial Realty at College and Oleander and at Hardwire Tattoo downtown.

We contacted several members of City Council, including Mayor Bill Saffo. None were available for comment.

Comment on this Story

  • TheWatcherIsNuts

    As it stands this is a very simply worded proposal that could very easily have far reaching and quite unintended consequences. The real question lies in how one defines “professional” sports activity. The obvious would certainly include any city funding of clearly professional sports like the baseball club that lies at the center of the dispute AND the “professional” soccer club that plays at Legion Stadium, and would probably exclude something like Little League (although an argument could be made there are “professional” aspects even there.) I mention thid just to show you how ambiguous thisd simple language can be. Also, the term “directly or indirectly” could have far reaching implications. Providing funds (i.e. money) clearly is a direct funding. But, giving an organization a tax exemption or similar benefit for being in the City of Wilmington clearly would be an “indirect” funding activity and would also be barred. Other possible “indirect” funding could be to provide police traffic and/or special security control at games, and similar publicly funded activities that the City might provide. Odd as it may sound this is one reason why legislation is typically written in lengthy and apparently convoluted language – so as to avoid ambiguity and unintended consequences. Regardless of which side of the controversy one is on, the language they are proposing is dangerous and will, if enacted as written, have gravely unintended consequences.

  • Peyton Garrett

    There is no intent to Slander, Libel or anything else. My intent was to raise a question. I do not know what this project would cost. I have not seen any numbers, engineering, any factors at all. I now have asked a question of Mr. McCoy. Do You or do You not receive reimbursement from Government Agencies for your products? Also, it has been brought to the public’s attention, Do You own and or pay property tax in the City of Wilmington? Vehicles do not count. Those are my two questions.

  • Johnm

    I don’t agree with idea of a taxpayer funded ballpark at all. While a ballpark would be a good idea if we had adequate space for it in its current location but in the space alloted it would be cramped and wouldn’t adequately accommodate the people the way it needs too. But that’s not the real reason the ball park should not be there and that’s it would be forcibly funded by the taxpayers. That is not right any way you look at. The purpose for taxes is to provide goods and services a community needs (ie infrastructure, police protection, fire protection etc) not what a select few want. The main people pushing for the project are the mayor and city council. If the community would have wanted a team the other would have not failed and there would be that as an obvious option but as history tells us the community will not sustain a baseball team for more than a few years at most and when interest wanes the team will move like the previous. And if there were so interested in playing in town why couldn’t they play at either legion stadium or the uncw like before. Why build a 30 million dollar field at the expense of the taxpayer when there are two viable locations already? I’ll tell you why and all you have to do is follow the dollar signs. Who stands to gain almost more than anyone from a new taxpayer field downtown? Bill Saffo! That’s who. He owns multiple properties on front street alone and a new field that costs him nothing to build but would single handedly drive property values thru the roof in the vicinity of the stadium. I think if I were him I would vote yes to if owned property on the exact road the ballpark was going. It’s a no brainer really and if I owned multiple commercial properties the vote would be hell yes. And there is no telling if other city councilmen own property too in the area but my guess is yes. Mayor Saffo already did a downtown revitalization project at the taxpayer expense to increase property values this making himself richer this would be just one more thing to line those pockets alittle more all the whole the taxpayer pays for it. No a bad racket if you ask me, if I could do all that I would like to be mayor too. All the while the majority of wilmingtonians have no clue this is really going on. I don’t mean to be a Saffo basher it just doesn’t seem right on so many levels to ask the taxpayers to pay for something it doesn’t really need or want. We need to to be putting that money into programs and services to get our people back to work. Getting our community off it’s back is where our heads need to be. Tax increases for leisure risky projects should be at the very last hint on our minds right now. But it’s that whole putting the cart before he horse mentality that got us in the mess we are in anyways.

  • Jayrover

    I am sure glad all of the Ben “Haters” are spouting out a legitimate argument here instead of trying to personally slander him.. Wow, (by the way.. sarcasm). Look, lets have the debate. I would love a baseball stadium in Wilmington. It would be cool. I could totally get behind a group who wanted to help raise funds voluntarily for it. As a lifelong baseball fan, who subscribes to MLB.tv to watch tons of games, along with catching a game whenever I go to New York, I would LOVE to see a stadium here. I might even buy season tickets…AS LONG AS it wasn’t built by theft of the taxpayer for the gain of Big Business.

    The point is, lets have the debate. The people who sit here and slander people’s character need to grow up. You sound like a bunch of whiny little crybabies. I am hopeful you are not, so we can have an intelligent conversation. But based on this thread, it sounds like Ben and Josh are going to win the intellectual argument.

  • Guest111

    I don’t care who gets the petition going just get it going in a way people have access to it. Sorta dropped the ball on day one. Plan this a bit better. Thanks

  • GuesMike T

    Hey boys you really got a strong fan base going here!(NOT) The stories been out all morning and so far not one post to support you. Wheres your fans?
    Looks like you have been left in the dugout. Underground you might say!!

  • Justin LaNasa
  • Brian

    Past history and motivation of the two organizers aside, I agree with them that taxpayers should not be required to pay for this. If private investors aren’t excited about it and lining up to fund it, then it’s a losing proposition and taxpayers do not need to be forced to pay for it. Nor do the taxpayers need to assume any debt with regard to the project.

    If taxpayer funds are involved, then the taxpayers should have total control of the operation – from hiring and firing staff to setting salaries and schedules. Mandalay and the Atlanta Braves should be required to cover any losses, and profits should be garnished 100% by the taxpayers until the entire amount that was funded is repaid. I seriously doubt that Mandalay and the Braves would agree to those terms, because they KNOW that this project is not fiscally sustainable.

  • John

    These two men are clowns and just looking for attention. Do either of them actually own property within the City Limits? Maybe they own under other names; however, I couldn’t find their names in the tax records. If they do not own property within the City Limits then they should shut it!!

    Eitherway look at the big picture. The stadium will not only be used for baseball but for concerts etc. Long term this stadium will have a postive impact on the City and property values. You build this stadium correctly with views of the river in the background and it will be packed day in day out. Tailgating before going into a game and looking at the river in the background would be excellent. I vote yes. It is time for Wilmington to take another step forward.

  • Mike T

    McCoy and Fulton, Losers, Losers,Losers. These boys will do anything to stay in the game. They desire to be heavy hitters but neither could put down a bunt. The next thing we most likely will hear from these two is send in a little cash for the cause. Oh ! don,t forget go by your local Tattoo Parlor to sign up. Wilmington is a great city that just don,t need these people.

  • Gramps1935

    16 years ago, we had a AA team, the Port City Roosters. The first dozen games were sellouts. Within 2 years, the UNC-W stadium was 3/4 empty, even though you could walk in, for free. The city lost $2 million, the Seattle Mariners lost over $1 million, and UNC-W lost several hundred thousand dollars.

    Now they want to build a $30 million dollar stadium, with city dollars,and no opposition from our elected officals. Sounds to me like a few hands are in the cookie jar.

  • Citizen of the Republic

    It sounds like a good idea.

    The only thing negative is the fact that only 1 plan has been proposed, and that is the taxpayers of Wilmington will foot the bill.

    I would have thought that the proposal submitted recently would have had a varied financing plan that would have made it more acceptable.

    Perhaps downtown business would be able to help with some money, even though it probably wouldn’t be much.

    I believe that since downtown would be the greatest benefactor of trickle down benefits from the stadium, perhaps there could be a plan with downtown business coming up with a sales tax that would involve hotels in downtown contributing. I know this wouldn’t be popular, but if it would help finance the ball park, taxpayers would feel that it wasn’t entirely on their backs.

    If it truly is a good plan, the business’s with the most to gain, should be prepared to contribute accordingly.

    These are just suggestions, but before things get too far along either way, we need some input and I think if taxpayers see that they wont be alone, there would be more support city and county wide.

  • Peyton Garrett

    How did the University lose any money? Brooks Field was upgraded by the Roosters. I have never heard anything about the University losing any money.

  • Justin LaNasa

    I own property in the city and the county! and I say if you want a stadium john buy it!!! or invest with your own money!! not my tax dollars or the other 80% of the populous who agrees in stopping senseless spending !!!!

  • Guest111

    I went by Wilmington Commercial Realty twice today to sign the petition. No one there either time and the second time another car was there for the same purpose. When you call the number there’s never an answer and the mail box is full. If you want people to sign the petition you need to put it somewhere that’s easy to get to, (this place on Oleander is not) and someone needs to be there to allow access to the papers. It needs to be moved so folks can get started on this.

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