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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.

  • Dan S.

    I am a HUGE basball fan and would like the team to come this way for ANOTHER try. However if they don’t come I am not going to be disappointed either. If building a stadium is risky, which it is, instead of being completely against it maybe a different solution should be suggested?

    Can our tax money go to something to make the area look more attractive? If we don’t act on the stadium the area will still be desolate for more years to come. Even an empty basball stadium looks better than it does now.

  • Indawindigoes

    The people will vote yes if finances are reasonable. There will be a big stadium where the super bridge lands. It will be beautiful. It should be huge, big enough for football and maybe horse and car racing. Wow, zoom, zoom, zoom….

  • RSimmons

    All the loonie’s are coming out of the woodwork. Last time anyone listened to Ben McCoy we ended up with Brian Berger ! Joshua Fulton isn’t much more lucid than Berger.

    I don’t want a Stadium but we need people speaking up who have some credibility and don’t come off as tea party lunatics.

  • Then you do it! See that’s the funny thing about these online forums. People like you drop in from time to time and leave your little commentary and then disappear into the woodwork. The funny thing is, you consider yourself “engaged” and “informed”. I don’t see you taking any action. Your comment clearly states that you would like someone else to headline this effort – which tells us you are not a leader. You are looking for someone to follow – actually you are begging for it. It’s ridiculously easy to anonymously leave some post on WWAY about how I’m this and I’m that – and then relish in your apathetic anonymity. That is what is wrong with this town. The very few who do stand up to the government are shouted down by the sheep who wouldn’t dare turn off Dancing with the Stars long enough to even go to a city council meeting. I can’t say that really offended at your comment at all given that you fit this profile so well. Sorry to disappoint. We are taking action – who the hell else is?

  • Peyton Garrett

    Remember folks, Whether You are for or against a ball park down town, no proposal or financial terms have been put on the table. Also remember that Ben McCoy is the puppet master and mentor to Brian Berger. I don’t know if I am for it or not,,,,,yet. I have seen no figures. I do believe much of Mr. McCoy’s sentiment is His personal dislike of the Mayor and other members of council. I do know He makes a living off of Gov. Money so I find Him a bit hypocritical as far as that goes. That is his right. The Baseball thing may or may not fly. I want to see something in writing and then ask questions. You can not ask questions if You are uninformed.

  • You are a liar. Your post is outright slander and libel. Your statements about me are untrue. Please fill us in on how I make my living off of government money. I have done nothing to you other than ruffle the feathers of your pathetic friends on city council. It speaks volumes about you how a citizen, a fellow neighbor of yours taking action for a change gets you so fired up you would spread outright lies and slander about someone. Just because this is a website, and you cower in your anonymity, does not mean it is legal to slander someone’s good name.

  • Brian

    I think Ben’s biggest problem is that he lacks a filter. He comes out and says exactly what he and everyone else is thinking. Not very diplomatic, but blunt and straight to the point. Those who don’t like him are the very ones that don’t have the stones to stand up and say ‘yes, that’s exactly what I’m thinking too but I’m afraid to speak up because I’ll be kicked out of the good ol’ boys’ club’.

  • Guest Reply

    I’ll sign it…but anywhere except having to create a Facebook account to voice my vote.
    Create an additional website if you can, but don’t leave Facebook as our only alternative…or add the results from your personal website along with your Facebook members vote. That may get your results quicker.
    3,000 signatures shouldn’t be an issue with as many opponents as there are on these forums, and for those that don’t share their POV here as well as others across the city. Best part is…your idea can be the ground breaker for other scatter brain ideas that Council comes up with being halted, by having the plug pulled on those as well.
    Great idea by far!!!

  • Peyton Garrett

    Ben doesn’t run because He is not electable and He knows it. He lurks in the background overseeing His little puppet regime. He has run before and got handed his hat. He is still bitter about too.

  • Guest28451

    needs to worry more about his puppet getting arrested again. Yes your puppet ya know Brian Berger.. Honestly Ben I dont know why you didnt just run if you wanted a voice so bad on the council it would have made more sense for you to sit on the council and answer to the citizens then have to put up with this crap from Berger over and over again. Time to put up or shut up Ben. You want to change things put yourself in a position to do so instead of playing puppetmaster to Brian Berger who obviously cant hack it.

  • I’m sorry – but you are an idiot. Have a nice day.

  • Peyton Garrett

    I think the end result of this challenge by some concerned citizens will come down to who you believe. Believe Me, I have a certain amount of contempt for government and the mandated mess We are in. That being said I still have not and probably will not know how I will feel about this baseball proposal for a few months when all of the details of the proposal are hammered out. Mr McCoy is known for his tenacity in going against the grain and that is fine. But, when things don’t go his way, He disappears. Prime example, Brian Berger. He pushes for someone to serve his agenda and when they fail miserably he places blame elsewhere or simply says nothing. We have a Mayor, Bill Saffo, who for the most part has done a good job. I think He would like to have a couple of statements he made about ballpark funding and how it would be achieved back. I don’t know where Mr. McCoy gets His info on the financial impact stadiums have or do not have on municipalities, I am sure there are some out there showing the opposite. Who do you believe? until I see some cold hard facts, I don’t know. I will wait and see. I don’t think it is Mr. McCoy’s duty to hinder anything until the proposal is presented.

  • hillcat

    Living in Lynchburg VA I can only hope you kill the stadium idea. The Hillcats here make a profit for the city and we love going to see them as a High A team. If they move to Wilmington we will get a team from the Appy. or Rookie league both a drop down. Good luck on whatever you choose, but I can tell you the fun at the ballpark with the family sure is fun.

  • Brian

    I was in Lynchburg about 5 years ago. What I saw of it was blighted and rough. I doubt that it has improved at all, baseball notwithstanding.

  • Peyton Garrett

    Mr. McCoy, Just the kind of response I was expecting from You. You sir could be deemed the same, just add babbling in front of idiot.

  • Brian

    Ben, you have some good ideas and intentions, but this was uncalled for. The message above was a well written and presented point and you need to respect that. You’d be well served to issue an apology for the personal attack. Respect different opinions just like you expect others to respect yours.

  • Justin LaNasa

    I like your shoes.

  • Guester

    Who will be paying for New Hanover County to count the petitions? Will that be on the taxpayer’s bill as well? Nice.

  • Challengetheworld


    You avidly defended Mr. Berger; you have lost all credibility in our area and I think you should locate yourself elsewhere. You have caused us enough trouble with Brian Berger!

  • Brian

    NHC doesn’t have to spend money to count anything if they don’t want to. They can adopt the ordinance as written.

  • This is correct. And there is no other mechanism for citizens to impose their will for a change on government. It was government who created this mechanism. They could have made it easier if they really cared what citizens thought. But they didn’t. I am not going to take some sort of blame because I have the nerve and the initiative to utilize the channel before me to try and make a positive difference in my community. And even if your argument had any merit, simple math is in my favor. Does it make more sense to spend $60 million in tax dollars for the stadium – or probably a couple hundred in man hours to count the petition signatures that actually stop the thing dead in its tracks? I can’t believe I’m even entertaining this…

  • Guester

    NHC wouldn’t be the ones adopting the ordinance, city council would. And if no one is validating these petitions, then who’s to say Ben McCoy’s name isn’t on there 50 times? Or people who don’t live here are signing it (like Lynchburg residents)? I’m just curious what the process is.

  • Challengetheworld


    You do realize that there is about 3 people who currently think your motives are geniune? One is your mother, the other is your father. The third one should be in a lifetime mental health clinic, Brian Berger.

    Your petiton is worthless. Your co-conspirator well never get elected either. Both of you need to stand up and realize that we’ve had enough with Berger, enough with you and Fulton is just right behind you.

    The funny thing is, I agree with you that the tax payers don’t need this stadium but even worse than tha we don’t need you and BERGER!

  • RSimmons

    You haven’t got a clue Ben, I’m here every day and I have been around a lot longer than you. Your type come and go in this town at an annoying frequency.
    First of all, you are not a real property owner in the City nor the County so you have no stake in this fight. Secondly you can’t even get through a 45 second interview with out acting like a fool. Seriously Ben, How the hell do you think you can effectively represent anyone when you present yourself like a nut job?

  • 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 winning the intellectual argument.

  • Peyton Garrett

    Do You or do You not sell any products reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid? Perhaps even Social Security Disability? If not, My apologies. But then I have seen no evidence of all the corruption You spew about members of City Council and the members of the County Commission, other than Mr. Berger of coarse.

  • Guest900

    Read again,he has his name written on his post. I’m also guessing he isn’t a liar, I see no answer to his last post.

  • Will D.

    Well is that not true? Is it not true as well that the medical device businesses, such as yours, and its lobbyists have a strong record of winning concessions to keep taxpayers paying for those carts? Well Ben what’s your answer? Maybe Brian Berger can give you a lesson in lobbyists since he was employed by one in Washington.

  • Peyton Garrett

    Please Ben, answer my question. Do you derive any or all income from government subsidies? ie,Medicare, Medicaid or combination. Also, Do You own or pay taxes on any property in Wilmington Proper or the County of New Hanover. I don’t intend to slander or libel You or anyone. You Sir Slander and Libel both City Council and County Commission as being corrupt, Evidence Please. Your boy, Brian Berger, as stated on record has proof of some sort of corruption. Please, Let us see it before the elections.

  • Guester

    Eerily similar to Jason Thompson…

  • Peyton Garrett

    Ben does not state what everyone is thinking, a few yes.


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