WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A new poll shows that a taxpayer funded baseball stadium in the port city is striking out among many of its voters. Wilmington leaders say they're not surprised.
"I think that we still have to continue and research," Wilmington Downtown Inc.'s John Hinnant said. "It's too soon to throw the baby out with the bathwater."
This could be a pop out for the City of Wilmington.
The poll of 300 Wilmington registered voters by WWAY NewsChannel 3, the Big Talker FM and the Civitas Institute says the majority of them are not in favor of a baseball stadium in their city, unless it's privately funded.
Seventy percent of the registered voters responding to the poll opposed a city-financed $40 million ballpark, with only 20 percent supporting the idea. Nine percent were unsure. Opposition crossed the gender gap: 73 percent of the men and 69 percent of the women opposed a city-funded field.
Opposition rose to 86 percent if taxes had to be increased to pay for it. On the other hand, 82 percent of the respondents said they'd support a stadium built by a private developer.
"If you asked anyone do you want to use taxpayers' money for beach renourishment, for the riverwalk, for a lot of projects around town, you would get a response very similar to that," Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. "I think that we all want to see as much of the private sector pick up the cost as possible."
City leaders say the project is only in the exploration phase, and they still do not know how they will finance it.
But did this poll turn any heads?
"I hadn't made up my mind," Wilmington City Councilman Neil Anderson said. "We're trying to find out. We're exploring a lot of different options in terms of how we pay for it, and we're having a lot of people figure out the feasibility of it."
Leaders say the public should wait until a final decision before they jump to any conclusions.
"All I ask is for us to get the facts before anyone starts to formulate their opinion, and based on the way that some of these surveys have been rolled out, I can understand the fear in a lot of people's mind, 'I don't want my property tax to go up.' We understand that," Saffo said.
"Wilmington voters are greeting the notion of a city-funded ball field with a loud and clear 'You're out!'" Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca said. "The poll suggests that stadium supporters need to find private funding and leave taxpayers' wallets alone."
For the poll, 300 Wilmington registered voters were interviewed by SurveyUSA from Feb. 25 through 27, exclusively for the Civitas Institute of Raleigh along with media partners WWAY NewsChannel 3 and "The Big Talker FM.