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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Atlanta Braves are bringing in a couple of big bats for a panel discussion about Wilmington’s plans for a ballpark.

Braves President John Schuerholz and former manager Bobby Cox will join the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s Power Breakfast panel Tuesday morning at the Hilton Riverside. Cox also spoke before Wilmington City Council at a meeting earlier this year to announce the Braves’ interest in the ballpark plan.

The discussion will center around how minor league teams are connected to communities and potential economic impact.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and Rich Neumann, the president of Mandalay Baseball, which wants to run the team here, will also take part, along with Braves Senior VP and CFO Chip Moore.

Comment on this Story

  • Jim B.

    From what I can tell this “idea” is going down like Obama and heathcare. To heck what the citizens think, Saffo is dictating how this is good for Wilmington. You only need to look at poor ole Kinston, NC for what happens to baseball in the minors. Ole Kinston is now with all their poverty is left with Grainger Stadium, empty. Think about it………..could it happen here. I bet it can and will.

  • Mudville 9

    Kinson’s Grainger stadium has been there since 1949. I think it payed for itself.

  • GuestFun

    We already have a very good venue for bands at Greenfield Lake. This amphitheater, for those that haven’t been, is one of the best places I have been and I am 57 years old and seen concerts all around the world. It is also getting very good bands to play there.
    If you are speaking free concerts like on Water Street, I guess the taxpayer will pay for the stadium and the band. How does that help?
    This has not been, nor will it be a baseball town, so we should just let it be and get the people that own it pay their back taxes.

  • Trunk4prez

    First of all, comparing a stadium built in 1949 and attendance levels in Kinston, NC has no grounds in comparison to a new state of the art stadium in Wilmington. Kinston’s population is roughly 25,000 vs 107,000 in Wilmington, not to mention the number of people that visit this city on an annual basis.
    Secondly, the fact that the team would be a Braves affiliate makes a huge difference. There are an amazing amount of Braves fans in the area, and they will want to see up and coming prospects.
    Third, this is not just a baseball stadium. This brings an outdoor venue for music and other events. WE NEED THIS!! If you have been to any of the outdoor events thrown on Water St. over the summer you would know this. It will attract larger bands and artists that may have booked in Myrtle Beach instead of Wilmington.
    Minor league baseball is alive and well in NC. Durham Bulls, Winston-Salem Dash, Carolina Mudcats, all of these organizations have decent turnout. The Mudcats, which used to be the Kinston Indians, have a stadium that is out in the middle of the sticks and still get a decent turn out.
    All I am saying is look at the possibilities this brings to the area, especially downtown!
    And yes, it is your tax dollars and you have the right to an opinion, as I do too.

  • Mike T

    Trunk, your comments are right on the money my friend. Keep it up. Your numbers of 107,000 for Wilmington is only the tip of the iceberg. Mandalay will market to a far broader area. Every person,family,club,church, school ect. from Jacksonville to Fayetteville to Lumberton to Whiteville to Calabash will be fair game to their marketing plans. Every night will be a special feature night. The possible uses for the facility are endless from concerts to other sports events. We were in the city last Sat. nite for dinner and a show that was sold out six performances in a row. Wilmington is a city hungry for entertainment. Stay in the game, we need you.

  • Mike T

    Terry your comments couldn’t be any better. Thanks, Stay in this game, we need the positive voice.

  • In recent weeks, one after another, expert speakers have emphasized the importance of cities investing in downtown areas and the economic and quality of life returns that have been evidenced as a result.

    The addition of a downtown stadium/multi-purpose entertainment venue is an investment that will transform our downtown riverfront into a vibrant, family friendly entertainment destination. A huge shot in the arm for downtown merchants and revitalization, economic activity throughout our area and a much needed and powerful additional asset to our vital tourist industry and broader economic development efforts.

    It is unlikely that in a generation or more, our city will have another opportunity to participate in a partnership that has the potential to transform and elevate our region-wide economic and quality of life standing as significantly as this one….embrace the vision, we have all the elements required for success.

  • Guest7969

    I come live in your fantasy world…sounds like a BLAST!

  • taxpayer

    and not pay our taxes…which is what the City wants to use to fund this white elephant.


    I wonder how much of my tax money has been used to wine & dine Mr. Schoninger? How this guy can go on television touting his project knowing he owes in excess of $126,000 in taxes is beyond me. “Business strategy” my ass!

    Let you or me try this…and see where it gets us. Just another example of the elected officials catering to the real estate community.

  • Count on it Mike. Let’s encourage a fact-based debate. Those most vocal in their opposition are letting their transparent political ambitions/vendettas and shallow ideological constructs blind them to the overpowering benefits that this rare investment opportunity provides to the city/county and entire region. Rather than allow a comprehensive and professional evaluation to establish a fact-based investment case, they have resorted to scare tactics, distortions and in many cases, outright fabrications and personal insult. That alone suggests to me how shallow is their position. The area residents are too smart to fall for that for too long….the facts are compelling.

  • I feel Wilmington will be a good home for a Braves farm team. If the new Ballpark is big enough, then the Braves could move a higher grade team there if necessary.

  • Guest 2012

    While I enjoy baseball, and have played and coached for many years, The only reason I can not support this endevor is for the simple fact that tax revenue would be used to fund this project. Now I understand the Braves will kick in half the cost, and then the City & County would pay for the balance.I believe that all levels of goverment over reach their responsibility therefore causing tax rates to continue to increase. Somewhere it needs to stop. I do not support Tax dollars supporting private enterprise. If the Braves want to play ball in Wilmington let them pay for it. We do not need to spend money foolishly such as another Airlie Gardens, and Inland Greens. People will not have a voice, and have to pay their share whether they want to or not to satisfy a few. Is that Fair ?

  • Matt C

    With how little it’ll actually cost per person, I don’t see this is a big deal consider the potential economic impact. Probably something like less than $10 a person in tax increase, with huge benefits for years to come. Seems to me like a small price to pay. Sit tight on the final figures though, everything is still up in the air, but the actual cost itself per person will be minimal.

  • Terry S

    No fantasy at all….we have many examples of stunning successes in downtown revitalization and development that have been fueled by projects with many attributes similar to our own. We just had a speaker in town yesterday, Jamie Licko, that shared the magic of the once downtrodden, now vibrant and thriving LoDo district in downtown Denver that came to life after the arrival of Coors Field.

    Today a contingent of Wilmington city and county officials and a group of economic development officials and press are in Durham at the invitation of the Mayor to share the story of the Durham Bulls and what that development has meant for the citizens of Durham to assist our elected officials to evaluate the prospects of our own investment opportunity. There is no fantasy there. They are seeing it, walking it, touching it and getting the facts first hand.

    There is no need for fantasy, the facts are compelling enough….gather the facts, invest in the vision.

  • PublicAvenger

    The insanity of this is…………
    What if we financed a semi-pro baseball team, built them a $50 million dollar stadium, and figured it would bring tons of tourists, and revenue ?

    The truth- true fans, even here in Wilmington, are going to watch the real Major League game, for free on their HDTVs. They could care less about a farm league result.

    Look at the Seahawks. When a good ACC game is on, during the same night, half the folks eat their ticket, and stay home. 10 times more people, in Wilmington are watching a Carolina Tarheel game, then a UNC-W game.

    Can you name last years AA Champion Team ? Neither can anyone else.

  • Guestindoorski

    I just watched a show on TV about indoor ski slopes. Can we get one of those too?

  • jj

    All you guys that are for it need to pool your money and build the Ball Park. If it was a win win thing you wouldn’t need tax payers money to build it. People would be standing in line with their wallet open wanting a piece of the action. If the Braves thought it was a money maker they would fund the whole stadium. However, if we build it there is no guarantee that they will keep a team here.

    It was reported this morning that the people who own the property where they want to put the stadium owns taxes over 100k. I bet his reality friends on the council is trying to help him out. Let’s wait a couple more years and the city can take the property for the taxes owned.

    I have lived here all my life and I see money poured into the down town area like it was an old boat. It has not grown (other than bars) and it never will.

  • Terry S

    Why else would they commit to invest millions of dollars of their own capital and obligate themselves to a 20+ year lease. Professional and rational business people don’t make such a commitment unless it were a “money maker”.

    A single A team in Wilmington with an inefficient ownership structure, inexperienced and ineffective administrator and operator playing on college field poorly located to attract visitors and ill-equipped to provide anything but basic fan amenities still managed to attract over 2,000 per night in their first and only season. A partnership bringing together professional owners and operators in a new stadium situated on the riverfront in downtown Wilmington designed to maximize the fan experience and tied-in with the fabric of downtown would, at minimum, double that expectation with sell-outs of the 6,000 seat facility not not out of the question.

    As an investor myself, I assure you if private investors were able to avail themselves of the entirety of the breadth of revenue streams that will accrue to the region through increased economic activity(retail sales and job creation) – increased downtown redevelopment and investment(expansion of the tax base and increase in valuations, in addition to retail sales) and an increased share of region-wide tourism business (room occupancy taxes, retail sales, greater capacity utilization spurring added investment), it would be a slam dunk and indeed they would be lining up. But they cannot…these are the investment benefits for which an opportunistic municipal and county government are uniquely situated to enjoy…..the investment merits are compelling.

  • GuestBill Jones

    Wow! If it is that wonderful an idea there should be no problem finding private investors or having Mandalay pay for it since it is such a great opportunity.If we have to use taxpayer money and one writer said it would only cost $10 per taxpayer why not follow the Carolina Panthers plan and give each taxpayer a personal seat license that they can re-sell. One day Wilmington residents will realize how foolish they have been to continue to re-elect real estate brokers into public office. A recent article in the paper talked about how we have to grow to flourish. Look at the infrastructure and how it is failing. Taxpayers are paying for old sewer and water lines and schools because the developers and realtors have always gotten a low cost ride. Everytime a commercial property turns add 10% for the agents commission and 7% for residential agents. They provide a great service but do the math and see if they are really worth it. Then look at where most of your elected officials live.There is no conversation about any infrastructure improvements in the area and the only real jobs except for cronies is hawking hot dogs and beer. This is a great deal for them and another bad deal for for us. BTW, did you notice that the StarNews article on the convention center never got around to saying how much money it lost and what kind of jobs it actually created?

  • Guestenhiemer

    …and you’ve stated yours. Unfortunately, the investors do not come close to agreeing with you. The taxpayers know the city is ALREADY up to their eyeballs in debt and looking at an increase to fund that. They aren’t willing to throw a crapload more tax money at some “vision” that has proven unsuccessful in the past. There is zero comparison to the Durham Bulls legacy. Not quite sure of the “Riverfront” hype either, people go to ballparks to watch baseball, not a river. There are a multitude of restaurants that exist soley for that purpose. The additional marina is even more of a joke! Is isn’t needed, there is no demand and no attraction to yachters. I also have no idea and have heard nothing about the “commitment to invest millions of dollars” by Mandalay. And believe me, if the popularity of minor league baseball were to fall on its face (as it has and as it may…) Mandalay will pull the cork so fast, it’ll make your head spin! We all know what “contracts” mean.

    What we have here is a bunch of small fries trying to play big-shots at the expense of the citizens they serve. If I were a city dweller, I would be contacting the best real estate agent I could find and gain exit to stage left! Enough is enough!

  • GuestPEP

    Well that all sounds great! Lets finance it with PRIVATE dollars and not PUBLIC dollars.

    It isn’t right that the City of Wilmington’s Real Estate Development Committee (City Council) should obligate the tax payers with this debt with out having at least a say in this.


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