Panel discussion focuses on ballpark pitch
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Time to play ball? The clock is ticking for city leaders to make a decision on the proposed baseball stadium in Wilmington.

This morning, some big league names from the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball came to the Port City to discuss a game plan.

"To me, it's the perfect storm of a great opportunity," Braves President John Schuerholz said.

Schuerholz was one of the aces at a panel discussion Monday about the proposed baseball stadium that would be home to a Braves minor league team.

"Braves and Mandalay want to become, as we have in our other communities, part of the fabric of this community," Mandalay Baseball's Rich Neumann said.

Mandalay Baseball, which would run the team, projects an average of 5,000 fans per game, or about 350,000 people coming out to the ballpark each summer.

But a lot of things are still up in the air. The city is looking at several sites for the stadium, though many believe the ideal spot is downtown on the river.

The big question, though, is cost.

"The Braves and Mandalay together expect to pay 20 to 25 percent of the obligation through some form of rent," Braves CFO Chip Moore said.

How the rest of it will be paid is a little murky.

"You're not going to find one that was built with 100 percent private funds," Neumann said. "It just doesn't pencil out."

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo did not rule out a public-private partnership.

"There's always the possibility that a private entity could come forward and help fund this thing also" Saffo said.

Saffo says this isn't just an entertainment project. This is an economic development project, and it will take some tough calls from the city to make it happen.

The city plans to hire a project manager as soon as possible to help crunch numbers and decide whether this is a worthwhile investment for the community.

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You cannot use the convention center as an arugument against the stadium. local taxpayers ARE NOT paying for it. Operation of the Convention Center is funded by a 3% tax visitors pay when they stay in a hotel in Wilmington. City property taxes are not used to fund the Convention Center.

Property tax dollars were also not used to build the Convention Center. The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation in 2003 that created a 3% tax on Wilmington hotel rooms to provide the money necessary to build and operate the Convention Center. These Room Occupancy Tax (ROT) funds, by law, can only be used for the Wilmington Convention Center.

It's all about creative financing, you can't form an opinion when they haven't released their feasibilty study.

Early estimates project about 650 jobs created for the first year, with an positive economic impact of about 64 million. With 140 jobs and 9million impact after that.

That means GROWTH. That means more people coming into the city to spend money. Which means more busineses in the city. It's a spinoff effect, seen in many other area that built a new stadium. Businesses want to be near the stadium and thus more jobs will created yet again.

You cannont compare the failures of the two teams that played at Brooks field to this. The rooster were never a long to term solution, they always intended to leave when their stadium was built. The Waves were doomed from the start with poor financial planning. Not to mention missing the entire 21-30yr old demographic. An issue the ownership themselves attributed in part to their failure.

Get the REAL FACTS at
www.PortCityBaseball.com
You can also watch the entire power breakfast which answers many questions here:
http://portcitybaseball.com/?page_id=248

Some people do need to keep in mind that the other teams that have tried and failed in wilmington, played at brooks field. that is on UNCW campus, and cannot sell alcohol. that is a deal breaker.

my question is: who gets the money from ticket sales????
and
What is the individual taxpayer supposed to pay each year for this project if it goes through?

For all you naysayers..if you guys hate our area leadership so much, can't afford the taxes and don't have good paying jobs, why don't you do us all a favor and move. Sell your homes to people that know what a world class area this city can be if we allow our elected officials to do their jobs. I am a Wilmington native and have seen area residents fight change since I can remember.

In my previous job, I booked events for a large corporation that was based here. Every year, I was forced to have my conventions in other cities, because there was not a space large enough in Wilmington to hold my event. My budget was approximately $350,000 for 4 days. Yes, I spent $350,000 on my convention, and that does not include what my guests spent while they were in town. It made me sick that our hometown could not host the event. Now, those same events are held here, Finally! Convention Centers rarely make money, but they allow hundreds, thousands of other businesses to prosper, which in turn increases the tax base and off-sets the burden of the convention center, placing cities budgets bottom line back in the black. But, obviously none of you have ever owned or operated a business, so this probably makes no sense so you.
As far as the ballpark, it is NOT just a ballpark. It will be an entertainment complex, where finally, Wilmington can have large concerts and events that we have never seen here. The Atlanta Braves and Mandalay have a proven track record. Do your homework, NO city ballparks are ever funded by the team. If we ever want to get something of this nature, the city / county will have to come up with the funds. But, look closely at the benefits. You can find the power point from the city council meeting on the city website.
I applaud our elected officials for doing their due diligence on this endeavor. I would be furious if they were not at least looking into the idea. We elected them to make decisions on behalf of this potentially great city, and they are doing the job they were elected to do!

To MGMom,

Great Points! Thank you for that! I totally agree with you... As a former pro baseball player who is a native of NC, I love the Wilmington area, and it would be a great place for a minor league (Carolina League) Franchise... The complex may not look on paper that it is profitable, but it will bring more income to the city of Wilmington!

Lastly, Change is Good!

I couldn't agree more. This city has huge potential and if people or taxpayers would see that it would not only bring economic growth but a great place for many to visit and live.

City council doing their jobs is NOT the point here. It's a financial matter. The city doesn't have money to run their physical year, yet they are wanting to go even further in debt. Where is this money supposed to come from? Do you make it a habit to spend spend spend when you can't pay your current bills??? My gosh common sense has to come in to play somewhere and these people just spend and spend with no regard as to how we are going to pay it back. Doesn't take a rocket scientist dude or dudet.

Wahh.....I want a ballpark and everyone who doesn't should just leave.....Wahh......

If you want it so bad, you pay for it. The city's finances are horrible. They can't even pay to staff the city departments. The roads are atrocious. They have major budget issues, so the city has no business footing the bill.

If your paying 20% in rent, and creating these wonderful jobs, that's quite an accomplishment.

1. The guy in safety vest directing parking.....min wage.
2. the guy taking your ticket...................min wage.
3. The guy that pours the beer..................min wage.
4. The guy that sells the $7 dollar hot dogs....min wage.
5. The peanut salesman..........................min wage.

Of course there will be better jobs in the construction of a stadium.

The Braves would be getting the lions share of sales revenue, beer,food, memorabilia,etc.
Pay 20% in rent, rack up a huge food and beverage tally. Not bad at all.

And yes. there wold be taxes to collect.

Wilmington leaders need to find people in other towns that have dealt with the braves in negotiations. Don't lead the sheep into a bad deal.
If it can't be done where it's a paying proposition, and lucrative, don't make the deal, period.

Did anybody notice the article that read the city is wayyyy below the projected monies needed to operate the city in 2012? I want to know who pays the city council's / mayor's bills and does their checkbooks. These idiots don't know when the money has run out or not even there, in the first place. They just spend spend spend spend. To hell with balancing the check book. I'm so glad folks stayed home on election day and didn't try to protect Wilmington. Just makes me happy all over.

It's funny that the city forced a $60,000,000 convention center on us, that sits empty most of the time and will be in the red for the rest of my life, and now they are pushing a $40,000,000 baseball stadium on us, which will be ran by the Braves, which means a minimum positive impact on local jobs, but there is still no hotel for the convention center, because the banks and private funders of such things have enough sense to stay out when the economy sucks. Easy to spend other people's money.

Wilmington has the second lowest property tax rate of the 18 largest cities in North Carolina. Also, Wilmington has raised property taxes only two times in the past eleven years: in 2009, largely due to the property tax valuation error by New Hanover County; and in 2010. The city lowered property taxes by 1 cent in 2004.

Operation of the Convention Center is funded by a 3% tax visitors pay when they stay in a hotel in Wilmington. City property taxes are not used to fund the Convention Center.

Property tax dollars were also not used to build the Convention Center. The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation in 2003 that created a 3% tax on Wilmington hotel rooms to provide the money necessary to build and operate the Convention Center. These Room Occupancy Tax (ROT) funds, by law, can only be used for the Wilmington Convention Center.

The people of Wilmington have watched as the Due Diligence process has proceeded related to the stadium exploration. I applaud the process, it appears to be prudent and professional. Things seem to be out in the open. The city council understands the reluctant position on tax payer funding. The Tax Quacks have been out in full force. My sense is that the council will soon respond with a funding plan that will make the project feasible and affordable or they will abandon the project. As the mayor said, "This is an economic development project as well as entertainment". The mayor of Durham said, based on experience,"This is a no brain decision". In Durham the naysayers have long sense dried up. The local investment in downtown Durham has been 300 million surrounding their stadium. The same will happen in Wilmington. Let the process continue!!

"The mayor of Durham said, based on experience,"This is a no brain decision"." He could be right. Perhaps some of Wilmington's esteemed council members are generating thoughts from some other part of their anatomy.

Tell Ya what Mikie T., slap YOUR checkbook on the table for 10 million or so and invest YOUR money on this field of dreams!!! How dare you to insult the citizens of the city of Wilminton with such a derogatory and arrogant Saffo-style comment! The "Tax Quacks" will stay out in full force on this one, believe me!!! YOU just ensured that, my friend!

You have adamanty displyed your total ignorance with your post! Wilmington is nothing like Durham (thank goodness!) Durham is a crap-hole, crime ridden city with no attractions. The Bulls have played there for over 100 years. We haven't been able to keep a minor league team here for 2 seasons on TWO attempts! Funding for the Bulls new stadium was through bonds, not permanent property taxes, a huge difference!

"...Prudent and professional..."? I'm surprised you can even spell those words, because you don't seem to have a CLUE as to what they mean!

Mike T, you better be on staff at COW. If you're doing this much of a sales pitch for free you're getting ripped off. The City is being quite open that they don't care what the citizens want. In typical liberal fashion you have to resort to name calling to fake your point. "Investment" and socialist redistribution of wealth are not the same thing. And maybe the Durham citizens didn't dry up, they gave up. I don't think southeastern NCers are as much of a push over. Remember, Monkey Junction successfully fought back the Spendocrats in COW.

Mark my word, it will not matter what the cost is or how the money must be produced, a baseball stadium will be built in Wilmington, downtown Wilmington at that, taxpayers and voters be damned. The writing is on the wall.

YOU GOT THAT RIGHT AND THE TAX PAYERS WILL PAY FOR IT, JUST LIKE THEY WILL THE CONVENTION CENTER. 2 DEAD HORSES.

...we didn't call it baseball, we called it hardball - I guess 'cuz girls played softball. All I know is when you got hit by one, it hurt badly. Wilmington taxpayers, stand by for the imminent beaning. This thing is a done deal and the politicians are already in too deep.

If you aren't into baseball, you probably don't know who John Schuerholz is. Since he was the GM of my team growing up, I did. He took the team to dozens of playoffs and two World Series. Then, he left for the Braves,(and we cried) where he repeated his success. The politicians won't say no to this guy. They can't. They already have the taste. Little Johnny Barfield already has an autographed ballcap! ("Little Johnny" was meant as a joke for you bench warmers.)

As was reported by the politicians in Durham, a few may lose their jobs, but that is probably an acceptable risk. Do you really think anyone of them is paid enough as a council member, mayor, or commissioner to care if they lose an election?

Laura Padgett has made some noise about public referendums and seeking the publics input. In hardball..this is the set-up right before the double-steal, suicide squeeze, or sac fly.

Taxpayers...YER OUT!

Yep, these baseball blow hards are here twisting arms. I would love for you to have this car but I have someone else waiting for it if you don't want it. Surely the city folks won't be fooled and pushed into a commitment. . . or would they. . or have they already been suckered in? By the way... LET THE PEOPLE OF WILMINGTON VOTE ON THIS. IT'S OUR MONEY... LET US HAVE A SAY.

You are right, I think everyone would feel better if we could be allowed to vote on it. I for one would like to have a say.

Twice, they put the convention center on the ballot and twice the citizens of Wilmington voted it down. They held several gatherings to voice their opposition, but the city council went ahead with the project. The city council doesn't give a rat's behind about what the people want. Most of them, if not all of them, have ties to developers. The people of Wilmington need to vote them out. As it stands, the council stuck it to the people of Wilmington with the convention center, but the people of Wilmington re-elected them. The people of Wilmington are simply getting what they asked for.

That is really discouraging to me as a citizen. I was not aware of this.

Where have you been?

its the government way do as I say not as you vote. Basically government officals is another word for lyres and spend more money than you have and call it a funding problem when its a spending problem.

IF MY MEMOREY SERVES ME CORRECTLY, THRU THE YEARS, THE PEOPLE OF WILMINGTON VOTED AGAINST THE CONVENTION , BUT WE GOT IT ANY WAY. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT? SAFFO IS A LAYWER AND IS IN REAL ESTATE. WE ARE NOT DURHAM. IF I WANTED ALL THE THINGS DURHAM OFFERS, I,D MOVE THERE. THE SAME AS WITH THE MARKET STREET DEAL. AND THEY WONDER WHY SOME PEOPLE DON'T WANT TO LIVE IN THE CITY LIMITS. THE STREETS DOWNTOWN AND OTER PLACES ARE A DISGRACE.