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WINSTON-SALEM, NC (WWAY) — As the City of Wilmington considers possibly using tax money to build a ballpark, another North Carolina city is looking to unload some tax-funded arenas.

“We own a large coliseum and a large football stadium/racetrack,” Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity said. “Owned them for many years. They’re well used, but they lose money like almost every other facility in the country.”

Winston-Salem city leaders say the future of Joel Coliseum, home of Wake Forest basketball, and Bowman Gray Stadium, home of Winston-Salem State football, as well as stock car racing, is up in the air.

Joel Coliseum, built by city taxpayers in 1989 for $24 million, needs expensive renovations. Combined with Bowman Gray, the two arenas have an operating cost exceeding $850,000 a year.

City leaders say it might be time to cut costs and sell the facilities to the universities that use them.

“In terms of the coliseum, we probably could save in excess of $1.5 million a year by making this change,” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines.

The Wake Forest athletic department would not tell us whether it is interested in Joel Coliseum, but Winston-Salem State says it is definitely interested in Bowman Gray.

“We were approached by them, and from a fiduciary standpoint, we are looking at it to see can we protect the community interest and still save money,” Joines said.

As Winston-Salem leaders ponder their decision, Wilmington City Council has a decision to make about an athletic complex of its own.

“You’ve just got to be careful,” Garrity said. “A downtown ballpark is a little different than a coliseum, but you just have to be very careful as you go through that analysis.”

Winston-Salem leaders say they enjoy a success story at their downtown ballpark, but also note that it was funded differently.

“I wanted to make sure that there were no taxpayer dollars that would go into it to have to subsidize it,” Joines said. “We structured it that way with a user tax on the tickets as well as well as using property taxes from the stadium itself to help pay any debt on that. Thus far it’s worked very well.”

Currently Wake Forest pays nearly $700,000 a year to rent Joel Coliseum for basketball. Winston-Salem State pays nearly $4,000 per home football game to rent Bowman Gray Stadium.

Comment on this Story

  • Guest757

    I am all for it.. ” IF ” it is built by private money and NOT more taxes on the people of Wilmington…

  • Common

    Winston-Salem is proud of their new stadium and attendance is growing. It’s becoming an economic driver for their city and will do the same for us.

    Get the REAL facts.

  • Guest5142


    Are you psychotic? Did you read the article you commented on?

    “We own a large coliseum and a large football stadium/racetrack,” Winston-Salem City Manager Lee Garrity said. “Owned them for many years. They’re well used, but they lose money like almost every other facility in the country.”

    Looks like the City Manager disagrees with you!

    Have fun being crazy, dude!

  • glen severage

    no more taxes.. wilmington is high enough.. sign petitions against

  • danimal

    Who cares about a couple bucks a year (tax increase) , lets bring baseball to Wilmington.

  • Brian

    Those taxpayers who are in favor of using tax money to pay for the stadium should be free to do so. Those who are not in favor should be able to opt out, thus transferring the tax burden to those who want to pay extra for it. How do you feel about it now? I thought so.

  • Mike T

    I look forward to hearing the spin that the Winston Salem Mayor and City Manager put on city owned stadiums. I can imagine they will discuss effective marketing and levels of usage. However as someone that grew up in the triad I can say with some knowledge that Winston has never been comfortable living in the shadow of Greensboro and has suffered from Greensboro,s superior aggressive sports facility development. It was always felt that the leaders in Winston had the obligation to keep up with Greensboro. Bowman Gray was built primarily to serve the local White High Schools football and track programs and it was a very special treat to play there in the late fifties. In the later years Bowman became the home field for Winston Salem State football team and the running track was converted into the areas only flat paved auto race track. I remember taking my grandfather to the Sat. Night races. By this time the stadium was in very poor condition. The Joel was built to keep the Wake Forest Basketball program as Wake was demanding a better facility for ACC competion. Winston Salem leaders were sure that they would also be able to compete with Greensboro for additional event usage which after a couple of years they abandoned. Today the Joel is used primarily for Wake Basket Ball, the facility at today,s standards barely meets ACC needs as most schools have far superior arenas. The Joel is adjacent to the Wake football stadium and they share parking facilities. It make good sense for Wake to buy the Joel and I hope they will. The Greensboro Coliseum with its 22,000 seats hosts many major college events including the ACC Tournament on many occasions plus major entertainment shows. Winston Salem is very much aware that they can,t compete in there market and it make sense for them to offer these facilities to there major users.

  • Guester

    What do college stadiums have to do with semi-pro baseball stadiums? I think they may be comparing apples and oranges here.

  • SurfCityTom

    the fine print, he noted the minor league stadium was built with private funds and not public funds.

    And when the referred to college arena and football stadium were built, tobacco was King; and tax bases were funded.

    But regardless of use, there are still maintenance and repair costs associated with the facilities.

    The former two are publicly funded; and thus the city pays the piper. The baseball stadium was privately funded and owned; thus the private investor group pays the piper.

    Whether you drive an Aveo or an Escailade, there are still operating and maintenance expenses associated with each.

    Is that more clear now?

  • Guestony

    Go for it.

  • Guest292929

    Those petitions limit the city’s financing options. Even if the city were to NOT use property taxes, these petitions kill it.

    They kill ALL financing options. Some very clever, such as tax incremental financing districts. This funding method places a cap on current property taxes in an area, anything over that cap pays for the stadium. Sort of a future gains payment method.

    This petition doesn’t just kill using tax dollars for the funding, it kills the stadium completely.

    This stadium will bring jobs and development to downtown, which will lead to more jobs.

  • SurfCityTom

    “you’re taking a statement out of context”?

    He’s referring to the new privately owned baseball stadium. Not the city owned facilities which were built with public funds way back when.

    Privately owned and funded facilities will always have an eye on expenses, revenue, and maintenance costs. They have to cover all of those expenses from revenue generated.

    The same is not true for publicly funded.

    Nice try though.

  • Erlkoenig

    Burdening the citizens with more taxes is not even an issue with COW council. The viability of the people is not even on their radar.
    That is why they have to relabel sink holes as economic development.

  • Guestfire

    The city leaders of Wilmington need to ask seriously how Winston Salem got in the ball park business. The coliseum has been around for many years as has the old Bowman Gray Stadium. BUT, the “new” baseball park is only a few years old. Started with private money and possibly some city money, it became apparent early into the process it would end up all city money when Mr. Billy Prim’s business issues came to light. Bad business dealings on his part led to the city taking over, much less at his begging!
    Wilmington is a great city and does not need any more financial issues to pull it down. Winston Salem seems to be putting money down a dry hole. Sure, people have come out, but this year’s economy may shut that down.

  • Guest Redneck Across the River

    Here’s a novel idea……..let Saffo and Company buy the WS properties that are for sale and leave Wilmington once and for all. They’ll have their baseball park and the taxpayers will be in a lot of money. Wilmingtonians will also be much better off in many other ways, as well.


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