THE RANT: When did Mandalay Baseball start running the City of Wilmington?

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY'S "THE RANT" FROM NEWS DIRECTOR SCOTT PICKEY) -- First, let me be absolutely clear, the WWAY NewsChannel 3 Newsroom is neither pro nor anti baseball or ballpark. It's our ultimate goal to just cover the story as it progresses and keep Cape Fear residents, as well as the taxpayers of Wilmington, informed.

However, it's also our job to ask tough questions of our leaders and last night's city council meeting left me with a list of them.

The five attending council members discussed hiring Ripken Design to help them conduct a feasibility study to see if building a baseball stadium in Wilmington makes any sense. The Assistant City Manager told council no one on the city staff was qualified to do the study in-house, and felt Ripken was the best choice of the six viable companies that applied for the job.

After the presentation, Councilman Charlie Rivenbark nipped at the staff, insinuating they had taken too long to make this proposal. He then rhetorically mused that it was a waste of time hiring a firm in the first place. He said the city already had enough information, it should just hire someone to sift through it and make a recommendation. Charlie, where did that "information" come from if the city has done no due diligence to date? Mandalay Entertainment perhaps? Isn't that the company that wants to BUILD the stadium here? Do you really think their research would be an unbiased resource for you to make an informed decision? I also thought you all promised that nothing would be done without thorough research that would be presented to the public? Did Mandalay's self-imposed deadline for an agreement to get done trump that promise?

Then Councilman Kevin O'Grady spoke up, saying Mandalay didn't like Ripken because some proprietary information might have to be shared. You see, both Mandalay and Ripken run minor league baseball teams. He said he'd talked to Mandalay that very morning, and they were insistent that they didn't want to work with Ripken. So he suggested going with the second group on the city staff's list so they wouldn't rock the boat with Mandalay so soon in the relationship. Kevin, who's selling who here? Which are you more concerned about, your relationship with a company that's trying to get you to buy in to building and buying a new ballpark (whether short-term or long-term, you can bet that even with "private financiers," the taxpayers of Wilmington will end up owning that stadium eventually) - or making an informed and educated decision that's in the best interest of the people of Wilmington? And didn't city staff say Ripken was THE BEST firm that applied to do the job?

Councilwoman Margaret Haynes then had a suggestion that sounded pretty good for about 30 seconds. She thinks Mandalay and The Atlanta Braves should pay for the due diligence study. They've got the money and brain power all lined up already, why shouldn't they just do this too? Margaret, have you ever been to a department store, tried something on, and then asked the clerk if she thought it looked good on you? Have you ever bought a used car and asked the salesman if it runs good? OF COURSE IT DOES!!! So what do you think the answer's going to be if Mandalay does your feasibility study to answer the question, "Is baseball in Wilmington a good idea?" OF COURSE IT IS!

Finally, a tough question for all seven members of our beloved council. Is the prospect of a single A ball team associated with the glamorous Atlanta Braves playing in a glitzy brand new stadium so sexy and cool that it could potentially cloud your judgment? Or do you feel that, despite being courted, wined and dined by big leaguers, you can still make a rational, informed and educated decision that's in the best interest of this city? I'm sure the taxpayers would like to know the answer.

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This is a Aingle A team we are talking about right? Who is going to go see a Single A team play?

Did they Terry? From what I have seen and read, the Council didn't make the decision at all. That is what you are missing! The Braves and Mandalay made the decision. Phone calls made to Council the morning of said they would not work with the City if they selected Ripkin? That sounds a whole lot like the Braves made threats and the City allowed them to make the decision. So if you think the decision is the right one, that is fine, but let's all be very clear about who made the decision.

I voted for a City Council to look out for my best interests as a tax payer. I did not elect Bobby Cox. O'Grady is quoted in an article about not understanding Mandalay's concerns yet he still acted on them?

"They have expressed serious concerns about it; I don’t know if they are valid concerns or not and some of them I’m not really sure why." - O'Grady

If he doesn't understand something, I don't want him voting on something. As one of his constituents, I want him to understand "the why" before he votes -- That is his job! His job is not to make make buddies with the Atlanta Braves.

The Council has said that Mandalay didn't want Ripkin because of proprietary information -- what information is needed for a market analysis and site selection? Last time i checked, demographics are public information and stadiums take up the same amount of acreage. back. door. hand. shakes. The council is concerned about getting off on the wrong foot with a potential 30 year partner? How about worrying about your relationship with the community that has already lived here for 30 years and more? Right now it is clear that the allure of making the Braves happy is higher priority.

The Ripken organization is an owner/operator of minor team league teams and stands in direct competition with Mandalay in that line of business - NSS is not an owner/operator. In order for the project manager to do the kind of professional and comprehensive evaluation that Wilmington area residents deserve, they are going to have to make detailed inquiries into Mandalay's sales and promotion strategies, game day operations and administration. In addition, to assess their worthiness as a partner to enter into a multi-million dollar, long term commitment with the city, we are going to want a complete analysis of their condidential financial position.

The disclosure of privileged and confidential information to a direct competitor clearly provides them competitive advantage. Inasmuch as we had another well-qualified alternative for the job, it is completely unreasonable to ask one of our future business partners to provide such info to his competitors....the very notion that that is a good idea defies all reason. It just makes no sense at all....

Well now that i know that this will only be a single A ball team it really makes it easy to decide. UNCW baseball will probably be a better caliper of ball. As a matter of fact I would rather watch Ashley at Hoggard than a single A game. When pros do their rehab in the minors it is not in single A. For those who have grown up going to major league parks this will not satisfy your appetite. By the way how will this affect attendance at Seahawk games??

Council had the luxury of several top notch firms each capable of doing a fine job for the city and area residents. In order to do the kind of comprehensive evaluation that we deserve on a project of this magnitude, the project manager is going to have to probe and gather information on our proposed partners and their operations that is necessarily confidential in nature.

In as much as Ripken and Mandalay/Braves are in direct competition with one another along a variety of business lines, asking them to disclose to a direct competitor confidential information that may be material in nature and provide them some competitive advantage is completely unreasonable and an unnecessary burden to force upon a potential partner when other acceptable alternatives are available.

I too am a fan of Ripkens and know that they would have done a good job, however, we are fortunate to have National Sports standing ready as they too have a fine reputation and will provide the kind of comprehensive evaluation the area residents deserve.

It's time to move on to the important phase of gathering the facts, evaluating the alternatives and recommending the best deal for Wilmington area residents and taxpayers.

The citizens should have the RIGHT TO VOTE ON THIS.

1. Ripkin was going to look at site selection, construction costs, and revenue required to operate at a break even point. Mandalay would have no need to disclose any information concerning how they operate a team; although frankly that is probably known through various media sources as well as public records.

2. Ripkin had agreed, in writing, not to compete in the area for an extended time period.

3. Could it be the real reason was the likelihood they would recommend a site location other than the over priced water front site?

The BEST DEAL..is that taxpayers don't have to foot the bill for a ball field DOOMED TO FAIL!

The tax libility is very nominal and in about 3 weeks the entire area will know exactly the costs as now all vendors,city,mandalay,Braves doing internal checks.
So be patient Wilmington as this is the biggest and greates opportunity of a lifetime for our city.
Do not get upset,irrationalview our web-page,
www.portcitybaseball.com
Get facts,get educated and DO NOT LIVE IN FEAR.

FACTS...from a website called...portcitybaseball.com...before I visit I wonder if your pro or con or neutral...LOL

Another one of your incoherent cheerleading posts. Did you not wear a batting helmet growing up?

.... and then the council members, while still in the hypnotic thrall of the Braves and Mandalay, signed a contract giving the oh-so-glamorous baseball guys everything they ever asked for plus the keys to the city's treasury and a promise to build them a new hotel next to the ball park with penthouse suites reserved exclusively for Mandaly and Braves execs. (OK, I know, they're always promising to build a new hotel, so that doesn't count for much.)

Is it still possible to snap this council out of their trance or are they too far gone?

I have to agree that Ripken Design is the best company for the job....HOWEVER, I do see the how this would be a conflict of interest. With Ripken also managing ballparks and teams, Mandalay definitely should not be forced to work with them. From my understanding, the company employed would pretty much lay out every detail of how this deal would go and possible broker the deal. I'm not very knowledgable about how running a baseball team and managing a park works, but I would assume that each company has negotiating strategies and how they do business that they use as proprietary information. By forcing Mandalay to work with Ripken, they would have to negotiate this deal with a direct competitor.

I haven't always agreed with the rant but this one is a home run!

Hey Mike, did you check to see if you even have a brain? The rant was right on, well thought out and factual. You want baseball, fine, you pay for it. No tax money should be used for anything other than what benefits all city residents such as police and fire protection. City Council does as City Council has for years. That is to hell with the residents, we do what we want when we want as much as we want. I'll be early voting tomorrow to give my fingers memory use to vote out City Council in Nov..

@ Scott, HALLELUJAH MAN... I agree with you. I dont think they can make the correct choice. Because of the Wining, Dining, Courting and our current economy. WHY,WHY such a decision isn't up to a public VOTE? It is the Public's City, isn't it???

I DON'T THINK VOTING WOULD HELP. LOOK AT THE PETITIONS MONKEY JUNCTION GOT TOGETHER AND SENT IN. LAST I HEARD THE CC WAS GOING AHEAD WITH THEIR PLANS TO ANNEX. SO VOTING WON'T HELP.

Our city leaders don't give a Rat's A** about what the citizens want or don't want...just what the council wants. The residents of this city "Will Pay" for this play thing (that a joke of a city council wants).
What will this park be used for during the Off Season...football/tennis/Putt Putt/A camp ground instead of a hotel for the Convention Center?? (there's an idea!!)
My suggestion is, to anyone on these forums, and all over Wilmington for that matter, click here and get informed:
http://www.ask.com/web?qsrc=1&o=102294&l=dir&q=city+mayor+impeached
The answer may be clearer then you think ;-/

Maybe you should check your links before you post. Also, who uses ASK.COM? What are you, 90?

Didn't mean to offend you...Mr. Pro Saugh-Phoe!!!
As for you personally...As Moe would always say to Curly (on many occasions)..."Pick Out 2"!! Discrimination of 90 year old folks will get you no where...fast! Whipper Snapper :-()

Did you check your brain at the door when you came to work today. Your rant seems designed to create more division between council and the citizens and poorly done at that. Mandalay should have every right to complain when the city considers hiring one of their direct competitors who they might be forced to share sensitive business concepts. This should not be considered an attempt to strong arm the city. Council was more than correct in making their choice. This decision will keep the time line moving forward with out petty disagreements popping up between all those involved. You seem to have lost sight of the investment and commitment already offered from both the Braves and Mandalay. Council merely emphasized their desire to build and protect a good business relationship that must last some twenty years. Those of us that favor a full and complete evaluation of Baseball for Wilmington would ask that you think a little more before you RANT!!

1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
2. not subject to another's authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman.
3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.
4. not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.
5. not relying on another or others for aid or support.

INDEPENDENT STUDY -- enough said! The entire council even recognized that in conversation and yet they flip flopped and let the Braves decide who gets to do it?! If the City was going to give me $40 million, i would want my team to do the study too. What secrets could Mandalay possibly have that would be given up in a market analysis and site selection study -- do they have a secret hot dog recipe? I am sure Mandalay threw out some hollow threats about not bringing their team unless their team got the study, so i understand the Council getting scared, but come on! We need our council to get a crash course on the word "independent." Last time I checked, the citizens of this City voted in the council, not a major league baseball team and some slick talking company from Vegas.

I 100% agree Mike T. Mandalay can't share info with Ripken Designs. They are a direct competitor that hasd spoken about bringing a team here in the past. If Mandalay works in good faith Ripken that info can be used to prevent them properly conducting business in other areas and potentially here.

In this case Mikey, you'll swallow anything whole. Mandalay is trying to sell Wilmington on the idea of coughing up forty-plus million dollars to build them a facilty where THEY can make money. In the real world, potential buyers have the right to do what's in their own best interest, not the seller's. In this case that could certainly mean picking the organization with the best track record for due diligence, not the second best. Whatever investment and commitment Mandalay and the Braves have made was for the exclusive purpose of making the sale. That's what sellers do. Surely, even someone like you must be aware of that.

Gee Mikey, did they send you a shiney, brand new baseball cap of your very own?

many would suggest you stop and think before deciding to spout off.

You twist and turn with every new article. Are you employed by Mandalay o the property owner who wants to build on that overpriced piece of riverfront?

What proprietary information is Mandaly going to divulge that could hurt them? Be real.

The contract is designed to identify the best possible location, physically and financially, within the city to place the stadium. That may well result in a site other than on the water.

The contract is designed to identify the physical issues of the site chosen which will impact the cost and construction of the stadium.

The contract is designed to develop estimates on attendance required and concession sales which will determine if the stadium will become a drain on the city.

The contract did not call for Ripkin to have any imput on the management of the team which will play there.

If you've ever been to a stadium Ripkin designed, and there's one right down in Myrtle Beach, they do a pretty darm good job at designing a stadium.

So tell me, why should Mandalay have the right to complain?

What amazes me Mike is just a few days ago, you were taking pot shots at me when I suggested the city could better outline what the contracted party would be doing and getting a signed contract for a team before worrying about stadium design. You were also praising the virtues of Ripkin.

What wind ruffled your feathers Mike?

You flip flop more than a Politician.

People should stop getting so worked up over this stadium. It's going to happen. The best thing to do is to try and find a positive out of it.

Have you ever watched single A ball. The rosters constantly change, thus not much of a chance for fan favorites which spark extra interest. I challenge you in this. The Sharks and UNC-W play ball up to and probably better than single A ball. Great baseball is played by “Teams” whose rosters have been together long enough to form bonds between players. So you can stick your opinion that Single A ball is far superior to anything else this city has to offer. Here's the bottom line. You want professional baseball, and you want it at any cost. You are willing to say and do anything to achieve your goal. You feel that you are all knowing and you have the right to tell others that they have to spend their money so you can reach your goals. If you, the Mayor, and the city council were using a gun instead of a pen, you would be on your way to prison. You are like a 2 year old throwing a tantrum when someone says no. The one thing you fail to understand or admit is this. Stealing is stealing whether you use a gun or a public forum to try and call it something else. A mugger is no different than you, using force (government) to take from others to satisfy their wants. If you want this, USE PRIVATE FUNDS TO COVER 100% OF THE COST! Why is this so hard to understand? Nobody I've talked to is against growth or a baseball stadium. They are sick and tired of the tax payers footing the bill so the wealthy can have risk free investments. BTW, were you aware there was another sewage spill this week? This issue, though not as cool as baseball, needs to be fixed now...................... A shiny new stadium, next to a scenic river..............with raw sewage floating by, will be a hard ticket to sell or even give away.

It's comments like this that have increased our apathy in politics. " Oh lets just have them think for us cause they know better" Regardless of weather or not your comment was a cheek in tongue statement.

The reason politicians do the things they do is because not enough people gripe and moan about it! They just sit here and type of some internet forum saying " Oh whatever" With out actually doing anything about it! What you folks don't realize is if you ALL got together ( those that dont want to pay for a baseball stadium) and protested, Signed petitions and out right made a showing to the city council they'd have NO choice but to stop pursuing this at least at tax payers cost. If they want a stadium here then let them build it with their own money not ours!