make WWAY your homepage  Become a fan on facebook  Follow us on twitter  Receive RSS Newsfeeds  MEMBERS: Register | Login

City leaders say petition against publicly-funded ballpark 'a big mistake'

READ MORE: City leaders say petition against publicly-funded ballpark 'a big mistake'

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The City of Wilmington received a petition today with more than 4,000 signatures. If verified, it will force the city to either adopt an initiative blocking tax money for a ballpark or let voters decide. The move has city leaders fired up.

"The proponents of this, failed politicians that they were, are now going to force the city to spend money to approve this very ill-conceived petition," Councilman Kevin O'Grady said.

Wilmington City Council members say they are concerned with the broad language in the petition against tax payer funding of a ballpark.

Regardless of their feelings, organizers submitted about the signatures Thursday that will throw a wrench in the ballpark process.

The group that headed up the effort says they just want what's best for Wilmington and its residents.

"I think that we win in a big way," organizer Joshua Fulton said. "Eighty-percent of the people in Wilmington don't want their tax dollars to go up to fund this project, so we're going to win."

Members of council say the language of that petition not only affects the new ballpark but also affects other sports teams in the Port City.

"The Sharks and the Hammerheads are not paying the full rate (to rent city stadiums)," Mayor Bill Saffo said. "We subsidize some of those services. We'll have to take a look at that if that petition is put on the ballot and is passed by the citizens of this community."

The petition says no city monies shall be used to fund any multi-use sports stadiums for professional sports or other events. O'Grady thinks many of those people who signed the petition did not understand the implications of it.

"When you're driven by ideology, which is what this is, you make mistakes, and they made a big mistake here; a mistake which, if the citizens buy it, will affect the future of this city," O'Grady said.

The next step is for the Board of Elections to verify the signatures.

Mandalay Baseball, which would manage the ballpark, says it will wait on verification before deciding what to do.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.



Doesn't a stadium have to be built? It might take a couple people to run and maintain a ballpark. What exactly does the tax burden breakdown to per person to build a stadium, a couple bucks? Maybe if they built it on a big riverboat it would be more popular. Could it be a natural fit with Screen Gems in town, those actor people love their baseball. I think I have to give the project a 4 thumbs up, I had to borrow my big toes.

While all the rhetroic is dribbling on

has anyone taken the time to look at the Lynchburg team website?

Earlier, I had noted the probable expense for a family of 4 to attend a game; and was scoffed at.

Look at what Lynchburg charges:

General Admission Seat -- $8 = $32 for a family of 4

or Upgrade to Reserved Seats -- $9 = $36 for a family of 4

or go whole hog to Box Seats -- $11 = $44 for a family of 4

Hot Dogs -- $4 = $16 for a family of 4 assuming no one has a Jonathan Barfield appetite.

Cokes or bottled water -- $3 = $12 for a family of 4 assuming it is not a hot day.

Does anyone think the costs will be less in Wilmington? Likely not.

So, for a family of 4, we would be looking at $60 to $72 plus parking.

And then, some proponents would have us believe, after dropping this type of change, that the family of 4 would migrate to a local restaurant or bar for further food and beverages.

Remember too, a couple of the proponents predict there will be $10 million in additional tax revenue which means $125,000,000 in additional sales revenue from this venture.

I just don't see a vacationing family, from out of the area, which has a minor league team to support back home, coming off the beach; dropping $60 plus for the ball game; and then waltzing to a surrounding restaurant or bar, which will spring up once construction begins on the ball park, and dropping another $60 plus for further chow or liquid libation.

One of the proponents predicted great business booming for the hotel industry which would help fuel this $10 million in additional tax revenue. That's as a direct result of the ball park. Does anyone see that? Does anyone think folks will stay in a downtown hotel rather thn return to the Beach? Does anyone really think folks will stay downtown rather than return home to Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, or Pender Counties? So much for that argument.

But, I'll play the devil's advocate. George Steinbrenner set up an LLC to purchase the Yankees for $10 million; and that included Yankee Stadium. Most people did not realize he had "silent" partner/investors. It is reported the Steinbrenner heirs are looking at the sale of the team for something in the neighborhood of $2 Billion. A great rate of return for the investors.

Perhaps Mandalay can lead the initiative by setting up an LLC for stadium investors who will flock to pledge their wealth to help fund the construction of the stadium. If some of these proponents think this is such a good deal, here's the chance. I would think, with enough support by Devil & Mike T among others, they could have all the money they will need within 30 days or so. Right?

Ball's in your court boys.

A Follow Up

just for the record, what has the attendance been over the past couple of years in Lynchburg, a town with no distractions or tourist interests; a town which is a good drive from Roanoke, Danville, or Charlottesville?

2011: total paid attendance was 169,367; an average of 2,420

2010: total paid attendance was 152,161; an average of 2,174

2009: total paid attendance was 164,328; an average of 2,348

A couple of points; they do have double headers; those count as 1 ticket sale. The above numbers may be inflated slightly.

How does Myrtle Beach, to our south, do?

2011: total paid attendance was 213,200; an average of 3,046

2010: total paid attendance was 223,176; an average of 3,188

2009: total paid attendance was 238,287; an average of 3,403

Of note, one of the big proponents for the stadium, 1981Devil, states very firmly, attendance will average around 5,000 the first season; and continue at that level, with no decline but rather a possible increase.

Take you choice of teams. Average attendance fluctuated with peaks and valleys each of the past three years.

When the consultant presents his report, watch the attendance number presented as a break even point.

Of further note: what will tickets cost? I posted the current scale for Lynchburg. How do they sell further south in Myrtle Beach?

General Admission -- $8 - the same as Lynchburg; family of 4 = $32

Reserved Seats -- $11 - higher than Lynchburg; family of 4 = $44

Box Seats -- $13- higher than Lynchburg; family of 4 = $52

They do have "all you can eat" seats @ $25 per seat; no beer included; you get an $8 seat and all the fast food you can gorge down

Remember those numbers when they try to convince you this will be reasonably priced family entertainment. And add parking. Don't forget, too, some of the proponents predict hundreds of millions of dollars in new sales which will yield $10 to $11 million in additional tax revenue for the city.

But is it really additional tax revenue if sales activity is diverted from other retail businesses to the ball park?

And where are these hotels, restaurants, and retail stores going to be located? What's the occupancy rate of existing hotels now, if you back out conventions and group bookings? Anyone had trouble getting a table at Ruth's Chris or Roy's Riverboat landing? I haven't; and that's on Saturday evening, the busiest night of the week.

Watch for the smoke and mirros when the consultant presents the vaunted report.

Further Follow Up

One of the staunch supporters for public funding, 1981Duke or whatever his identity of the day is, used an average attendance of 5,000 during the first season to blow up projected sales tax revenue to the $10 Million range.

From Today's Star News, which included comments from the former Vice Mayor of Lynchburg who was in town.

First among his comments -- "... do not depend on tourism to support the team..."

From the preliminary report presented by the consultant: "...Preliminary findings by National show a year one attendance for a Wilmington stadium projected at 217,600 and about 176,800 by year five..."

217600 equates to an average attendance of 3,108 persons. 5 years later, 176,800 equates to 2525 average attendance per game.

That'[s a far cry from Duke's informed and well researched projections.

The ball is still in his court. Show all of us where we err with more than hot air spoutings.

I wish

i wish i could be a productive member of society. but in the meantime build a ballpark so i'll have somewhere to hang out at




Can't any attorneys comment on the exact meaning of this petition and its effects? Seems like we are all playing lawyer. Any attorneys want to weigh in?

Get Rid of the Second Baseman

If the Braves want a stadium in Wilmington, all they have to do is cut their Second Baseman. Its that simple.

Dan Uggla-Atlanta Braves
2nd Base
5 yr/$62,000,000

If not my family will have to pay $318 for this stadium that i cannot afford tickets to.


WHO CARES if the city leaders are fired up?!?!?

Don't Know Whats Good for You

This petition is disgusting. Who do you people think you are? I am so sick of this "citizen" crap. Why don't you people shut up and let the people who have built this city for 100 years decide what we should do. It makes no sense that a bunch of working class ruffians should have as much say as the people who own this city- we have the most to lose for gods sake! You should all be arrested and this petition should be torn up! How horrible!




Are you stupid or just acting stupid?

Spoken like a true American.

Spoken like a true American. The founding fathers would be proud!

Thanks for the comment Marie...


Not a city resident

I'm not a city resident (yet...I could be annexed anytime probably) but I am in the County. Am I eligible to sign the petition? I didn't even know there was one to sign, just like I didn't know about a poll on the City website. I'm not uninformed either so don't go criticizing me. I just want to know if I'm eligible to sign and if I can still sign?

Small Town

Small town, bad schools, bad roads, backward small-thinking people, growth-killers . . . folks, it's 2012 (not 1957), you can't put the genie back in the bottle.

The genie's name is "Tax & Spend" ...

... and if someone doesn't put a cork on it soon the whole country will go down the toilet.

Bad schools, bad roads? Fix 'em by spending the money on those type of things instead a shiney new toy!

Wilmington's fearless (that's actually pronounced clueless) "leaders" will never be capable of seeing that until it's too late. Apparently, neither will you.

The "Big Mistake" was

The "Big Mistake" was electing Saffo and the City Council.

Not really

He won at a 42% margin,not his fault he had no quality competition is it?

What's Wrong With A Referendum?

A number of years ago the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County held a press conference at the Wilmington International Airport announcing they agreed to put a $35.5 million dollar parks and greenspace bond referendum on the ballot for that following election ballot. Now the City of Wilmington seems determined to tell everyone it's ok, they'll pay through the nose with taxpayer dollars to hire a sports firm to loosely research an over $30 million dollar taxpayer funded baseball stadium that might be able to support other large venue entertainment events (questionable without valid research). Fact is, the parks bond was on the ballot and approved by voters. So why is the City reluctant to put this issue on the ballot for voters to consider. After all, it's the voters 30 or 40 million that's on the line. They are the all important shareholders of the "business" the leaders call the "City of Wilmington".

Why should they bother

Why should they bother putting it on the ballot? They put the convention center on the ballot twice and the voters voted against it both times. It is obvious that the council doesn't care on iota what the voters want.

They only people that truly stand to gain by this are the same ones who gained by building the convention center--the developers, the companies who win the contracts and the members of the city council who get the kickbacks.

Baseball Stadium Petition

"The proponents of this, failed politicians that they were, are now going to force the city to spend money to approve this very ill-conceived petition," Councilman Kevin O'Grady said.

The city has the choice to offer this as a referendum for this "Demcracy" they always flaunt in our faces to work. They could put it on the ballet themselves. I'm ashamed that a man with the name if an Irishman would stoop so low.

What's wrong Your Demcracy O'Grady when it doesn't coincide with the your vision of the way things "should be"? The city councill "knows"better? Public input is starting to be an "inconvenience" and then show yourself a fool by referencing your oppenents that way. These are the words of an arrogant bully.

We are to trust our council and just sit down and shut up,as we did with the Council's Convention Center, Parking (eye-sore, sour smelling) Structures, Flower Gardens, Infrastructure fiasco and each is losing millions? You mean THAT city council and county commissioners? You mean those?

Oh please! Enough of the spin O'Grady.

You're blarney is beginning to stink.

Gary Vincent O'Malley

Digest this..


"The Sharks and the Hammerheads are not paying the full rate (to rent city stadiums)," Mayor Bill Saffo said. "We subsidize some of those services. We'll have to take a look at that if that petition is put on the ballot and is passed by the citizens of this community."


DIRECT subsidy,violates petition language


Why is it politicans always think they know what's best for us. How did we ever raise our children, pay our bills, buy our homes, etc... without their help and worldy knowledge?

Bye Hammers

Having talked about this with reps from the Hammerheads earlier this year, it will be a shame to see them go again. The language of this petition, done in haste, could bid them adieu.

A quote from the

A quote from the article:

"When you're driven by ideology, which is what this is, you make mistakes, and they made a big mistake here; a mistake which, if the citizens buy it, will affect the future of this city," O'Grady said.

What is wrong with being driven by ideology? Is it more important for one to be driven by "practical details" at the expense of his/her ideological belief?

What does Mr. O'Grady believe is a sufficient motive? What is his motive? Would he be willing to explain?

I guess maybe "if the citizens by it", then they will be more than pleased if it affects the future of this city.

A quote from the

A quote from the article:

"Regardless of their feelings, organizers submitted about the signatures Thursday that will throw a wrench in the ballpark process."

Somebody needs to perform the function of editor before the story is printed, so that the reader can understand what is being reported.

Great Job!

Having the citizens determine the future of this city doesn't sound like a big mistake to me Mr. O'Grady; it sounds like democracy! Perhaps the city council should regroup and realize that they are in those fancy leather chairs to serve their constituents. If the citizens don't want a baseball stadium then it shouldn't be funded with taxpayer money. Why wouldn't you want it put to a vote by the people? The people's opinion should always be your first priority...know why? Because it's the people's money!

Representative Republic

We are not a democracy! We are a representative republic.

During this countries founding, our political leaders knew that democracy means mob rule; where 51% of the people would exploit the 49%. The strong faction would dominate the weak! If we were a democracy many things would be different: we probably would still have slavery, women would likely not be part of the political process, the rich would pay all the taxes (they are less than 5%).

We most certainly democratically elect our representatives. Once elected we hope they use THEIR judgment, not simply be public opinion poll takers. If that were the case, we could have a machine simply tally the public opinion results and make a decision.

So the will of the people may influence our representative's opinion, but not control it. I don't have time to get into the weeds on these issues. I must judge both the character and intelligence of my representative, encourage my neighbor to do the same, cast my vote then to some degree trust that person to act in my best interest. All the while staying informed, and (maybe one day) limiting their term to combat complacency and corruption!

Citizen's Desires

Oh no, the citizens in Wilmington want to deny his majesty and council the ability to spend our money the way they want to. I could care less about the Sharks, Hammerheads or any other semi pro team. If not paying full price for use of city resources then that is wrong. It is citizens resources not city council. Idiot council members think they can spend our money in any manner they please. They certainly are not interested in fixing the bumpiest, neglected roads in NC. They will not be happy until we are #1 in taxes paid instead of 3rd. My crystal ball forecast some big problems in elections for these overspending, malicious and so ignorant of citizens desires politicians. Senator Goolsby is a fine example of doing the bidding of his constituents. Our City Council is a fine example of not doing its constituents bidding and they must pay, begone you buffoons.