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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.

Comment on this Story

  • SurfCityTom

    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.

  • Guest2020

    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.

  • SurfCityTom

    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.

  • Guest CommonTater

    Devious….

  • SurfCityTom

    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.

  • Guest111

    THIS IS EXACTLY THE MENTALITY WE, THE CITIZENS OF WILMINGTON, ARE FIGHTING TO STOP!!! THANK YOU FOR GIVING US A WONDERFUL, PRIME EXAMPLE OF THE BEHAVIOR OF CITY COUNCIL. YOU GO GIRL!! APPRECIATE THE HELP.

  • ChefnSurf

    … 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.

  • Guest1250

    Are you stupid or just acting stupid?
    WE THE PEOPLE

  • Mike T

    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

  • Guestb

    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?

  • 1981duke

    Quote–

    “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.”

    Unquote–

    DIRECT subsidy,violates petition language

  • OtherGuest

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

  • THE PEOPLE

    LET THEM EAT CAKE!

  • Unintended Consequence

    Looks to me like not only no Hammerheads or Sharks but New Hanover High School needs a new place to play as well…..the implications of this are very unfortunate for all…..thanks to Mr. McCoy

  • Local

    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?!?!?

  • M291

    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!

  • 1981duke

    Not about baseball,about economic impact and new jobs so if you do not like this,what else do you have to offer to transfoem and improve the City and Area economy?
    Do we need some more ugly strip plaza’s?

  • Old Money Lady

    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!

  • 1981duke

    Throwing more $$$$ for education is not the answer.You know not one high school in our area/county made the top 1000,and not one local high school made the state Top 25.

  • 1981duke

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

  • Guestwantstosign

    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?

  • 1981duke

    So,
    YOUR RECCOMENDATION IS?

  • Guest3130

    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.

  • Guest22

    The “Big Mistake” was electing Saffo and the City Council.

  • Willard

    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”.

  • Gary Vincent O’Malley

    “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

  • Debra Frezza

    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?

  • Guest81

    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.

  • OtherGuest

    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.

  • OtherGuest

    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.

  • Spendourmoneywisely

    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!

  • Truthseeker

    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.

  • Guest111

    Why do the city leaders have their panties in a wad now? They knew this was coming, it didn’t blind side them. They are just pi**** that the state stopped their forced annexation (which was driven by the citizens) and the petition was finished and sent in to get control of the baseball situation (which was driven by the citizens). I signed it and I was fully aware of what I was doing. The city leaders have gotten so out of control with their spending that something had to be done and it was. Stop overspending of the tax payers money, take care of problems that already exist, like sewer, water pipes, fix the washboard streets around Wilm and take care of business. No more secret meetings months in advance of the public knowing about it. Do the job you were voted in to do. Citizens are tired of being TOLD what’s going to happen around here. It’s time we decide what’s going on around here.

  • Guest333

    Okay, the headlines are totally confusing to me… If city and county leaders are elected by the people, and the people say what they want, then how can they possibly be wrong? Maybe the city leaders need a review of who they work for!

  • Guest CommonTater

    It is way better to put the tax money towards ANYTHING other than baseball! Do you stomp your little feet while you scream about wanting “your” baseball?

    Let the public vote. The council doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing. They have consistently proven they think the voters are idiots and attempt to spoon feed us their vision. I have said before they quit working for the people long ago… what self righteous, self serving idiots they are.

  • Richard Chinn

    I probably sound like a broken record but…

    I have not heard a single person say they were against baseball being located in our city and that includes every single person that I know who signed the petition.

    That said, I signed the petition and I am glad I did. I believe strongly that city council should be representing the best interest of the people that elected them. It is blazingly obvious that this deal is being pushed on the community in order to facilitate Mandalay’s wants and desires to meet a deadline of their need, not ours.

    I believe the Wilmington community should be involved (public vote) in all decisions of this magnitude primarily because of the enormous amount of money required and the length of the commitment. City Council should have set things in motion to bring this to a PUBLIC VOTE without the need for the citizens to draw up a petition to get the right to have a say in this matter. This article states members of the City Council believe this petition is detrimental to future sports opportunities for the future. I don’t believe that is necessarily true but if it is, the City Council needs to take ownership of a good part of the blame for trying to do a deal without considering the very people who would be asked or forced to pay for it. This deal, if it does happen, will commit not only our generation but the next two generations of Wilmingtonians to a significant tax burden. We as a community deserve to have real facts and figures about a project that potentially will cost tax payers 35-65million or more. We should not be asked or expected to rubber stamp what can be thrown together in a mere 2 months to meet Mandalays deadline. (Check out the meeting on the city website that occurred May 29, 2012 and listen to what NSS- National Sports Services said about how condensed their efforts have been required to be!!)
    We live in a democratic society and IF this goes to a vote and the citizens of Wilmington vote that they want this I will do my part to support it. If the voters say we don’t want this, then I am good with that too. YES or NO with a public vote, the community will have had the opportunity that a community minded city council should have provided in the first place…

  • WX_Guy

    Hubris ( /ˈhjuːbrɪs/) means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

    Mr. O’Grady, if you can find taxpayer money for the seemingly endless stream of consultants to tell you what you want to hear, surely the approval of a simple petition can’t truly be a burden. It’s easy. Just say “I won’t spend taxpayer money to build a stadium, respecting the vast majority of people who don’t want their taxes spent on a stadium.” See, it was easy. Do you feel better now?

    And Mr. Saffo, please save the crocodile tears for the Sharks that your project would put out of business. Perhaps the rents that the city would charge to rent city stadia are too high, for the unfavored. And why isn’t the rate the same for all? If the rate for all is lowered to the clearly acceptable rate for the Hammerheads and Sharks, then they are no longer subsidized and everyone is treated equally and fairly.

    The taxpayers will not tolerate the hubris as usual. End this folly or put it on the ballot and the taxpayers will end it for you. Either way, let the sunshine in. Sunshine is a very powerful disinfectant.

  • Maybe I’m Naive

    Okay, I’m sorry if this sounds silly to some of you, but why are we going to all of this trouble and money for another baseball stadium?? Have you ever been to a Shark’s game? I have been twice and the attendance was quite low both times. Why would we spend such a chunk of money on something that is not likely to succeed? I say put the money back into the schools- three to four classrooms sharing one teacher’s assistant? It’s ridiculous.ensu

  • GuestWowJustWOW

    It is beyond belief that our city leaders can be so arrogant. They have really become accustomed to having their way with impunity.

    Politicians, hear this, it’s time for you to restrain your spending.

    Surf City Tom is entitled to the credit for this thought… If the deal for this stadium was really so good, why aren’t investors lining up to buy into this project? I’ll hazard the answer, the risk is too high for any investor to take. If this stadium/baseball project were really viable ALL would benefit. Shareowners make a profit and taxes will be paid. This is how capitalism fundamentally works, like it or not.

    Comm. O’Grady, particularly in response to your derisive commentary, get used to the fact that sometimes the political will is against what you may want. Voters exercising their right to petition and call for referendum is one of the foundations of this Republic. Of all the money spent, how can you criticize taxpayers exercising their rights?

    You and the rest of the commission serve to carry out the will of those who elected you. If the will is strong enough things do change.

    Maybe the signers of the petition did understand. How about road improvements, better wages for police and firefighters and many other things that are far more needed than subsidy of minor league baseball and soccer.

    While I’m at it, why are the taxpayers paying the salary for the film commissioner? Let the business interests who benefit (if they really do) from the commissioner’s work support his office.

    Why are the taxpayers paying for TWO development agencies, Wilmington Downtown AND WDI? We all know that these agencies are a closed loop looking out only for the interests of a very limited community of business owners in a very limited area. Let these business owners pay for their own lobbyists and powerbrokers.

    Why are taxpayers paying for membership in the League of Municipalities? This “league” is nothing more than a shill for professional bureaucrats and moneygrabbers.

    How much did the taxpayers get hit with to pay a lawyer to go to court after having been rebuffed that “We the People” in this state will no longer tolerate forced annexation?

    Why did the taxpayers of Wilmington get hit with a bill from a professional lobbyist to attend the General Assembly’s short session?

    This list can go on indefinitely. Comm. O’Grady, welcome to introductory civics… when “We the People” are doing good we are a lot more generous. When we are not doing good, we just need to be convinced that what you as a politician wants to do with our tax dollars makes economic sense. Get it??

  • Guest1111111

    They knew the petition was dangerous…and pressed ahead without an attorney’s advisement.

    Just look at this email from Ben McCoy to the city attorney.
    http://tinypic.com/r/2rnaq05/6

  • taxpayer

    Never have you met a taxpayer’s dollar that you weren’t afraid to spend. Sadly, it takes the citizens that elected you to your illustrious position on City Council, to go the route of a petition to get you and your ilk to listen.

    Now we have Margaret Haynes calling us “haters” because we oppose the use of our tax dollars for a baseball field when roads, streets, and sidewalks are in shambles.

    Yet you say the signers of the petition are making a big mistake. I would disagree with you sir. It is you and your fellow members of Council who are making the mistake by not being forthcoming in your discussions.

    I am ashamed to say I voted for you when you ran for City Council. What you are today versus what you portrayed as a candidate are polar opposites. You are nothing more than a tax & spend liberal who doesn’t give a damn about the majority.

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