FIRST ON 3: Ballpark petition has enough signatures, could go on November Ballot

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Submitted: Wed, 06/13/2012 - 3:23am
Updated: Wed, 06/13/2012 - 3:03pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover County Board of Elections says it has verified enough signatures on a petition against a tax-funded baseball stadium in Wilmington.

Elections Director Marvin McFayden said late this afternoon, his office verified 74 signatures today. That brings the total to 2,848.

The results are in. There are now enough signatures on the petition against a tax-funded ballpark to take the next step.

It will now go to Wilmington City Council, which must either adopt it or put it up for a public vote.

“I can’t speak for council as a whole, but I don’t think that anyone thought that they wouldn’t come up with the number,” says City Councilman Neil Anderson.

Organizers submitted about 4,000 petition signatures to the board of elections last month, which was about 1,200 more than required. However, twice the board found there weren’t enough verified signatures. Finally on Tuesday, the petition was complete.

“Our victory is in it going into a public vote, not the outcome of the vote,” said Ben McCoy, one of the petition organizers. “Our victory is in getting it on the ballot.”

“The jury is out for us until we know exactly what we’re going to vote to adopt or to put on the ballot,” Anderson says.

McCoy guesses if left up to voters the ordinance would be a home run.

“It will be an eight to one vote in favor of our ordinance is my prediction,” he says.

Anderson says if they decide to put the ordinance to public vote, the city could possibly put a bond referendum on the ballot that would be an alternative to voters.

WWAY tried contacting Mayor Bill Saffo, but were not able to reach him for comment. Councilman Kevin O’Grady says he believes council will put the ordinance to a public vote and was confident citizens will vote against it because of its ambiguous language.


  • Guest6448949 says:

    perhaps you don’t understand the time value of money?

    Even more simply, when you borrow $100K for your house for your mortgage you actually end up paying around $300-$400K over 30 years depending on your interest rate. Also add into that the value of that money at today’s value vs. what that money is worth 30 years from now and the actual “cost” grows even greater.

    Just because it’s the baseball field is something you want doesn’t make the laws of finance suddenly not apply.

  • Vog46 says:

    The Sharks are amateur, unpaid athletes. The company that runs the team is a professional sports organization.
    I don’t believe they would be affected.

    Concert and other events would go to the convention center which I believe would have first choice on local events of this nature (Goolsby may propose state legislation to force this issue on behalf of the Wilmington Home builders association – this is another story altogether.)

    This petition seems innocuous and don’t forget that this probably could be changed in the future. Don’t forget Hammerhead supporters can also get a petition going to allow for an exemption for the Hammerheads if need be.
    However like any other citizen driven ordinance it has not been challenged legally and you cannot expect the citizenry to know the letter of the law as it applies to ordinances.

    The convention center is still in its infancy and can’t be called a success yet. It was and is paid for using room tax on hotels which was approved by the STATE legislature. This does not affect Wilmington taxpayers for the bulk of the cost. In other words the Wilmington taxpayer risk was limited. The stadium is different. It appears to be single purpose and funded by local taxpayer dollars for the majority of the cost……….
    Getting it approved by the voters is probably prudent. It’s also politically expedient as it allows for Saffo and company to go with the flow…….

    Best Regards

  • 1981duke says:

    Yes,40-42 million pays stadium costs

  • another chuck says:

    Baseball is NOT the important issue. The important issue and the reason there even IS a petition is: the people who are currently holding office are blatantly disregarding what is best for the city and the people that inhabit it in lieu of their own interests or biases. Let me rephrase that to say “most” because the “other” elected officials are obviously lacking intelligence or foresight if they assume this venture will not harm the average taxpayer even if only slightly. The fanatical segments of the population are those who actually support this venture at this time.

    I can think of many diverse things that could help and enrich this community but a taxpayer funded baseball stadium is not one that is needed at this time. I might not be so opposed if the economic outlook was quite different but it does not look good regardless of political persuasion.

    Political hijacking is what has been done by proponents of this stadium. And a special note for MrT: Keeping idiots in check is what democracy is all about!

  • Vog46 says:

    Guest 2020.
    Correct me if I’m wrong here.
    New Hanover High school teams would not be affected as they are NOT professional sports teams.
    I believe the Wilmington Sharks are a collegiate summer baseball league and are also not considered professional. (This is vague to me as some teams appear to be paid???)
    The only team this may affect is the Hammerheads but this situation may be grandfathered as their agreement for stadium use is already in place.

    Best Regards

  • 1981duke says:

    Per COUNTY AND CITY agrement signed 1n 1996 for 20 years,Legion Stadium.
    No impact on High School sports,

    fUTURES,COSTS under scrutiny

  • Guest? says:

    Vog, I think even if the athletes don’t get paid (I don’t know if they do or if they don’t) they still have a manager and an owner. They also still pay to rent the field, but not at the full rate. City Council has to approve the contract every year for Sharks, Tigers and Hammerheads, if I’m not mistaken.

    Because they are being partly subsidized by the city, that’s why people are saying their contracts will be in jeopardy if this passes in November. I don’t know if the teams will have the funds to pay for the full rate or not.

  • Guest111 says:

    . . . . don’t buy any hotdogs just yet. . nor any new hats.

  • Guest111 says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the BRAVES aren’t the team that would have come here.

  • Reiber says:

    I am against the property tax funding for the stadium. How come we cannot add to the sales tax to pay for the stadium? That way everyone that used the stadium would participate in the financing of the staduium tourists and locals alike. Mecklenberg County adds extra to their county portion of sales tax over what most other county charges, I think we should to. Also using sales tax would incorporate a large part of Wilmington’s economy, the college students that rent and do not pay property taxes.

  • GuestJeffB129 says:

    This will save me alot of money on Wilmington Hammerheads and Wilmington Sharks ticket in the upcoming years!! Or if they can afford to pay full price for Legion stadium it will be a money maker for the city! WIN/WIN for everyone.

  • frontpaige says:

    The land and building estimate is $40 million for the baseball stadium and like our Wilmington convention center a cost over run is likely.
    Finance over 30 years could triple the cost to close to $100 million. The costs of necessary infrastructure, parking, safety concerns, and roads have NOT been estimated. The city taxpayer will be responsible for the yearly operational and maintenance shortfalls, which are expected in the industry.

    The majority of residents would pay for this facility and never use it. Worse yet, it will take finite leisure/sports dollars from exciting area businesses. IF money is made, it will likely go to the ball players, ball owners, sports organization owners, who spend it elsewhere. (Of course the builder and land owner will walk away with a one time, early on sizable profit.)

    Who wins this game, and who loses?
    The taxpaying public SHOULD decide this one!

  • Guest11111 says:

    “8 to 1″ REALLY MCCOY?!!?!?!?!

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA you live a bubble and in the bubble are paint fumes.

  • 1981duke says:

    how does 40 million become 100-200 million?
    Talk about a scare tactic?

  • taxpayer says:

    “Councilman Kevin O’Grady says he believes council will put the ordinance to a public vote and was confident citizens will vote against it because of its ambiguous language.”

    >We’ll see when the votes are tallied Kevin. I’m betting you thought the City would win the annexation fight as well.

  • taxpayer says:

    interest on the debt for starters.

  • Guest Reply says:

    I can just see it now…people trying to get to this stadium on roads full of pot holes, dodging red light runners (or red light runners dodging baseball fans) and then to top it all off…the day of the “BIG GAME”…the Cape Fear bridge gets stuck!!
    If our council spent as much effort trying to work with the state of North Carolina for road improvements/repairs, and giving our Police Dept. funds it needs to improve their reliability and efficiency, then there would be signs of improvement in this city. Actually…the tax payers would be Shocked if that happened. Then maybe the tax payers would agree to some tax funding for recreational means.
    Naw! Not in Wilmington :-(

  • Vog46 says:

    “I can’t speak for council as a whole, but I don’t think that anyone thought that they wouldn’t come up with the number,” says City Councilman Neil Anderson.

    This is disturbing me for some odd reason. It would appear as though council knew how contentious this issue would be so why didn’t THEY propose the special election? Why did they rely on a couple of citizens to do it?

    “It will be an eight to one vote in favor of our ordinance is my prediction,” he says.
    I agree that this is being just plain silly, but considering the speed at which they gathered their signatures I do understand their confidence. That was 25% of the total vote in the city during the last election.

    Councilman Kevin O’Grady says he believes council will put the ordinance to a public vote and was confident citizens will vote against it because of its ambiguous language.
    They will lose due to ambiguous language? This is as laughable as McCoy’s vote prediction. O’Grady, for some reason, is getting more press on this issue than even Saffo. Saffo’s comment about the Braves not having enough skin in the game seems to be a reasonable statement, and indicates that there’s at least one adult in the room.

    If put forth for vote I believe it will be passed and no stadium will be built.
    Just not by 8 to 1………..

    Best Regards

  • Guest? says:

    8 to 1? I thought the petition – after a couple of attempts – only represented 25% of the few residents who voted in the last election.

  • Guest7969 says:

    STOP saying the BRAVES…the Braves are NOT coming here and they sure as heck aren’t playing here….a pop warner team is…LET THEM foot the bill if they want to be here! The only reason they use the Braves name is to try to sell you something that isn’t true…

  • Guest? says:

    The convention center finished way under budget because it was built when companies were fighting to get work and material costs were low. Plus taxpayers didn’t pay for the construction of the convention center.

  • Guest111 says:

    It comes from change orders and such as that. It’s very expensive and it ALWAYS happens. Once the hook (we the taxpayers) is caught the pull (need more money for this and that) gets tougher.

  • #1 Braves Fan says:

    People, we have the opportunity to have the Braves here in Wilmington! Gotta get this done, taxes or no taxes. It’s the great American Pastime in our Great American City. Can you feel it?
    Tell Goober and his peas to crawl back in their hole and lets bring real baseball to Wilmington!

  • 1981duke says:

    Great to see the dialog,can not wait till the November actual Vote so we can begin play in 2014!
    Extra innings for Stadium and Baseball,so the next 4 months will see fan interests peak

  • 1981duke says:

    far reach,join the progressive side,not regressive side…

  • Guest2020 says:

    I have been against a taxpayer funded stadium from the beginning. I do believe that this referendum is likely to fail because of the language in it. The language reads as if all funding to all multi-use facilities where professional sports teams play will be ceased. My concern is for the future of Legion Stadium since it is used for professional sports. If that happened, where would New Hanover High School play its home football games?

  • 1981duke says:

    will need more the 3,000 against,more like 30,000….

  • MrT says:

    The next few days and weeks will surely be interesting for the Wilmington Council and Mayor. Placing the recent petition on the November ballot puts in jeopardy the integrity and ability to govern by this council and others to follow. Councilors and Mayors in all cities assume their election is a mandate from the voters to govern and manage their city with their best effort and without the hindrance of fanatical segments of the general population. This issue goes far beyond just the current issue of Baseball. This Council and Mayor must consider rejection of the petition in what ever manor possible. Some claim this petition as democracy however this is nothing more than political hijacking and will effect the quality of those willing to serve in the future. I would guess even those who organized the current petition would not want to serve on a council that could be hobbled by every special interest who for whatever reason is dissatisfied with an important issue facing the city. Chaos is never the answer!

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    little to no money was invested in your education…..

    Yea let’s just give up on education in favor of baseball. What is wrong with you? Let’s give up on the total infrastructure so we can go watch a damn baseball game. Please keep posting you are the best thing going for the taxpayers against this.


  • 1981duke says:

    Baseball and the Stadium are a business bring jobs and sales tax revenues here,this is not a frill,it is a shear business opportunity fitting what we do well,travel and tourism.
    So a vote for Stadium and Baseball is one to fuel our economy!

  • 1981duke says:

    We need viable opportunities for our citizens and gainfull employment,now not later.
    That is why,what other new businesses are we creating?
    Who else is Ponying up 30 years?
    No one,no 1 so Baseball and Stadium ignites our new “economies”.

  • GuestQwerty says:

    Your paying to educate other kids in Wilmington ensures those kids of the ability to write down your order correctly at the restaurants that are about the only industry in town hiring them.

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    you really have no understanding of what is going on in society.

    There are some things that tax money should go towards that will have value added. Baseball adds nothing when compared to education. Education you need… baseball not so much. Roads we need… baseball not so much. Clean water and a working sewer system we need… baseball not so much. You sensing a trend here cupcakes?

    Wonder how many folks payed for YOU to go to school that had no children? See how that works?


  • Wilmington Observer says:

    You have, probably, never had to experience your house being broken into or burning down. Therefore, using your logic, why should you pay for police, fire or EMS services? You pay for schools because everytime you go into a business you want the individuals you are doing business with to have some semblance of an education. You want those who build your house, roads and grocery stores to know how to read and understand mathmatics. Think of all you own (computer, cellphone, car, television, toilet, etc….). Uneducated people would not have been able to conceptualize, design and create those, precious, items of yours. Our, public, educational system sucks. It is one of the worst in the world. However, every once in awhile they get it right and, because of your tax dollars, someone leaves high school with the knowledge, and skills, to actually make a difference in your life.

    Wilmington Observer

  • ma_lashley says:

    If you can’t see the difference between essential and non-essential services………. besides consider how much higher your taxes would be if future generations weren’t trained adequately to begin careers. We educate kids to become future tax-payers or future tax-burdens. It’s a specious argument.

  • 1981duke says:

    Good point,I would rather invest into a bad baseball team than inferior education standards,we do not have enough $$$$$$ in the treasury to make up for our educational shortfalls,another great reason to invest in commerce.
    We have so many more educated people today,and higher un-employment.
    Maybe all the inteligence,genious can tell us why?

  • If you build it, the taxpayers will not come says:


    Yes you do, because an educated population is a benefit to all in our community, less crime, less poverty, and thus less taxes to entitlements, etc. A baseball stadium funded by the city is not.

    It is ridiculous to think the government, read taxpayers, should be in the baseball park business. Noone argues that a stadium would be cool. And if it’s that cool, let a private person invest and make tons of money (yea right). Since you are in favor, why don’t you write a check to the Braves and leave me out of it, mmkay?

  • 1981duke says:

    Our time and turn,vote for Baseball.

  • pendercty says:

    I live in Pender county and would love to see baseball in Wilmington. I wish leaders would get together and make this a regional partnership. I would be willing to chip in even though i am not in wilmington. I used to live in wilmington and thought taxes were low. Baseball would be great for the region and would rather see taxes go towards baseball than half the non-profits money goes towards now. A vote for baseball is a vote for America!

  • Guest7969 says:

    already have baseball…I’m sure you attend the games :/

  • 1981duke says:

    Not with Baseball….

  • Grand Ole Party says:

    That is just a matter of opinion. Because you believe it is a positive change, does not make it necessarily so. By the way it should read YOU’RE welcome not YOUR welcome.

  • Guest CommonTater says:

    That you think a baseball stadium would be part of a “legacy” is laughable. The chance to have a say in what your tax dollars are used for isn’t a reach here. Why are a couple of you so against letting the people have a voice? You live in the wrong country comrade…..

  • Guest7969 says:

    have ENOUGH leeches on the taxpayers of this area…we don’t need a GIANT leech! Wilmington will NOT be better or worse because of a stupid baseball team! It’s better or worse because of or lack of leadership!

  • Guest111 says:

    thanks. . . hehehehe

  • Guest111 says:

    You are truly a lost soul.

  • Guest? says:

    The convention center was not on a ballot because taxpayers are not paying for it! It all comes from room occupancy taxes. If you live in a hotel, then I suppose you can say that you are not happy about it. But the State of NC decided that Wilmington could receive a portion of the room occupancy tax to be used only for the convention center.

  • 1981duke says:

    Now has local meaning

  • Phil says:

    Guess Saffo Stadium will have to wait! Thank you to all that signed!

  • Wilmington Taxpayer says:

    I’m so glad this has finally been verified. Hopefully this will be enough of an obstacle that the Braves/Mandalay will just pack their bags and get out of town. This is a great day for the property owners of Wilmington, who need their hard-earned tax money to go to roads, schools, and emergency services, not some idiotic ball field that the majority of us will never set foot in.

  • port city taxpayer says:

    My wife and I have no children. Why should we pay for schools that we will never set a foot in?

  • Guest1313 says:

    Great, now it goes to a vote on IF this becomes an ordinance. I’ll give it to them for finding this loophole, but it took you 2 chances to get 25% of people to sign it. What’s the next petition going to be…I got it! Let’s stop letting elected officials make decisions and let’s make it so that the entire city budget has to be voted on. Hey, it’s taxpayers money right? Let’s make it so when a tire goes flat or when the police department needs money for new equipment that it goes to a vote. Let’s see how long our ballots can be from now on. As I’ve said all along, let’s see how this all plays out before we pass judgement on what will happen. This is a viable option to make the city money, but it takes everybody to help build our city into greatness. Fulton & McCoy are trying to stop everything they can in order to advance their own political agenda.

  • Guest111 says:

    My gosh, you’re a certifiable nut. You are so out in left field you can’t see what’s going on. The citizens want our city brought up to codes with street repair, sewer and water pipes that don’t cave in. We want the police and fire departments to have what they need, we want a handle on crime and drug use, we want downtown cleaned up and we want downtown safe. I could go on and on but honestly, I don’t think you can comprehend anything. You talk about advancing their own political agenda…. what do they have to advance to? They aren’t in political office. They want what we want. . which is what I’ve already listed and we DO NOT want to be told what’s going on after the fact. After the next couple of elections this probably won’t be a problem. We will get these ‘spenders’ of other’s monies out of office. I still want to see a P & L on the convention center.

  • Guest7969 says:

    I think your suggestion on voting on the budget…is pretty good

  • ChefnSurf says:

    - vi·a·ble/ˈvīəbəl/Adjective: 1.Capable of working successfully; feasible: “the proposed investment was economically viable”.

    No one, I repeat, no one has provided hard numbers to prove that.
    Perhaps what you really meant was:

    – con·jec·tur·al/kənˈjekCHərəl/Adjective: Based on or involving conjecture. Synonyms: presumptive – hypothetical

    Keep pulling unsustainable statements out of your tailpipe and you’ll be perceived as exactly what you’ve been calling others:

    – id·i·ot/ˈidēət/Noun: 1.A stupid person.
    Synonyms: fool – imbecile – blockhead – dunce – nitwit – dolt

    By “let’s see how this all plays out” I hope you meant plays out in the ballot box rather than plays out as defined by a select few. Anything other than that would be disrespectful of all of those people on both sides of the stadium issue who deserve to have a voice in an issue of this magnitude, not just Fulton and McCoy.

    If taxpayers want the stadium they’ll vote for it, if they don’t, they won’t. If you’ve got a problem with that, too bad.

  • GuestAboutTown says:

    1313, public safety is a principal role of government in the form of police and fire protection. Building and subsidising a multi-million dollar sports venue for a low end minor league baseball team is not.

    I think that Mayor Saffo is going to come out of this smelling like a rose. He is very astute to allow this measure to get on the ballot. McCoy and Fulton were also very astute in assuming the leadership of this opposition to the benefit of their own political futures. This is American politics, whether or not you like it.

    This isn’t doomsday, 1313. This is a great day showing that entrenched political interests are really subject to the will of the voters when there is sufficiently organized political will to act.

    You may think that this stadium development is a viable option to make the city money. I happen to think not. Sorry you are upset that the decision to work this project will be in the hands of the voters.

    Mr. Fulton, your time may be coming in the very near future. Comm. O’Grady’s term expires this year. He’d be a good first to be replaced.

  • 1981duke says:

    Josh and Ben and Justin do not do well in elections,lose by large amounts.
    Why do they think they now will succeed.
    Historically a vote a good thing for those wanting this!

  • ma_lashley says:

    Clearly you have a problem with seeing the distinction between tax dollars for essential services and making long-term committments on behalf of tax payers for such a speculative venture. It is specifically for those reasons that this type of histrionic argument will fall flat. We are not talking about ruling by referendum, but at times the voice of all the people should be counted on more than a simple majority of city council.

    When it get’s down to name calling, personal attacks and such extremism, then apparently you have run out of intelligent arguments.

  • Guest111 says:

    I want to thank everyone involved in getting this petition going and doing the hard work of collecting names. I signed it and was happy to do so. Maybe now we have a way of stopping the city spenders in their tracks in the future. Thank you Thank you Thank you

  • 1981duke says:

    Now tell us what will be your legacy?
    I voted for something proactive?
    I butchered a chance to change the area for the better?

  • 1981duke says:

    The vote has not taken place,this is far from dead,far from dead.

  • bill says:

    first nail in the coffin of this fiasco that i predict will cost saffo his job .

  • 1981duke says:

    As the header says

  • another chuck says:

    One can only hope. I remember the last election there was a video clip with Saffo stating adamantly “There will be no ball park built with public funds”… now after closely watching this drama unfold we find out this project had long been in the works with funding coming from taxpayers! The man openly LIED to all of the citizens of the city & county without effort and I don’t think it’s the first time. To me, he is the absolute worst (or perhaps best) example of a self serving dishonest individual who has found his true calling… politics.

    Unfortunately I’m not optimistic the petition will help because of voter apathy but one thing I am sure of is there’s probably enough dots for some enterprising individual(s) to connect and find impropriety somewhere. Once the SBI is done cleaning up the local law enforcement perhaps they will be tipped to look at some of the events that have happened during his tenure. That being said he’s not the only one but one of many that deserve some official scrutiny… and that is news I’d willingly accept a tax increase to watch.

  • Vog46 says:

    What Will Council Do?
    Will they pull the annexation rabbit out of their hat again and fight the people who oppose this?
    Or will they just say well we can spend the election monies and let the citizens decide?

    I wonder sometimes about our city council.
    They try to FORCE people into the city so I wonder if they’ll try to force this down out throats?

    My guess is after the annexation snafu they’ll adopt the resolution and NOT use any funds to build the stadium. At that point Atlanta pulls out of the proposal and berates city officials.
    And that’s all OK by me.
    Because if we were THAT desirable a location Atlanta or another MiL-B team would’ve built the stadium themselves………

    but we shall see

    Best Regards

  • 1981duke says:

    The header says it all,if they are “true leaders”.

  • Guest2020 says:

    They will force it down the taxpayers’ throats just as they did with the convention center. The difference being that there was a straightforward referendum concerning the convention center, with no ambiguous language, and the taxpayers voted against it twice. As you can see, the taxpayers got a convention center whether they liked it or not.

    I do think that the ambiguous language that this petition proposes is going to gum up the works this time. If it had been limited to just this stadium, I think a majority of the taxpayers would vote against it. I think the language on this one is going to cause a lot of people to vote against it even if they are against a taxpayer funded stadium. I just don’t think that vote will be a true representation of how the taxpayers feel about funding the stadium. And if it doesn’t pass the Wilmington Idiot Council will use that to say that the taxpayers want to pay for the stadium.

  • Guest 2798 says:

    The City Council would not permit the acting City Attorney to address the exact wording issue with McCoy and Fulton. That was their right. The Right of Initiatve is a right that was given to the people of Wilmington by the previous City Council’s. The Law and the process of Law have both been served. I for one signed the petition and am certain that my signature was not valid-why? Because I moved and neglected to change my address, therefore, while a voter, tax payer and resident my signature did not count. This entire mess started when the City entered into a contract with a local person to have him develop his property at the River Front, including a Baseball Stadium, and including Mandalay and the Braves. Had the City Council and Mayor placed the cards on the table so that intelligent people, voters and Tax Payers, Mr O’Grady and not Haters Mrs Maynes, none of this would be necessary. But no – the Mayor and City Council on 2/7/2012 entered into a tax payer/private agreement with Mandalay and the Braves. Within days the petition drive began which is the people’s right. Now Mayor Saffo, yesterday, “wishes the people would have given the discovery a chance.” Are you kidding. Pull the City Council minutes from the 2/7/2012 meeting and read the wording, proposals and promises for yourself. No need to listen to McCoy or Fulton or Mayor Saffo or the City Council. Just make up your own mind using facts.

  • 1981duke says:

    That is why we have WWAY

  • Guest? says:

    There are no city council elections this year. They occur in odd numbered years.

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