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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The City of Wilmington has released a report from a consultant on a proposal for a minor league baseball stadium in Wilmington. The city hired National Sports Services to analyze a proposal from developers, including Mandalay Baseball Properties, to build a ballpark in the city to serve as the home of an Atlanta Braves farm team.

The feasibility study from NSS is about 200 pages analyzing the proposal from Mandalay Baseball Properties, the Atlanta Braves and some developers and the impact of minor league baseball and a ballpark here in Wilmington.

Click here to read the full report on the city’s website.
We have not yet had a chance to go through all of it yet, but we have looked at some of it.

Among the highlights, NSS says the project would cost upwards of about $42 million when you factor in buying land. There could be chances to scale down the scope of the project, which would reduces costs. NSS, though, warns downsizing could decrease the economic impact.

The market analysis led NSS to recommend building a 6,000-seat ballpark with 12 to 14 private suites, 200 to 250 club seats, a club lounge, picnic areas and a kids play zone. That’s slightly smaller than the Mandalay/Braves request.

The company estimates over 20 years the ballpark would generate $313 million in direct spending, as well as $24.7 million in new revenues for the city and county.

Of course, the big question is how to pay for it. NSS says on average, public funding accounts for 59 percent of minor league ballpark development since 1995.

NSS provided a hypothetical funding scenario, in which the city would pay for 41 percent of the project, or $17.2 million, while looking for about a fifth from other government aid. It calls for nearly 40 percent from the private sector, but the rent is money paid to the city, and property tax is paid to the city and county. As we understand it, that means for the money to defray any of the ballpark costs, it would have to come back out of the government till, which would keep it from offsetting the public share. 

NSS also crunched some numbers to show that the Braves and Mandalay could expect a 7.1 percent return on their investment over the initial 20-year lease.

National will make a presentation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.


$36-42 million for construction, land, infrastructure
Costs for construction and land are comparable to preliminary estimates from Mandalay, but there may be some opportunities for savings either from a change in scope to the proposal, or from a more specific, detailed proposal when that becomes available.

Preferred location
Greater downtown area most preferred, followed by Eastwood Road corridor
Key factors include proximity to dining, hotels and other entertainment, as well as the potential to enhance existing and additional economic development, parking opportunities and existing infrastructure.

Economic Impact
Over 20 years, $313 million in direct spending; $24.7 million in new revenues, $451 million in new total output (City/County figures broken out as follows:)
Estimated $242 million in total new output
$168 million in new direct spending
$19.3 million in new revenue
Estimated $209 million in total new output
$145 million in new direct spending
$5.4 million in new revenue

Intangible benefits
National/regional media exposure, affordable entertainment, enhanced community pride

Total of 6,412 new one-year full and part-time jobs earning $138 million
City – 3,481 jobs that would generate an estimated $76 million in new personal earnings
County – 2,931 jobs that would generate an estimated $62 million in new personal earnings

Strong regional draw with military bases and nearby beaches as enhancements
-60% of market within 15 miles, equaling 255,000 residents; another 30% draw within 30 miles, equaling 348,000 residents
-Recommend 6,000‐seat stadium; average seating at ballparks in comparable markets is just over 6,100 seats, with a range of 4,500‐8,100
-Our demographics in same range as comparable ballparks

Public Support/funding
On average, public funding accounts for 59% of minor league baseball developments built since 1995
If Wilmington follows this model, the public investment would be $25.4 million, assuming the project would cost a total of $42 million. Mandalay would contribute $16.6 million through annual payments of $400,000 a year and other partners would need to be identified to contribute another $7.4 million.

Citizen funding support
53% of survey respondents indicated they would be willing to pay up to $2 a month for the ballpark

Mandalay return on investment
An estimated 18% profit margin in the first year, stabilizing at 10% by fifth year of operation and then an average 7.1% return over the life of a 20‐year lease

Potential partners
Nearby real estate development, free or discounted land contribution, UNCW or others as tenants, other governmental partners, corporate fundraising, private donors, foundation grants

Other activities for ballpark
Comparable ballparks host youth, high school and college baseball, concerts, graduations, religious events, food festivals, private functions, movie nights, professional soccer games

Number of events
Comparable ballparks hosted an average of 153 events each year

Attendance at comparable parks is 3,796 per game, with a range from 2,449‐5,612

Comparable parks
Cedar Rapids Kernels, Fort Wayne Tin Caps, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Winston‐Salem Dash

Tied to level of funding commitment; size of project can be scaled down, but benefits and return on investment diminish accordingly

June 19 City Council meeting
-Presentation from NSS, receive/take action on NSS report
-Decide on MOU extension
-Consider budget for additional professional support

Comment on this Story

  • Vog46

    “The conclusions to be drawn are clear and are consistent with what area residents and the business community and tourism leaders have been telling us for some time….this project represents a great investment in our economic infrastructure and makes Wilmington a better place”

    Only if the numbers are accurate.
    For instance, NSS says Wilmington’s “interest” in baseball is somehow 50% higher than other cities and thery say that 3% of the city’s population will attend the games whereas other cities are consitantly at 2%.
    So what does this mean?
    It means that they will never EXCEED 300,000 Per year attendance so Wilmington will NOT get $1 per ticket Mandalay offered.
    Second it means that because the attendance is overstated all economic impact is as well. Keep in mind that half the attendees will be adults the other half will be children.
    It is also curious to note that the location of the stadium to me would have a big impact on just how much an impact it will have. Downtown, to me offers the biggest bang for the buck. The problem is – just how big a bang it will be.

    The surveys showed more than the NSS report.
    We love baseball, but we are hesitant to pay for it. The amount of funding Mandalay is asking the city to put up seems to go against how much the citizens are willing to put up.
    THAT’S whats abundantly clear to me.
    We want it but don’t want to pay too much for it.
    Go ask the Port City Roosters just how badly Wilmington wanted baseball………..

    Best Regards

  • Old Man

    The opposition remains shrill, as usual…but I now believe they will fail. They showed their true colors when they submitted false signatures on the petition. They, like Obama and the Democrats will resort to almost anything to win.

    Just like the opposition to Amendment One, who can’t lose gracefully, I expect lawsuits out of this before it’s over.

  • Terry Spencer

    A very thorough and professional analysis by one of the country’s leading stadium consultants. The data shows very clearly that the economic benefits of the project are compelling and costs very much in line with similar projects. The study provides us validation that the downside risk to area residents is very modest particularly when viewed in comparison to the expected economic benefits.

    The conclusions to be drawn are clear and are consistent with what area residents and the business community and tourism leaders have been telling us for some time….this project represents a great investment in our economic infrastructure and makes Wilmington a better place…..

  • Guester

    Estimates, predictions, pipe dreams and a vision. This thing looks bought and paid for and it basically says what the buyer wants it to say, IMO.

    If it can’t be built and stand on it’s own without taking a gamble with taxpayer money, forget it. This is not the time to be throwing more taxpayer money at things government has no buisness doing in the first place. How do you think these billionaire sports owners are still billionaires when most everyone else is cutting back and doing without.

    Wilmington and this country can’t and won’t grow when it’s population is overtaxed, unempoyment is high and the debt is climbing so high that we can hardley keep up with the interest payments alone.

  • Rick Wilson

    The Mayor and City Council could have wrote this fairytale without spending $200,00.00 for someone else to do it for them. Thank goodness the people get to vote on this scam. $2.00 a month per city resident will pay for this? Hopefully the Mayor and Council will forget this now and move on to important issues. American Cities should not be WELFARE CENTERS for BILLIONAIRES!

  • 1981duke

    For our future,and future generations.
    Play Ball Wilmington ,April 2014.

  • 1981duke

    The plan is well thought out,time to play baseball in Wilmington minor league style.

  • GuestNineOneNine

    There is no “plan” here. It’s random facts and numbers like I can get with a Google search. There isn’t anything here I couldn’t have come up with in a week. Give me half what they paid these Mandalay shills and I could have done one better.
    I’ll bet the Cal Ripken people are laughing their ***** off at this “study”.

  • Guest33

    Yes its well thought out alright, our tax money into someone’s bank account, major league style.

  • SurfCityTom

    unfocused and full of hot air and pi in the sky numbers and projections, they do not deserve serious consideration.

    But here’s your chance to prove all of us wrong.

    The report notes “other investors” will need to be secured to cough up $7.4 million for construction.

    Have you & Mike T started the LLC to develop that funding? And have you committed your personal wealth and fiscal well being on this albatross.

    If this was such a great deal, there would be no need for public investment of taxpayer dollars.

  • Robert Green

    Especially during the Obama Depression , cities should be refraining from irresponsible spending and exercise frugality. The City of Wilmington continues to defy economic realities by pursuing white elephant projects that do not stimulate economic development. Politicians , like Saffo , try to hoodwink constituents into using the word investment , which is synonymous with spending.The mayor and his council has a very poor business acumen, which was reflected in their construction of the convention center. It was to defy national trends concerning convention centers.The reality is it will never generate a positive cash flow for the community and thus far as not secured a hotel. A very poor investment thus far.We have seen nationally what Obama’s investment have garnered us….$ 5 trillion in debt with nothing to show for.The fact that NO prudent businessperson has come forward with a viable plan should be telling for those paying attention. NSS was paid by the city to give them the answer to their so-called investment. The failure to invest in sound infrastructure will impede economic development.These white elephants are like living in a dilapidated trailer house with no heating and air with a S 500 Mercedes parked at the front door with no definable driveway.In order to finance their irresponsible ways , they would implement the annexation tool by balancing the books on the backs of the taxpayer. Now that this immoral action has been struck down the city should be challenged trying to establish a budget and maintaining a good credit rating.

  • 1981duke

    What does this have to do woth ‘OBAMA”.
    Stretching guys.really stretching.
    A lomg time till November so we can elect to bring a Stadium and Baseball here.

  • Guest CommonTater

    Our current council are so over the top arrogant is isn’t funny. The closest they have been to connected is to allow more signatures but it’s just a ploy.

    You hit the nail on the head Robert. Send a copy to Saffo and his minions.

    duke1981… read this and digest the sanity if you dare….

  • Vog46

    I don’t know why ee have such short memories:

    Free stadium ? Check
    AA MiL baseball team? Check
    On a major thorough fair? Check
    Great family entertainment? Check

    And yet this team the Port City Roosters moved due to lack of attendance. No major money influx from the city nor from the parent team the Seattle Mariners.
    And yet they failed
    AA is certainly more entertaining than single A teams are.
    Again neither the city nor the team had a major exposure to losses but they left town after what one season maybe two?
    And we want to invest $24M for this Single A team?
    We’ve been down this road before and no matter how hard you try to revise history – you can’t.
    We are attempting to throw away money trying to prove to ourselves that we are a baseball town when history says otherwise.

    Best Regards

  • The job and economic impack numbers dont add up. Here is a survay from on the Charlotte Knights .http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/03/09/3081990/would-charlotte-knights-minor.html

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    …that produced a report that was at odds with what the city wanted?

    The fix is in, Wilmington. This albatross WILL BE hung around your neck unless you engage your brains, engage your feet, get off your lazy backsides and vote to block taxpayer money being used on this ballpark.

    Remember this irrefutable rule: If there were tons of money to be made on baseball, Mandalay and the developers would not want to share the profits with the city. When they come to the government, hat-in-hand, you KNOW it’s a scam.

  • Guester

    The projected jobs number (6412 one year part and full time jobs) does not square with the attendance expected (2449 to ?). Don’t see any benefit for Wilmington.

    The private company should be shaking the Invisible Hand of the Free Enterprise System instead of looking for handouts.

    The fuzzy numbers do not support taxpayer financing.

  • ma_lashley

    Besides “Play ball”, “Opening day 2014” can you say anything that intelligently supports your position or refutes all the evidence to the contrary that minor league baseball teams are a drain to the communities which have to support them? These studies are always padded with extrapolated numbers and take credit for jobs that would have been created with or without a stadium project.

    “Total of 6,412 new one-year full and part-time jobs earning $138 million”

    Really? With those kind of stats cities all over the state should be lining up to build a stadium of their own. I’m afraid NSS repeats the same statistics for job sector growth, primarily hospitality and service industry jobs, that would have been created over the same period without city investment in a stadium. They’re attributing growth to a stadium that the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has projected anyway.

    In reference to your “future generations” comment. The people of Sarasota were thinking about their future generation when they overwhelmingly voted down a referendum to build a new stadium for the Cincinnati Reds.

    “Sports is a consumption activity, not an investment activity,” Porter said. “These so-called economic-impact studies never include the cost to a community. It’s simply an estimate of people who come to see the team and an estimate of what they spend.”, Phillip Porter, professor of Economics, University of S. Florida as quoted form the Tampa Tribune, Feb 21, 2010.

    Duke, I’m afraid you’re trying to get everyone to drink the orange Kool-aid when the people aren’t thirsty for debt.


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