WILMINGTON,NC (WWAY) — The City continues to slide closer to building a ballpark and bringing a minor league team to the Port City. Wilmington City Council voted Tuesday night to continue negotiations with Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta braves for another six months.
Council members also discussed putting a ballpark bond referendum on the November ballot. However, with the new information from their consultant, National Sports Services, it still leaves the question: is this a good idea for Wilmington?
“I think baseball can be successful in Wilmington,” said Brian Parker, who gave the presentation for NSS. “I can’t say that it’s the right investment for Wilmington.”
NSS brought its proposal to council, estimating a cost of $36 million to $42 million to build a baseball stadium in the Port City.
According to the StarNews, the private development team, Flywheel/Trask, that had proposed being a partner in the stadium project backed out last week.
Afterwards, the city decided to consider putting the ballpark plan to a public vote in November, asking voters if they would help pay for the stadium. Council would vote on it during a later meeting.
In a press release response, Mandalay Baseball announced that private financing is now off the table.
“We now feel that since this issue is going to a referendum it creates too much uncertainty for private investment teams. Also, private financing costs were a bit too high when compared to the rates the city could get for municipal bonds, making private financing too big a challenge,” said Rich Neumann, President of Baseball Development for Mandalay Baseball.
The economic impact of the stadium is estimated to create about 300 jobs per year in the city and county, but definite details are a long way from being complete.
“This is a starting point,” Parker said. “By no means would this necessarily be the ending point. If it is, it would be shocking if this is exactly how it broke down.”
If council approves the bond referendum it would go on the November ballot alongside the controversial ordinance against a tax-payer funded ballpark.
Council also voted 6-1 approving $355,000 for further feasibility study, outside legal council and financial advice. Councilwoman Laura Padgett voted against the funding.
In their hypothetical funding scenario, National’s report had the city contributing around $17 million and “other governmental aid” paying $8.2 million. New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield says he and another commissioner have spoken with city leaders several times about re-entering ballpark negotiations, however County Manager Bruce Shell says the county is not actively discussing their involvement.
National’s report has downtown as the prime location for a baseball stadium.