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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — As the StarNews first reported, the first draft of a ballpark lease agreement has some Wilmington City Council members scoffing at the deal. But some city leaders say this is simply the first step in formal negotiations.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the proposed agreement is section 1.(d) that states if the facility is not finished and ready for use by March 2014, the city is required to pay Mandalay/Braves $50,000 per day until it’s complete.

“It’s not acceptable,” Wilmington City Councilman Kevin O’Grady said, “and all I can say is it’s going to be a starting point.”

O’Grady said the offer from Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Atlanta Braves is not sufficient, the language of the lease is not sufficient and, as far as he’s concerned, the whole thing is negotiable.

While the council’s job is to come to an agreement, taxpayers will still have the final say in November.

“I think there is a division in the community on it, which is one of the reasons we decided to go to the referendum, because it wasn’t strong enough one way or the other,” O’Grady said.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, Mandalay decided private-funding is no longer an option. That means the city will have to find the funds.

“I think there is benefit that comes out of it that justifies some increase, but right now the gap between what is being offered by baseball and what the city would have to pay is so great that we really can’t span that,” O’Grady said.

We spoke with Mandalay President of Baseball Development Rich Neumann by phone. He was not willing to comment and told us he feels it would be inappropriate to comment at all throughout the negotiation process.

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