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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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21 Comments on "O’Grady: Ballpark lease ‘not acceptable,’ just a starting point"

2015 years 10 months ago

I have been following the news on this issue and also the reader response. There are some great takeaways from it that could actually make this an equitable deal.
One writer qusestioned why taxpayers should underwrite the stadium and then get the priveliege to pay for parking, admittance, and the cost of overpriced beer, peanuts, hot dogs, etc. The obvious answers is that the taxpaying “owners” should get the perks all owners get. Free parking, free preferential seating, and complimentary food. Just like the Mandalay people get at their other ball parks. Let the county residents and others pay all those fees.
As far as the onerous $50,000 a day fines for missed completion deadlines, that is really a blessing in disguise. We have the construction company take out a bond to cover it. What we add is that if Mandalay pulls out for any reason before all the debt is paid that either they pay it off themselves or pay a $50,000 a day fine. We need to make sure we have the principals on the note and not just the company.
If the fines were good enough for them it should be equitable for us. Then as Mr. Saffo says: everyone has skin in the game.
On the player side, if we provide the venue for the players to showcase their skills and win a multi-million dollar contract should we not deserve to be paid a percentage of their future earnings? Nothing extravagant, just the same percentage their agents get. Now, would that not be equitable to all involved and end all this discussion?

2015 years 10 months ago

That is what the $50,000 figure is,no one would sign this

2015 years 10 months ago

Thats what the assistant city manager told council according to the Star news about the lease. I DO believe that the lease is a starting point but the financial facts still remain the same here.
First since private funding has disappeared the city will have to go forward with the bond referendum as if it were paying for the whole thing. This may put a worst case scenario before the voters and I doubt that it would fly given the economic conditions of the time.
Second – it is possible that the residents will be faced with 2 votes on this issue. First will be the Fulton/McCoy petition. This has enough ambiguity in it to make me think that it might have to be rejected because it could affect any help the city is giving the Sharks and Hammerheads AND more importantly it could tie any future councils hands if a better deal came forward from any other potential professional teams in the future.
Second the bond referendum for THIS project. Assume the stadium is to cost $40M total.
City/county portion:
$40M – reject it
$30M – reject it
$20M – reject it (but they’re now getting my attention)
Anything UNDER $20M should be approved if the Braves would agree to a multi year guarantee of lease payments.
You see whats happening here. I’m telling the Braves – YES we love baseball, YES we love the Braves and YES there are risks involved and YES you can make your 18%, but the risk is now more so on the Braves side. Where it SHOULD be.
This would also make the Braves consider the NSS report and allow them to decide if its accurate or not. If the picture is so rosy for baseball in Wilmington then the Braves would accept more of the financial risk. Anything less than that tells me the Braves think the NSS report is a bunch of mularky. So, let the baseball people make the judgement on the baseball survey, they know the business far better then ‘Hairspray’ Bill Saffo and council does.

Best Regards

2015 years 10 months ago

So are you for this? Against this?

2015 years 10 months ago

Took on 43-50 million maximum,so can we if we choose.

2015 years 10 months ago

Baseball sucks. It’s as boring a game as golf. Plus spending $$$$ on entertainment isn’t in the household budget. Besides my property taxes are going up anyway for next year. I don’t want my taxes paying for something that’s not a worthwhile venture. My sewer bill has already gone up 52% in the last 4yrs, my income went down 40% but at least I’m still working, paying my bills on time & doing without. We are in economic times that our gov’t needs to decide what’s vital & the rest is off the budget, save the money for emergencies.

2015 years 10 months ago

After announcing that private financing has dried up for now Mandalay is in no position to even think about a foolish move of this nature.
They are losing the PR war badly with stuff like this.
Whether or not the GC takes out the performance bond makes no difference the public is getting a very bad taste in it’s mouth when they think that the Braves could even think to fine the city for a GC failing to complete a CITY funded stadium on time.
Polling by WWAY indicates a loot of dissent against this deal.
No private financing for now.
The Chairman of the County Commission saying NO county funds to be used
Cameron family attaching strings to the land donation
Trask’s pulling out of the private financing deal

And all of this happened before they mailed the lease to the city.
This is certainly something they would KNOW would cause an uproar – this is not a bargaining chip.
Mandalay/Atlanta is looking VERY bad and I can’t believe they didn’t know it.
Best Regards

2015 years 10 months ago

There is a method behind this type of negotiations,these guys are pro’s as well as prose.
Soon this deal swings more in Our favour.

2015 years 10 months ago

What is it like 10 – 1 AGAINST this deal right now?
A bad harbinger for the November election question if you ask me.
Mandalay/Atlanta has to sweeten the deal a LOT to get this to pass.

2015 years 10 months ago

That is how most stadiums are built today.
Cooperative efforts.

Shaun O'Rourke
2015 years 10 months ago

The bottom line is the citizens of Wilmington and surrounding counties love baseball. The town would love a stadium. That has never been the issue. The issue is Braves and Mandalay sitting on $900 million according to Forbes Magazine. If they feel this is a slam dunk cash cow then they can put all the money on the table.City Government is not suppose to be in the business of real estate, starting commercial ventures, or being part of corporate welfare programs to wealthy multi-million dollar baseball organizations. City Government is building roads, infrastructure, and making an environment with less regulations making it easier for businesses to open (permits process, etc…). Again….we love baseball. We want a stadium, but Brave and Mandalay have the money to make it a reality. In this recession that we are still not out of…..we can’t afford it. Say NO to “Saffo Stadium” being funded by tax payers in NOV.

2015 years 10 months ago

Why back off now,as the deal is only now going to get better for City and residents.
Let time heel wounds.

2015 years 10 months ago

O’ “we’re gonna tax-ya” Grady will say…”Drop it to 40k/day, and you’ve got a deal!” Afte all, it’s not his money he’s spending…it’s ours!

The sooner we defeat this, the better off we’ll be. As many others have said…if it was such a good deal financially, the private investors would be falling all over themselves to get a piece of the action.

2015 years 10 months ago

I’m all for baseball in Wilmington if Atlanta wants to pay for it.
After all if the NSS report is right Atalanta should make a fortune off of us.
IF Mandalanta pulls out we’ll know they didn’t have faith in the quality of the NSS report.
The report after all does say Wilmingtons and baseball are a great fit.
As YOU’VE said they now have the FIGURES to back up THAT claim.
Now all they have to do is open their wallets and build the stadium.

Now the fun starts, but as I’ve said the fact that the voters will decide has made one private enterprise pull out. Why is that? They claim its uncertainty. How so? They can still put together another private financing team before the bond referendum figure is put on the ballot form.
Or is the REAL truth this:
Mandalanta wanted the report to say what it did in the hope the city would fall all over itself and build them a free stadium to use! Perhaps?
I love baseball and I love the free market. So let the free market help Mandalanta make the decision. The government should not interfere in this endeavor but I also know that incentives do and in some cases SHOULD be given.
I’d consider $15M or less over 30 years with a mandatory lease term of at least 5 (I’d prefer 10) years for Mandalanta.
After all, the NSS report says if you build it they will come.
Or will they?

Best Regards

2015 years 10 months ago

According to the NSS report, which you claim to be very familiar with, 30% of the stadiums build in the last three years that were comparable to the proposed Wilmington facility were 100% PRIVATELY FUNDED. One other stadium was built with 82% Private funding and 18% public.

Let me repeat, according to NSS: OVER 30% WERE BUILT WITH LITTLE OR NO PUBLIC FUNDING!!!

It’s funny, Chuck, you’re constantly referring to the NSS report, saying it proves that a publicly funded stadium is a can’t-miss money-maker for Wilmington, yet you don’t seem to even know what’s actually in the report. Is it that you didn’t really read the report, or did you read it but not understand what the words meant?

Speaking of leaving facts out, has anyone bothered to take a look at the Braves other minor league teams to see how they’re doing? (Answer: Not too good!)

2015 years 10 months ago

The hog farms certainly smell better than these Wilmington politicians.

Guest Reply
2015 years 10 months ago

Whom started all this crap in the first place? This is a complete joke and as ongoing as The Brian Burger Files.
Our Council continues to make a mess of anything it touches nowadays…and John Q and Jane Q Public is sick of it! If not…you should be.
I’d rather see headlines about Hog Farmers!

2015 years 10 months ago

Two things you need to remember:
El Paso may not get approval for the room tax which is far different than a property tax. Room taxes affect visitors. Property taxes affect residents. Its easy to spend other peoples (visitors) money, because they don’t vote in El Paso but in our case, they’re spending our money and we DO vote.

Secondly – when the deal was at $32M Mayor Saffo said Mandalay needed more skin in the game. Now that its at $42M he says that’s a number he’s not comfortable with………

What part of “It’s too damned expensive” don’t you understand?
I think our Mayor is beginning to “get it” – why can’t you get it?
Mandalay and Atlanta severely mis-judged how we feel about PAYING for this. It was a marketing failure from the start.

Best Regards

2015 years 10 months ago

No VOG it might be workable.
It will be profitable for all and also build “Civic Pride”.
We as a community are resilient,and no doubt will find a way.
Mayor and City Council have approved all previous expenditures by 7-0 and 6-1 votes.
There is no reason to give up,and on Heels of NSS survey ‘Due Diligence” is the order of the day.
Let the plan unfold,not “scare’ everyone away.
This is the Largest opportunity we have seen in 25 years,you want it “nixed”.

2015 years 10 months ago

See – its in writing

Its true

Reject this deal for a brighter future for Wilmington.

BTW whether it’s a start or not this just shows the arrogance and greed of Mandalay and the Atlanta Braves.
Now to overcome this – they need to propose at least 60% private financing and even at that I wonder if voters would still balk?
This is a business and they are trying to get the best deal possible – we understand this. But the city is also operating as a business and council has to get the best deal possible for us.
And this deal is certainly not in the best interests of the residents here….

Best Regards

Carol Kramer
2015 years 10 months ago

Apparently we have a bunch of rubes running Wilmington.

This starting point contract is completely unacceptable, yet the city council IMMEDIATELY approves more funds and more time:
“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.”

I wouldn’t date anyone who indicated that I would be paying for everything and would be fined if I was late. What is it about these Atlanta Braves guys? They seem to have had no problem getting City Council to third base (except for Laura).


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