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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A ballpark in the Port City is now in the hands of Wilmington voters.

Though a final agreement is still hanging over their heads, Wilmington City Council members voted unanimously to place a $37 million bond referendum to pay for the stadium on the November ballot.

For several months now, the city has been negotiating with Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves, and even as more and more information is released, it remains clear that opinions are still very much polarized.

More than a dozen people voiced their opinions to City Council Tuesday during a public hearing on the bond referendum to build a ballpark. Some say council members need to first look closer to home.

“I stand before you tonight on behalf of the Wilmington Sharks. Your baseball team. Your summer league, college wood bat baseball team for the past 16 years,” said Clay Collier, the Sharks’ attorney and spokesman. “Think about what we’ve got. Think about the Sharks.”

“Enjoying our national pastime is a wonderful thing, but it’s not about baseball,” said Terry Spencer, who spoke as a pro baseball advocate. “It’s about making Wilmington a better place to live, work and play.”

Regardless of what folks think now, council says the final opinion will be recognized at the polls in November.

“We’ve brought you the package, the best package we can make,” Councilman Kevin O’Grady said. “In the end you’ll decide whether to spend the money or not.”

City staff recommended that council hold off on making a final decision on the proposed agreement with Mandalay and the Braves until their September meeting. Deputy City Manager Tony Caudle says there are a few issues that still need to be negotiated.

In a statement, Mandalay and the Braves wrote:

“Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves are thrilled the Mayor and City Council have decided to move forward with this project and we look forward to the November referendum vote. We continue to strongly believe that a Wilmington minor league ballpark combined with a quality Braves minor league team will create much needed jobs, economic growth and add to the quality of life in Wilmington.

“We would like to thank everyone in Wilmington who has supported this project, especially the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the Wilmington Ballpark Coalition, Port City Baseball, the Downtown Business District and all who have spoken out on behalf of the ballpark project.”

Comment on this Story

  • 1981duke

    City Council—-7

    Top of 7th,City is home team.
    Council votes in line with constituants.

  • guesty

    Council votes in line with constituants.

    If that is true, that means city council realizes the taxpayers don’t want another white elephant and will vote it down.

  • GuestMan.

    If they had not lied so much about the convention center and then completely disregarded the citizens vote maybe we would believe them a little bit. Remember, this is not the only issue in these local elections. We still have some city council members to get rid of.

  • Guest1948

    First, I’m shocked that they even allowed it to be placed on the ballot. Secondly, there’s been a lot of talk that only a small percentage of residents oppose the stadium. After the election, we’ll see. REMEMBER TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER!

  • Vance Pope

    Anyone in Wilmington who opposes this ballpark is absolutely ridiculous. We have no professional sports here, and very weak college competition. The POSSIBLE small tax increase would be well worth the recreation/benefits a minor league team will provide. Not only for our youth, but for all ages. Baseball in North Carolina as a whole is huge. It would provide jobs, bring in people from other cities and their revenue, and give Wilmington national attention. Not only would it make Wilmington as a whole more desirable to visit and live, but it would offer us a home team, a team that Wilmington can be recognized for.
    The Atlanta Braves are one of the most distinguished teams in the history of the MLB, and it would be a HUGE mistake not to bring their minor team here. Think about it Wilmington, seriously…about what it would bring in the future too.
    Furthermore, I have not met one college student that opposes this project. With the 12000 plus students at UNCW, and Cape Fear…What better to do than dinner and a baseball game for a date, then you have downtown wilmington at your fingertips after every game.
    Correctly managed, the stadium would be sold out every night. Personally, I would buy season tickets now….if it was concrete.

    Vance Pope

  • ma_lashley

    Vance, you apparently haven’t polled them all. I’m a 43 year old grad student at UNCW. I’m also a tax-paying, property owner in the City of Wilmington and I can’t find too many plausible reasons to undertake this project right now. I am also not alone. Several other non-traditional UNCW students like myself who reside in the city and own property oppose tax increases to pay for non-essential, recreational services.

    I think you’re polling the wrong crowd. Many of my fellow students aren’t full-time residents of Wilmington, much less property owners. They think nothing of spending their parent’s money on superfulous items why wouldn’t they endorse spending mine as well. They have no stake in this game.

  • Vog46

    I thought I was here a minute ago

    Try reading this:


    Here’s a little snip:
    “A Brookings Institution book on sports teams and stadiums noted the economic impact of a minor league baseball team is “equivalent to a large pet shop” in terms of revenue.”
    NSS nor Mandalay have any economists on staff.
    This is from YOUR government regarding Minor League Baseball stadiums.

    You’d have more impact if you open a large pet store
    Dukes Doggie Emporium sounds like a fitting name.

    Of course Duke won’t dispute the study – because he can’t.

    Believe what you wish to believe.

    But I’m NOT about to risk $57M minimum on something Atlanta should be building out of pocket.
    If its as good deal as NSS says?
    They’d be building it already


  • SurfCityTom

    Well, first what is your vested interest in this?

    “…Baseball in North Carolina as a whole is huge…” Where in North Carolina? If it is so huge, why is there no Major or even AAA team in Charlotte?

    “…give Wilmington national attention…” What were you smoking or injesting? With the exception of Durham, which gained its national attention thanks to Kevin Costner and the movie, what other city anywhere has national attention thanks to its minor league baseball team?

    “…I have not met one college student that opposes this project. With the 12000 plus students at UNCW, and Cape Fear…” This one is laughable. How many of these 12,000 plus students have you met and interviewed for their position on baseball? Many of them note they are challenged financially to make ends meet and pay tuition. So where is all of this disposable income going to appear from?

    “…Correctly managed, the stadium would be sold out every night…” You have to be on drugs to make such a post and expect folks not to laugh. There is not one minor league team, anywhere, which is sold out every night. Even the vaunted study, by NSS, which the proponents have been waving around, noted there would be far fewer in attendance.

    You have given the opponents further proof that those with a vested interest in getting the river front land sold and a ball park built at all costs will stop at nothing to try to fling this albatros around the city taxpayers’ necks and send Wilmington over the brink of fiscal bankruptcy.

  • Guest28403

    Did ya’ll know that MLB considers Wilmington part of the market for the Nationals and Orioles?? If you dont believe me try getting games on MLB.TV service. It blacks the Orioles and Nationals games out but the Braves who are technically a closer drive are not. I dont know how in the world teams 7-8hrs drive away are considered part of this market but its true so I guess in MLBs eyes ya’ll should be rooting to get either the Nationals or Orioles farm team moved to Wilmington. (Major Sarcasm intended). I dont know if the MLB package on TWC blacks them out (I would assume so). So thanks to MLB I cant watch any games involving those teams at all unless I have DirecTV since they are the only provider which offers the Mid Atlantic Sports Networks.. Seems stupid to me across the board MLB thinks this makes sense. I actually do hope Wilmington is able to get the Hillcats (not sure what they would be called down here in Wilmington) from Lynchburg the natural rivalry with Myrtle Beach would be great since the Hillcats currently have a local rival in Salem VA within a similar drive.

  • MrT

    Can’t be sold by a city unless they are approved by the State. The city has to show proof of the risk factor and the ability to satisfy the bond returns. Your efforts to inject a fear factor into voters is not going unnoticed. Wilmington is not in danger of bankruptcy and you know it!
    Please keep some truth attached to your projections.

  • 1981duke

    How much you want to bet the Bonds approval process was already presented to state as a “what if”?
    The bond and amount requested will not be dis-allowed.

  • Vog46

    NSS report chapter 10 page 121:
    “General Obligation Bonds
    Under NC Statutes, Section 159‐48(b)(3), the City may issue general obligation bonds to finance the acquisition, construction and equipping of a ballpark.  Such bonds would require a voter referendum, the authorization for which is an approximately four (4) month process from the first City Council action to the actual referendum.  Once the referendum has been completed and the result certified, bonds may be issued relatively promptly thereafter. ”

    I see voter approval but no state approval…..
    Or don’t you read your own sides drivel?


  • SurfCityTom

    you & Duke come out of the closet at long last? Why not admit all of your efforst are due to your vested interest in this project going through and not due to your love of baseball?

    There is a great deal of truth potential in my projection.

    You can not say the same. You chenge positions with the changing of the winds and the ebb and flow of the tides.

  • MrT

    Once the citizens give approval for the City to obligate itself to general obligation bonds, the city is required to submit to the state its intent. Cities are not allowed to obligate it’s funds beyond a percentage of the cities reserves. You can obtain this information from the City Manager’s office. They can provide you the process. Should I be incorrect in this, please except my apology.

  • MrT

    Your right surfey, it’s time to come out of the closet. I’m part of the deal. I have the inside track on a super investment opportunity if the Ball Park is built. I am going to apply for a shopping cart concession. I will push my cart all around the stadium and sell balloons, sunglasses,insect spray and those little necklaces that glow in the dark.
    So lighten up pal, I need the Job!!

  • SurfCityTom

    I have yet to see the Dashing Trio come out of the closet and aadmit they have a vested interest. They must have; they twist every statement they make to suit the moment.

    Of course Duke says its already approved.

    These guys are sinking further and further into Dante’s Inferno.

  • Vog46

    You are correct but the approval is beforehand I believe:
    Part 2. Procedure for Issuing Bonds.
    § 159‑50. Notice of intent to make application for issuance of voted bonds; objection by citizens and taxpayers.
    When a unit of local government proposes to issue bonds that must be approved by a vote of the people, it shall first publish a notice of its intent to make application to the Commission for approval of the issue. The notice shall be published once not less than 10 days before the application is filed. The notice shall state (i) that the board intends to file an application with the Commission for approval of a bond issue, (ii) in brief and general terms the purpose of the proposed issue, (iii) the maximum amount of bonds to be issued, and (iv) that any citizen or taxpayer of the issuing unit may, within seven days after the date of the publication, file with the governing board and the Commission a statement of any objections he may have to the issue. The Commission may prescribe the form of the notice.
    Any citizen or taxpayer of the issuing unit who objects to the proposed bond issue in whole or in part may, within seven days from the date of publication of the notice, file a written statement of his objections with the board and the Commission. The statement shall set forth each objection to the proposed bond issue and shall contain the name and address of the person filing it. The Commission shall consider the statement of objections along with the application and shall notify the objector and the board of its disposition of each objection.
    Failure to comply with this section shall not affect the validity of any bonds otherwise issued in accordance with the law. This section shall not apply to bonds that need not be submitted to a vote of the people. (1953, c. 1121; 1971, c. 780, s. 1.)
    I think they have to state the purpose of the referendum bond at question before its voted on.
    I don’t think this has to do with a city’s indebtedness either which Wilmington DOES NOT have a problem with.


  • Vog46

    They do twist words.
    Anyone who believes that councils recent vote was FOR a stadium needs to have their meds checked.
    They gave us the right to vote on it so they won’t have to explain why they wasted all that money on the flawed NSS study.


  • SurfCityTom

    if my memory serves me correctly, the 4th circle in Dante’s Inferno is reserved for those who are greedy.

    If I have not misread, corrupt politicians are headed for the 8th circle. They “…are immersed in a lake of boiling pitch, which represents the sticky fingers and dark secrets of their corrupt deals…”

    There’s also the premise of the Devil’s Advocate where one asks questions which the vocal minority do not wish asked as it may cause the majority to question their motives and take action.

    I guess we can continue as Devil’s Advocates.

    As I have said many times, every time they post anything, they do themselves and their group more harm then good.

  • SurfCityTom

    McDonald’s is hiring. You’ll make more money, consistently, and not be working in foul weather. And it will be year round rather than only 70 days during the year at best.

    Why don’t you and Duke at least adopt one course of action rather than change direction every time the winds or tides change?

    You just do not get it.

  • 1981duke

    What is your main objection?
    We have many pro-stadium,baseball people in our group,about the same age as you.
    So just curious why you can not support?

  • SurfCityTom

    this city dweller, property owning, property tax paying citizen does not want to see taxes rise for non essential, recreational items.

    That seems pretty clear.

    How many of your group, regardless of age, actually reside in the city; own property; and pay property taxes?

    I concede, I do not live in the city. I do however own real estate on which I pay property taxes.

    And so far, you vocal baseball proponents have not made a case. In fact, you seem to have new positions every other day. You get caught with your own words; and then are not man enough to stand up and admit the forked tongue you and your cohorts use to try to flim flam the city’s property tax payers.

    I have said it consistently. Every time you & mike post, you cause more harm to your group’s position. Keep up the good work.

  • Vog46

    I don’t hate the project just the fact that property taxpayers have to fund it.
    The city got 1200 jobs from Verizon for less than $1M investment. It was in writing. These are permanent jobs so long as Verizon stays here. It brought 400 families into this area from Morristown NJ. Verizon bought the land and own the building
    Here we get 100 jobs for $57+M and a tennant in a city owned property. Nice huh? Then we get a team that has an attendance problem to boot.
    All this from a mayor who said “I DON’T SUPPORT taxpayer funded baseball” in 2008. He then went to “$42M is way too big and Manda”Lie” has to put more skin in the game” to “$32M is a number I can’t support” to “Its capped at $37M”.
    There is NO NEED to jump at this project. Are there more Verizons on the horizon? Nope not as far as I can tell, but that does NOT JUSTIFY $57+M for 100 jobs.
    You can spend ALL the money you can get out of THEM for 100 jobs Chuckles
    But don’t ask for the taxpayers to spend $570,000.00 for each piddly ass stadium job.
    that is a very bad return on investment for this city.
    I would rather wait – sorry – you’re not convincing anyone here, at WECT or Star News online.


  • 1981duke

    No change in score,
    City ahead.

  • guesty

    Keep sailing on your failboat.


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