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FIRST ON 3: New Hanover Co. approached with stadium plan; Ripken confirms talks

READ MORE: FIRST ON 3: New Hanover County talking to Ripken about building private stadium, no official negotiations

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A baseball stadium built without using taxpayer money. WWAY was first to uncover that's an idea one group has brought to New Hanover County.

One city councilman calls it a rumor, while the county confirmed a group did approach it with this idea.

Cal Ripken's name is once again linked to baseball in the Port City. A source involved in the discussion told us the Hall of Famer's company Ripken Design is interested in building a stadium. It would be privately funded using public infrastructure, such as sewer.

County Manager Chris Coudriet confirmed all but the name.

"Baseball is a hot topic in our community. We did have an organization approach us as a county government and say, 'Here's an idea that could be considered,'" Coudriet said.

Right now, the city is in talks with Mandalay Baseball Properties to build a taxpayer-funded stadium for an Atlanta Braves minor league team. The cost of the stadium and land could reach $37 million if voters in Wilmington pass a bond referendum in November.

The city had considered Ripken Design to do a feasibility for a ballpark, but it chose another company when Mandalay objected to Ripken's involvement.

If news of a private stadium is true, it would throw a major wrench in the city's plans. But Councilman Kevin O'Grady does not seem too concerned about this latest twist.

"What's the source of the funding? That's unidentified," O'Grady said. "What's the location? What about the infrastructure needs? I mean, if it exists at all, it's nothing more than an idea."

But if someone is willing to build a stadium for free, why wouldn't City Council pursue it? Mayor Bill Saffo says he would be delighted to talk with the Ripken group about its idea.

Residents opposed to using taxpayer dollars to build a stadium say it's a no brainer.

"If there's a glimmer of hope that someone would come in and do this for us, then they should pursue it," said Scott Harry, the leader of a group of business owners opposed to the tax-payer stadium plan.

Late this afternoon a PR person for Ripken Baseball said in an e-mail: "Ripken Design has spoken with the county through a mutual acquaintance while we were doing a facility assessment at UNC Wilmington. These conversations with the county were only in regards to the process of building a county-owned stadium."

After we asked for clarification, John Maroon wrote back, "We did not approach them with the idea of building a stadium. Ripken Design was informed that the county was exploring the idea of building a stadium If the City did not.

"After learning this, Ripken Design was put in touch with the County through a mutual party to discuss the process of planning designing and building a stadium and ways that Ripken Design could assist should the County move forward. Nothing has transpired since."

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Old people

Wow, so many negative posters against this idea. How about you think about the young people instead of all of you old a** retired ppl. I bet if it was for another golf course everyone of you would be all for it. If ripken says he would build a stadium without tax payer money he would. We're talking about a honest baseball player not a full of s*** politician like mitt romney.

Problem solved

City says the bond is capped at $37M, but it will cost much less.
Lets assume $32M

Now lets combine all offers:
Watch this:
-$6M for land donation by the Camerons

-$10M that Ripken says it can save if THEY built it.

-$16N pg 126 NSS report of private Mandalay funding $400,000 + Property taxes for 20 years EQUALS????
$0 tax payer dollars

The city (rightfully so) pays for water sewer improvements like they would for ANY private business to be located here.
Take the Camerons land donation, and let Ripken build the stadium for $10M less, and let Mandalay proceed with lease & tax payments.
Voila - "paid for" stadium

Who said it couldn't be done?
Funny how those numbers are working out for us isn't it?


My money......

I do not want my (tax) money spent on baseball. If I choose to support baseball, I want to do it voluntarily, by purchasing an admission ticket.

Wilmington Observer

I second that

I second that. The city government isn't in the business of entertainment.


Actually that kind of is one of the jobs of the city. To build things that generate revenue for businesses and don't tell me the azalea festival and parks aren't entertainment. Yes the azalea festival pays for itself but so would a baseball stadium.

Pro Stadium

I mean, I could say that "I" wanted to build a stadium, and give no details of how it would be paid for. Would that be the next headline in the news? There are absolutely no details of how it would be paid for. I am for a stadium at or near the river. A new stadium in that location would definitely be a draw. There are a lot of young people/baseball fans who that would excite. What would be great is if the city and county would bury the hatchet and work together. I think a great deal would come out of that for everyone. If they can't do that, I am for the city of Wilmington making it happen. I'd hate to see an opportunity for quality entertainment go down the drain.


The thought of having a stadium overlooking the river is nice, and immediately Three Rives comes to mind.
We are not Pittsburgh, however. Here in town people have migrated away from down town and out into the city and the burbs. This makes down town a place to work, or visit - even for "residents".
Now the stadium has to work to "attract" people to either come down town or stay down town after work. In larger cities like NY and Pittsburgh their population centers are nearby these idyllic river front locations.
Our art community is small(but vibrant), and our museums are? For the most part not down town. Cinemas? Not down town either. Theater? Yep downtown. Other tourist attractions? At the beaches.
So the stadium will stand out as a perceived "attraction".
Do locals shop down town? Hardly
Do they eat down town? Hardly (given the number of restaurants that have closed recently)

So while it's nice to think of the picture perfect venue near the water - for practical purposes it makes no sense. We don't have a blighted down town area and land space is limited so the stadium is now the after thought instead of the first piece of some magical puzzle to develop an area that doesn't need "development". We don't have swaths of abandoned factories that need a new use. We don't have large abandoned properties like rail yards etc.
Think about it this way. If we don't build the stadium what happens? Mr Shoninger will still develop that property, and the second parcel the city is looking at will still get developed. The city will have incurred no new debt and collected property taxes on both parcels of land.
I don't get the infatuation with down town. If I'm a business man looking for existing office space I would certainly consider it as there's good space available. If I'm a big box retailer I wouldn't touch down town - not enough people there "naturally" (ie living there). I would be looking at Mayfaire, College road, and the Eastwood corridor.
Down town is what it is for the exact same reasons the stadium shouldn't go there - people don't live there.
It's the exact same reason why they want public help to build it. They know its risky (and costly). To minimize the risk they want the city to build it, and own it.
Here's a thought for you. Lets pass a city ordinance that says no city funding for any "pro" stadiums here in town.
What do you think Mandalay will do? If the answer is they will pull out then we shouldn't be building it either.
We are a desirable location - we just need to be slightly "bigger" to make it profitable, even if they have to pay for the cost of building the stadium themselves. I think it could be done privately financed but I'm going to say the city should not be involved for various reasons. If this means we wait a couple of more years for a stadium?No big deal to me. If it means losing out on the down town location? Again no big deal to me (and probably a better deal for the business if located elsewhere).
There is certainly no rush.


You have a valid point. As you stated that in our area, a lot of attractions are away from the downtown area. That is true. But it's also true that a vibrant downtown is important to a city's growth. Something happened in America years ago when businesses moved out from the city centers for cheaper property. More recently, you see cities making a deliberate effort to revitalize and invigorate their downtown areas. I've spent many evenings downtown...for dinner, drinks, plays. Now if it wasn't downtown, I wouldn't be heartbroken...but personally think it would be great downtown.
I respect your opinion, although mine is different.

The Riverfront and Riverwalk

Is the reason every yeam,owner and league wants to "be on river,Downtown".
That simple.


Of the 5 properties NSS evaluated only one that was down town. The vast majority were not on the river at all.
Every team, every owner, and the league wants down town?

Please cite your sources.
You have fallen for the all or nothing aspect of this deal.
You have put forth an attitude that this deal, for this location, is the ONLY viable deal out there. Yet NSS looked at 5 other properties none of which were on the river. They "claim" that this would have the biggest economic impact. I disagree and have cited studies as to why.

I don't disagree with having baseball here in general. I fully expect MiLB to be here some time in the next 4 to 5 years.
But there will be no taxpayer dollars involved.

80% of the locations NSS looked at were not on the river.
What is it with this 80% number ? 80% oppose taxpayer funding - 80% of the sites were not on the river.
What is your hang up with 80%?


Private Money?

Hasn't Ripken been trying to build a new stadium in Augusta for a couple years now? If they were so willing to privately finance why haven't they got one built there. I see little chance they come up with any significant money. So does that mean they are looking to leave Augusta?

Private money



If memory serves the land battle in Augusta has been ongoing for 4 years, and until thats settled Ripken has no idea of total cost. Once he knows that he can pursue private investment.
There's a state school involved and all that stuff.
But Ripken is now open to other locations in that city...
The taxpayers of course are against it.
Larger taxpayer funding for stadiums have been rejected recently in Long Island, Sarasota and St Louis (I think). Even the new California stadium will be privately financed. (It is against California Law to use property taxes to build stadiums. They can use room taxes, or specific sales taxes but not the general property taxes).

I think the age of the public rolling over for team owners has come to an end........


Baseball Stadium

All taxes are ultimately acquired at the point of a gun. If city or county governments are interested in robbing us like a thief in the night to fund private corporations, it will affirm the section of the Declaration of Independance whch says"
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future and security". VOTE AGAINST ALL TAX SUPPORTED BASEBALL>

The perfect place to build it....

Gets both the City and County out of hot water. Right near the highway so the out of towners can get to it. Pretty far from the existing malls. And, when the scouts use it for camping like has been suggested as a possible use for the "new" stadium, there's actually woods nearby!

Hey Council-critter O'Grady...

"What's the source of the funding? That's unidentified," O'Grady said. "What's the location? What about the infrastructure needs? I mean, if it exists at all, it's nothing more than an idea."

I'll do my best to make sure the funding for your idea ISN'T the taxpayers. And by the way..."your idea"?...going down in flames come November.

Please keep the county out of this

This should be an entirely, 100% Wilmington project. The county needs to concentrate on the functions of government, and baseball doesn't qualify.

There is a "HUGE" difference

Between building a practice field venue and /or battting cage at UNCW and a Baseball Stadium for 5,500-6,500 fans.
Look at what Ripken said...
They might design a prototype but without financing.will not go far.


So the County is going to build if City bond issue does not pass?
By UNCW would be old Autumn Hall site,you talk about a logistics mess on Eastwood Road.
UNCW can not handle UNCW traffic much less a ball-park out there.
There are so many details we do not know,and still doubt this can be 100 percent privately financed.

Here's saffo today

"Wilmington is a growing area and a strong market, Saffo said. If the city’s referendum fails, others will be interested in the area, he said. “No matter what happens there’s going to be a baseball group that’s going to look at Wilmington, North Carolina for a minor league baseball team and a stadium.”

Exactly why we should reject Mandalay's proposal.
Even the Mayor thinks others will be interested.
Get the BEST deal at the LOWEST cost


Welcoming all offers

As long as we get best deal,team,ownership group for city and area we will be happy.Of course all want the lowest tax liability possible.
We shall see alot to be discussed.

There is only one acceptable

There is only one acceptable tax liability for this venture and that is ZERO.

Finally some Common Sense

Finally some common sense.

Wilmington's PinBall

Wizards, Surfey-Vog& Chefey couldn't get on fast enough with their essays of no knowledge vastness. Amazing it only takes a mystery spokesman and an unidentified organization to fire this crowd up.
Now you might remember that I predicted long ago and several times that the County might come back into play, that private investors might come forward and that the Ripken name might re-surface again. Their may be some back door talk on going and this could be a good thing. But rest assured if a stadium is built by either public or private source, it will be built Downtown!!
How about a little credit where credit is due, Boys?


So reading between the lines, which is sometimes just easier when dealing with non-linear sequential thought processes, what you didn't say but really meant was that you would agree that the referendum should be voted down, right? Anything other than that just wouldn't be in the best interests of the taxpayers at this time, right?

Congrats on your prediction oh great marketing wizard. Credit has been duly allocated into your account. Of course, when you make that many predictions, it's kind of like hitting the target at the pistol range with a scatter gun. Ya just figure something's gotta hit, right?

One more thing just for clarity's sake. I can't recall either SurfCity, Vog or myself ever doing an essay on the topic of "no knowledge vastness." Must have been someone else.


Mr T

Who said the Ripken stadium would be down town?
I question the viability of a mall down town given the paltry number of people that LIVE there.
Don't worry - if this is built down town with private funds I'll give you all the credit in the world.

I guess the stadium is no longer "in the can" is it?
BTW where's the survey results? I got called twice.



Any deal taking the burden off the taxpayers should be explored.
MiLB rules say two teams cannot talk to the same city at the same time, however, this is the county talking to Ripken not the city talking to Mandalay.

Saffo rushed into the exclusive deal with Mandalay and that has put the city in a tough spot if there's another, better deal out there.

So is it politics? Or good old common sense?


Just do not see it

We just want a Stadium and Baseball here and I do not think RIPKEN will do this privately for single-A and no other affiliation AA-AAA is an option.

Sounds like alot of local politics

Why would County be negotiating this,when City negotiating with Mandalay.
Why would Ripken Baseball be negotiating on this when Mandalay negotiating with City?
There is room for 1 owner,1 team.....not 2.
Sounds like politics,at work????

Gee Dukie

Can almost hear you hyperventilating.

Sounds like politics at work? Since when was that a problem for you?