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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The ballpark and baseball in Wilmington. It is certainly not a short story, and now with no final agreement, City Council cannot vote at its meeting Tuesday.

“It’s a lot of details to work out,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. “We thought we would have it by the 29th. We thought we’d have it by the first meeting of September. But is looks like we will have to have this delayed. One of the commitments we made as a council is that we would investigate this thoroughly. We are going to go through the contract line by line. There are items in there that we agree with, and there are items that we do not agree with.”

This week we learned Ripken Design, which the city once considered to do a feasibility study on baseball in the Port City, talked with county leaders about the possibility of building a ballpark and retail complex along the Cape Fear River. But what about the city?

“I haven’t heard anything from the Ripken group,” Saffo said. “Right now the only group that we have out here is the Braves and Mandalay. That’s the exclusive that we are working with. Mandalay has an exclusive to this area, and to take care of this area, if they want to give up that option and bring in the Ripken group, that would be another discussion for another day. Right now our agreement is with Mandalay and the Braves, and that’s who we are working with.”

The agreement with Mandalay and the Braves, though, gives that group exclusive rights to explore bringing a minor league baseball team to the city. The Ripken discussion with the county was only about developing a ballpark.

The mayor calls the negotiations with Mandalay and the Braves a work in progress, and he believes that the city is moving forward. The vote on an agreement has been moved back to the September 18 council meeting.

Comment on this Story

  • Robert Green

    This ballpark being shoved down the throats of the citizens of Wilmington is reminiscent of Obama’s heavy handed governance. Both will suffer humilating defeats at the ballot box because the public is voting for their pocketbooks and responsible government across the board. The timing of this referendum does not bode well for the city council , who does not have an ACCURATE pulse of the community. There are sports fanatics in every community , who let their emotions cloud sound judgment. The convention center was suppose to stimulate economic development , despite definitive evidence that showed otherwise. These two competing entities will be fighting one another throughout their duration. There is a reason our region is referred to as the ” Port City”…shipping goods to market. Real economic development could be established by improving infrastructure. Encouraging industry to setup shop in the Cape Fear region by selling them the fact there is still a Class I railroad ( CSX ) that provides accessibly throughout the nation. Take note citizens of Wilmington , you will be seeing more train traffic through the city of Wilmington. Smithfield Foods has signed a Brazilian corn contract , which will increase traffic through the State Port and the railroad. When you hear a train horn , this is commerce at work and real economic development! Reestablishing the rail line between Castle Hayne and Wallace , which the state controls would enable Brazilian corn and other commodities to be delivered to the largest feed mills in the country in Duplin and Sampson County. Finally , address the atrocious state of our highways and roads to move commerce efficiently. Building a ballpark should not even register on our list of concerns for stimulating REAL economic development !!!!

  • 1981duke

    Glad to see that Brazillion corn and not cotton or tobacco will save us all.And a non -impact railroad as well?

  • Dude1

    I thought the ballpark is on hold till the public votes on it in November. This is sending a message that the Mayor and city council are going to put a ball park in and does not care what is in the best interest of the public. Everytime any wage issue is raised regarding city workers, the comment is “we don’t have the money to look in to it”. But, we have the money for a ball park. Layoff more city workers to pay for it. I don’t live in the city, but I still feel the effects from these moron’s that were voted in.

  • 1981duke

    The voters chose their vedict in November,if remorse it is on them.

  • Guest211


  • Erlkoenig

    Taxo saffo is looking for more time to hoodwink the citizens.

  • Vog46

    Using county land saves up to $6m of costs
    Ripken claims he can build it for $8M to $10M less
    Right there based upon the “Mandalanta mess”, you’re saving $16M
    If the 5500 seat stadium was going to be around $25M you’re abut $8M short but if you get retailers to get on board a regional mall type set up they would contribute to this development.
    I can see why Ripken is saying no taxpayer costs – he’s real close in my mind – and I haven’t seen the fine print yet.
    Ripken makes his $ on design fees and development fees -lets Mandalanta make money on the ongoing baseball operations and the county reaps the increased tax dollars.
    I say its worth exploring.
    I think about this in golf terms – you always here things like “A Pete Dye designed course”, or a Jack Nicklaus or Greg Norman designed course. Adding the Ripken name to the stadium project is a good calling card.
    But Ripken also brings something else to the table – other team interest. Cal currently has 3 different MLB affiliated minor league teams – Baltimore, the Rays and the Giants.
    Its no secret that 3 and possibly 4 minor league teams will be sold and moved over the next 12 months. With another 3 or 4 moving in 2014. MiLB wants to expand as well.
    This COULD add to the competition of just who would like to occupy the stadium. It doesn’t necessarily mean Lynchburg/Atlanta – it could be a dark horse team.
    MiLB wants a team in Kinston
    MiLB wants a team in Fayetteville
    If Wilmington gets in ahead of those projects better for us.

    But, I will say this – I don’t “see” a retailer succeeding over there (nor do I see them succeeding down town) – but if I don’t have the risk? I got no problem with them taking the chance


  • 1981duke

    The election is in November,why the rush to know right now.
    Every time we delay,the deal gets.”better”.

  • 1981duke

    Why re-hash what we already know?
    No one is inefficient,just cautious.
    Can you imagine if we acted swiftly?

  • Guest461

    Do you mean: “To act in TOTAL disregard to the taxpayers wishes and just push it through without the inclusion of a majority vote.”?
    It isn’t far from happening with that methodology as it is! Nobody has seen anything other than smoke and mirrors intended to obscure a few self-interests!
    We are witnessing political suicide at its finest!

  • Vog46

    You really can’t come to grips with the fact that alternative deals are better can you?
    You and PCB bought into the Madalanta thing hook, line, and sinker. You went so far in your support for THAT deal you can’t see the potential benefits of anything else. You thought, and still think, that if Mandalanta fails we will NOT have baseball here – ever.
    The big mistake made by everyone was giving Mandalanta the “franchise tag” making them “exclusive”.
    Ripken and the County Commissioners have just shown us how wrong that line of thinking can be.
    We need to be open to other proposals, facts, and opinions. Our first instinct is sometimes wrong and thats not a bad thing. Not recognizing that fact is……….

    Duke if its gets us that much closer to having baseball here you should be advocating for the bond to be defeated so that ALL taxpayers can see a game without suffering the tax burden.

    Ripken claims he can privatize the risk. Using county land reduces the cost by $6M or so. Using his design can save even more.
    Saffo et al – including PCB have egg on their faces due to the “Jim Jones like” devotion they heaped on the Mandalay deal.

    This is FAR better for us locally than anything thats been proposed so far.
    Just admit that it is and move on.
    Good grief


  • SurfCityTom

    From the exlusive interview with Jason Thompson — …”Thompson said the Ripken group’s plan would not interfere with Mandalay’s exclusive right granted by Minor League Baseball to explore putting a team in the Wilmington market. He said the Ripken venture would be focused only on developing the stadium/retail complex, and that the group has no problem with Mandalay running a Braves affiliate in the ballpark…”

    So, the Ripkin Group comes in and builds the ballpark and adjacent retail site on a county site with private money. That’s a winner for city of Wilmington property tax payers.

    The County gets some significant property taxes on land which is currently vacant. That’s a winner for New Hanover County even if they incur the expense for extension of some utility services to the site and end up giving some property tax adjustments to the developer.

    Ripkin has confirmed they do not oppose Manadalnta operating the baseball franchise. Seems like that works well for Mandalanta.

    Duke and MikeT get baseball. Does that satisfy their objective?

    Looks like the only party not at this table is the owner of that over priced, river front parcel of land.

    And, if this is a better deal for the city property tax payers, baseball fans, and New Hanover County, then one would think the city council would stand down from their pursuit of the Holy Grail on the river.

  • 1981duke

    If their is an alternative then How come the person’s name with Ripken Design has not been made public,nor has Ripken Design acknowledged the fact they are working with the County?

  • Das Weibstück

    You NEED a new Mayor.

  • 1981duke

    In that order.

  • Todd

    I will agree as long as Ripken Group says they have Financial backing of private money or investors helping them. So be it! Furthermore doesn’t cost homeowners one bit a dime or penny should say on a dollar every time they have to pay their property tax. This is like I say some of the taxes we need to lower all over U.S. lower taxes. Furthermore tax the imports that come in. Government aren’t doing the jobs there. Decrease taxes on exports. Lower sales taxes on all goods means everything we buy. People than will spend more money. Get rid of loopholes from the rich. Anyway back to this.

  • Guestball

    “To act in TOTAL disregard to the taxpayers wishes and just push it through without the inclusion of a majority vote.”? This is going to happen no matter how the voters vote. This is a done deal, because a friend has property that is down town and he needs to sell it to make money. We are going to have a ball park if it cost us 200 Million Dollars and the people that lives in the city knows this… Once the City Council decides something it will be done..

  • 1981duke

    If their is truly a “better deal” and privately funded,than show us.
    Do not tell us,show us!

  • SurfCityTom

    if Mandalnta and the City have yet to reach an agreement, why would you expect the Ripkin group to rush out with details so early in their discovery process?

    Why do you have one set of fluctuating standards for Mandalanta but a stiff set of standards for Ripkin, which by the way Mandalanta never could attain?

    Duke, for once stay the course and be consistent with standards.

    If you expect them to show it, apply the same standard to Mandalanta. You know darn well the sticking points are over future operating costs and how can Mandalanta’s attorneys flamboozle the city to cover them.

  • Besty Guesty

    If the Central Committee of the People’s Republic of Wilmington can’t understand that they can’t force a stadium downtown, they should at least be cognizant of the fact that a stadium and retail center do not have to be actually in Wilmington at all. Brunswick County has plenty of land, lower taxes, and would love to have the stadium there as well as all of that retail space and the sales tax that it will generate. Try a satellite annexation if it ends up in another county.

  • SurfCityTom

    a couple of points.

    When the same questions were asked of you & MikeT, during the early days of the River Front Fiasco, you stated confidentiality was common place during these negotiation sessions.

    Why is that different now.

    For the record, Ripkin’s group has acknowledged they are in discussions with the County.

    If your sole focus was to bring baseball to Wilmington, again your words come back to haunt you, what’s your problem if it’s better sited across the river in the county rather than that over priced parcel of river front albatross?

    Why do you make such poor efforts to sow dissension?

    I’ve said it all along. You & MikeT, with your posts which change with each shift in the breeze, are the worst enemies the albatross could have.

    You have to have a vested interest in the river front parcel of over priced real estate.

  • SurfCityTom

    until the voting.

    Are you suggesting the city will drop or should drop the negotiations and walk away from the bond referendum if a “deal” has not been inked so the tax paying voters will know just what is being voted on?

  • Vog46

    Yeah – what YOU said
    OK Folks time to play…..follow the Hillcats:
    ON another forum I posted the following:

    Here’s ol Vogs prediction from above:
    “Tu = 989
    We = 890
    Thu if needed may be a hot contest – 1421
    Gotta love those Game 5′s eh?”

    Tue = 989
    ACTUAL = 906

    Good game – pitchers duel with the Hillcats winning taking a 2 -1 lead in the series.
    Go HIllcats !!!!!!

    Bring that Championship economic juggernaut here.

    906 people!
    We better build more hotels
    We better build a bigger stadium!!

    Get on board SCT !!!!!!
    906 attendees.
    Why – its almost as big as a convention in the Convention Center!!
    By God my chest is swelling with pride
    That’s OUR team

    Where’d everybody go?


  • SurfCityTom

    I can not speak for anyone else. BUT,

    if the voters of Wilmington are foolish enough to approve the bond referendum without the benefit of seeing the final “deal”

    and if the City Council does not take some action to control that white elephant named CC

    and if the current administration is re-elected in Washingon,

    I’ll be heading to a country with no extradition where the Feds can not continue to steal your money and call it taxes. A land where you work and don’t live on entitlements. A land where the working ants are not ravaged to provide for the lazy grasshoppers.

  • Vog46

    The FINAL edition of 2012 “follow our Lynchburg Hillcats” blog posts:

    The Hillcats won!!!!!! We are the Champions

    1203 attendees
    They got a great game too.

    still 50% of average seasonal attendance
    I had predicted about 898 for Wed game and 1420 for a decisive game 5 but they came through with 1203.

    Wow – we might have to build two hotels now……….

    Our Carolina League Champion Hillcats couldn’t fill the stadium. It was a good game too.

    Not one mention by the local media. Although I trust that Mandalay will use the “We’re bringing a Champion to town” ad campaign.

    And while I am glad for the Hillcats – the fact that they couldn’t fill the stands for the game is a PR disaster for Mandalay and Atlanta. There is no amount of advertising they can do to overcome this, either.

    After all that posturing about how good MiLB will be for us the fact that the Hillcats couldn’t draw a crowd COMPLETELY and utterly destroys Terry’s argument that tens of thousands of people will come here to see MiLB ball being played.

    And while I enjoyed following them – I came to the realization that NSS was too optimistic in attendance projections almost immediately. The weekday figures were not so good. Sell outs were very rare, even during playoff and championship games.

    I can’t imagine how bad attendance will be if they play poorly, and every team has their bad seasons.

    The city can no longer believe the rosy scenario Mandalay and NSS laid out for them. They have to come to the conclusion that the risk is too great for them to take on the cost. The Hillcat attendance figures show that some cities just don’t support MiLB ball – and after the Roosters and Waves situations – they should be thinking that maybe, just maybe Wilmington is the same and that we should NOT spend that money.


  • Vog46

    “I’ll be heading to a country with no extradition where the Feds can not continue to steal your money and call it taxes. A land where you work and don’t live on entitlements. A land where the working ants are not ravaged to provide for the lazy grasshoppers.”

    If it’s any of the industrialized nations in the world you’ll get free healthcare.
    But then again you’ve got Tricare which is in fact a national health care system. (as is medicare).
    As for the election?
    The bond could be delayed until the municipal elections in 2013.
    And in spite of what we post here many people still Like Saffo and council.
    I don’t understand it myself



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