City Council meets, baseball discussed in closed session

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Submitted: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 2:35am
Updated: Wed, 09/05/2012 - 3:10pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington City Council meet Tuesday night on the agenda a presentation on the Convention Center presented by General Manager Susan Eaton displaying awards and announcing business increases with 113 events in the past year, the convention center is on track to keep growing in 2013.

The biggest issue, baseball was not on the agenda, due to the city not having an agreement with Mandalay and the Braves. Councilman Kevin O’Grady says that does not mean the deal isn’t progressing.

“Our lawyers have been working with the baseball lawyers over the past four weeks to try and resolve a couple of remaining items.” Councilman O’Grady told us. “ I understand we now have gotten a counter offer from baseball with provisions, we haven’t seen it yet. We need to see it, and we need to discuss it.”

And with that the city council was off to private discussions in closed session.

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40 Comments on "City Council meets, baseball discussed in closed session"

2015 years 8 months ago

what are you spouting off now about?

We’re talking about CC sites not your precious, hoped for albatross to be hung around the Property Taxpayers necks.

Do you even read before you post?

2015 years 8 months ago

you overlook one item. She is not a city employee. She is not a CC employee.

She is employed by SMG, Inc., the facility manager hired by the city.

And if you check their website, one of the services they offer is to recruit conventions and other events.

So in 2 years, what have they recruited?

In two years, what have the actual event revenues been?

IN 2 years, how much in management fee has the city paid SGM?

If revenue is not greater than fees paid, the city should be looking for another management company.

2015 years 8 months ago

Myrtle Beach has baseball now. The Ripkin Youth League is down there annually. And the minor league team is down there playing throughout the season.

Which makes more sense?

Too bad the city council did not ask those questions before building the white elephant.

Is it too much to ask that they ask relevant questions before commiting the city property tax payers to fund that over priced albatross on that over priced piece of river front acreage?

Better yet, let’s hope the city voters have enough sense to vote down the bond referendum.

2015 years 8 months ago

I thought so hard about that choice my head started to hurt.
I chose Wilmington.
I can stay at the Hilton
I can dive right off the Riverwalk into the Cape Fear
I can eat at Ruth Chris’
I can play pitch and putt on the vacant Shoninger property

And after the first night:
I’d be broke from my food bill
I’d be picking the leeches off me from the River
I’d have irritated eyes from the ammonia vapors on Shoningers property
But I’d at least have a nice room.

No – I do see your point (I don’t think MB airport is all that much better than ILM though)

Of course MB CC is hurting too.
And I don’t think it has anything to do with Wilmingtons CC.
BTW – did you catch the picture in this story? The car show?
I thought THAT was going to be at the stadium? No?
*SIGH* another open date at the CC………..caused by the ball park

2015 years 8 months ago

think this through. You’re a convention planner for a trade group which annually has a 3 or 4 day session from Thursday through Sunday. A convention which would draw thousands.

Where will you place the convention? Which community offers access to the ocean which does not require miles of driving? Which community offers shopping outlet malls for the spouses? Which community offers a cornicopia of various golf courses? Which community offers a smorgasboard of restaurant choices? Let’s see — free parking; reasonable access to interstates; decent airport service?

Let’s see. Would that be Wilmington?

Or would you, the convention planner whose job security is dependant on providing the most bang for the buck to your trade group membership, look slightly further south to Myrtle Beach?

Boy, that’s a tough decision to make. I wonder if the City Council or their chosen General Manager asked those questions.

More important, the voters of Wilmington should begin looking for candidates with enough business or common sense who will ask those types of questions.

2015 years 8 months ago

the Wilmington Film Commission is holding its Breakfast Meeting at the Hilton rather than the CC?

That’s an event generated locally.

Was it that they made no effort to secure the opportunity?

Was it that the Hilton was better suited for a meeting of this nature which would cause one to think the door has closed on the CC for this type of meeting?

Or was the Film Commission Head sending a message to city government when he slid the stilletto in the City’s back by booking the event at the Hilton rather than the CC? BTW, that was a nice way to pay back the city which partially funds the Commission and by extension his salary.

How about an answer Dukie?

Oh, what about all of the leads which the management company, SMG, reports it can provide as a service included in its management fee?

We’d all like to hear your thoughts Dukie. Share with us some of your marketing expertise. Better yet, share it with CC management.

2015 years 8 months ago

There are endless clients,takes leg-work,networking,lobbying.
And—-sales calls.

2015 years 8 months ago


Have you seen where most Carolina League teams are loctate?
Small towns.
Myrtle Beach is so much more than baseball,golf and shopping,shows are King Here.

2015 years 8 months ago

Mandalay will be going after events,convention center can not accomodate.

2015 years 8 months ago

No why?

2015 years 8 months ago

you might not have to dive off Riverwalk; is it not closed for repairs. You might just fall in; and then you could entertain everyone as you played Johnny Weismueller swimming away from one or more gators.

if you were the event organizer, tasked with giving several thousand association members and their spouses the best bang for their bucks, especailly in this economy, you’d be asking those baseball proponents for a job.

Within state, have you seen the NC Realtors Association, the Independant Insurance Agents of NC Association, or the Carolina Association of Professional Insurance Agents (which encompasses agents in North and South Carolina) in Wilmington? Heck, I wonder if the General Manager of the White Elephant has even been in touch with any of those Association heads. They’re all headquartered in Raleigh or Greensboro. A one day trip to make 4 sales calls. Wonder if that has happened? Or is the management style to wait for the business to come to them?

Heck, there are regional chapters east of I-95 for most of these Associations. There’s even one or two with local chapters in Wilmington. I wonder how many of them have been called on?

Oh I forgot, in this market, with a glut of available spaces and a dwindling number of potential events, the modus opperandi is to allow time for the market to develop. I think that was Dukie’s approach.

If you eliminate meetings put on by the city or Chamber, how many have actually taken place?

I believe one of the state political parties did hold an “event” in he CC. How many of the 67,000 were represented by this one event?

Upcoming potential events for the Civic Center:

Monthly exhibits by the starving artists where they offer paintings for sale not to exceed $9.95 including frame.

Monthly gun and knife shows.

How about sports memorabilia shows?

Girls’ Roller Derby

How about pro wrestling? Rick Flair lives in Charlotte; close by.

Maybe live broadcasts of the John Boy and Billy Show? John Boy has a place at Wrightsville Beach.

They need to think way outside of the box if they want to get the White Elephant filled with events.

Some may laugh. But those events would generate revenue; and additional revenue is what the White Elephant needs in order to reduce the thousands of hay bales it sucks from the city and county, annually, to keep its sheen and lustre.

If the City wants this to cease being such a drain on the city and county coffers they need a General Manager who is sales oriented; knows how to cold call; and is on a performance based contract. That may not stem the flow completely; but it could stifle the hemorage of tax payer dollars. But no doubt, the incumbent General Manager is related to someone or was given an iron clad contract with no performance requirements. Was she a former realtor who needed a job when the real estate market collapsed?

2015 years 8 months ago

… the numbers are horrible. 133 events IS a horrible number when only 9 of those events were conventions.

The center hosted 113 events during their last market year, which included 9 conventions, 12 public shows, 60 banquets and 32 meetings.

Wilmington will never be competitive with the other larger convention markets in our area. We’re too small and have less to offer in the way of commercial entertainment. That’s why so many of us choose to live here.

Stop trying to turn us into something other than what we are. If you’re unhappy with the quiet charm of our area, move somewhere else.

2015 years 8 months ago

Spare me the market development.
You know darned well that video conferencing will end the need for most local business meetings.
As for the larger convention type meetings you said yourself we don’t rank with Atlanta or Charlotte for those large scale events.
Convention industry groups say demand is off capacity is up and attendance is way below where it should be.

For ANY company that produces a product – you increase demand and expand capacity afterwards. You add shifts or work overtime. If this keeps up you THEN bite the bullet, get a loan and expand your building/company.
When public funds are involved there’s far too many people willing to chase a dream in the face of ever DECREASING demand.
Funny that when there’s no public money involved “conservative business thinking abounds”. When public monies are available, handouts are the norm.
Business says show us the demand and we’ll build it – you say build it and they will come.
Those days are long gone………..


2015 years 8 months ago

Our CC was built during an economic down turn but the down turn in convention type meeting attendance had been ongoing for awhile before that.

and this:

Don’t worry I don’t expect you to read the links you don’t even read your own.
Convention centers are losing propositions Chuck.
The “era” of build it and they will come is over, defunct, finished, kaput.

Do you know why our center isn’t working Chuck? Try this gut check. If our center was successful there’d be hotel room shortages down town and Shoninger would have already started the hotel he was planning on in 2010 across the street from the CC.
There is no room shortage because the CC has not attracted the number or actual “visitors” that would cause the shortage to exist.
It is losing money….and will for the foreseeable future if not forever.


2015 years 8 months ago

I was being facetious of course
“Monthly exhibits by the starving artists where they offer paintings for sale not to exceed $9.95 including frame.”
I believe that’s contracted to the Coastline Convention Center for the upcoming year or two. Besides the CC rent is far too expensive.

“Monthly gun and knife shows.”
Ok correct me if I’m wrong but weapons are not allowed on city owned property correct? (Exception of course is the police station). Besides parking is free at the Armory.

“Girls’ Roller Derby”
Interesting but is it popular again?????? Good grief

“How about pro wrestling? Rick Flair lives in Charlotte; close by”
The “big leagues” like WWE have seating requirements/ Which means we would get the secondary leagues like “Uncle Billie-Bob’s Perfessional ‘Rastlin exhibition……Given our older population, I don’t see the popularity in this.

“Maybe live broadcasts of the John Boy and Billy Show? John Boy has a place at Wrightsville Beach.”
OK maybe once?

As for others especially real estate groups – remember our council,mayor and county commissioners are overly represented by developers and real estate people. They would object if they didn’t have meetings there. Personally? I think that given the state wide nature of their groups they would have to rotate locales.

“they need a General Manager who is sales oriented; knows how to cold call; and is on a performance based contract. That may not stem the flow completely; but it could stifle the hemorage of tax payer dollars.”
Ok so YOU want to pay her basically a commission? How do you effectively recruit qualified people to run a facility that’s in a dying industry? That’s NOT Eaton’s fault by a long shot. IT’s not her fault the city built this White Elephant.
Based on what I’ve seen so far she’s probably done as good as anyone else could have in a bad economy working in a dying industry. Look I remember when there was no such thing as the Internet, PC’s, networks and teleconferencing. I now video call my grandchildren.
It works and given the cost of travel these days it makes no sense to send employee and spouse to these events when in fact they can stay local and watch on a PC.
Yes this is a dying industry. Locally meetings are much smaller and could be handled easily by the Hilton or Coastline Inn or rent a room at the college.
“We” are at fault here for building the darned thing so I don’t fault Eaton for trying to make it “look” successful.
I DO however, find fault with the desire for an attached hotel. There is no demand currently for an additional 174 rooms – and given the type and frequency of events at the CC there won’t be any demand either.


Rick Wilson
2015 years 8 months ago


Is the pro baseball media blitz plan to convince voters the Convention Center is not a loser? If so, show profits instead of number of events….I know this is impossible because there are not any profits, only losses. Then you want to try to convince the voters the tax funded stadium is a good idea with other stadium options out there that do not require tax payer funding? Will your next plan be to convince tax payers to go 100 miles offshore, jump into the ocean carrying 100 pound weights and try to swim back to shore? You are really starting to insult peoples intelligence. Don’t you think it is time to send Mandalay and their billionaire beggar owner packing?

2015 years 8 months ago

I know you’re impatient
Don’t fret though
In 2 years you’ll get to see Our Team
The ILM Braves
Just like this years LYNCHBURG HILLCATS !!!!

GO TEAM!!!!!!!!!

Thirsty Thursday attendance?
864 – thats right 864 folks. Temp was 82 degrees and clear
That’s OUR TEAM. That’s the Atl Braves affiliate.
BTW on Wednesday – another great baseball day
Attendance at the PLAYOFF GAME was 922 !!!!
Break out the band
Start the parade !!!!

That’ll balance our city’s budget won’t it?
I can hardly wait !!!!Link to the box scores:

(scroll to the bottom)

Weds link:

(scroll to the bottom)


Rick Wilson
2015 years 8 months ago

You do not feel the need for the city to present the final deal? The latest delay is number 6, or 7? You also refuse to acknowledge other viable deals out there that do not require any tax dollars. You demand to be shown the deal(s). Well……How about going first for a change? Show the public the final deal where you turn Wilmington into a welfare center for a billionaire…….

2015 years 8 months ago

weren’t those numbers consistent with Sharks attendance this season? That being said, and with no bonds required to build a new Legion Stadium, why not leave the status quo be? Or better yet, prioritize opportunities:

1. Sharks

2. Ripkin

I think as Ripkin’s group confirmed they had no problem allowing Mandalanta to operate the baseball team in the Ripkin built facility, there really would be no need for option 3.

2015 years 8 months ago

Ripken youth baseball,”the Ripken Experience” is totally seperate from minor league Ripken,Aberdeen Firebirds.

2015 years 8 months ago

I am disappointed in you. Are the games you refer to not divisional playoff games?

That may have inflated the numbers.

And Thursdays normally reflect “Thirsty” with discounted beer. My guess, the management will fail to get the proper permit.

Wasn’t the failure of the last minor league team attributed to an inability to sell beer? I believe it was.

But maybe, if it comes, they’ll give complimentary tickets to all of the legally approved street entertainers? Comp them on free beer and let them sleep in the ballpark. That would at least get them away from Roy’s Riverboat Landing or the parking lot @ Ruth Chris’.

This deal’s just getting better and better.

I’m all for Baseball; let Ripkin build it with private funds; or throw support to the Sharks.

I just don’t see that over priced river front albatross as a viable option. But if they build it against the public will, then I hope they include a few mature oak trees. Down in Texas, I’m told they use a rope and oak tree to deal with those who are less than honest or in other words who twist the truth until it is false.

2015 years 8 months ago

you’re a baseball spectator.

Baseball is baseball. Frankly, youth baseball may be more entertaining and less confrontational.

But, what was your point?

2015 years 8 months ago

Let us continue to track our home town hero’s the Lynchburg Hillcats.
As you know last week they played against the Wilmington (DE) Bluerocks.
Attendance was “stunning” to say the least.
This week they are playing the Winston Salem Dash – a team that proved PROVED mid you that new stadiums equal unprecedented attendance. WS has an average attendance in 2012 of 4428 as indicated by:

Lets see:
Saturday they played at Winston Salem and attendance?
2253 or about 50% of their seasonal average and about 40% of capacity.
The Hillcats WON.

On Sunday they played again at W/S

2110 were in attendance or about 47% of their seasonal average and 38% of capacity
The Hillcats lost and the series is tied 1-1 with three games at lynchburg Tue/wed/thu

Fun with numbers.
Given the percentages what can we expect at Lynchburg?
Seasonal average is 2426
50% of seasonal average is about 1213 attendees
38% of capacity is about 1630

Whats ol’ Vogs prediction? Well, given the weekend nature of this team in particular, and the fact that Bible study or services are usually taking place on weds here’s what I say for attendance:
Tu = 989
We = 890
Thu if needed may be a hot contest – 1421
Gotta love those Game 7’s eh?

This is an economic juggernaut they want to bring here – yessiree
I can see popcorn sales gong through the roof !!
Being a fan of the game, I hope they win
But for anyone to think this team will attract thousands of out of town people and we will reap Millions in sales tax dollars just makes them appear to be THAT much crazier than I am……


2015 years 8 months ago

The last time I checked this thread was about he convention center and as my post said “This is the convention center business”.

Thats OK – I knew you wouldn’t read it
(Watch out Terry may put a muzzle on you again)


2015 years 8 months ago

We are playing baseball,not widget-ball.
Baseball attendance is not declining,nor is baseball going out of business.
The game is strong.will do just fine here.
You make a “bad” analogy.

2015 years 8 months ago

Football either college/pro gains more fans.
The others not even close.
Baseball remains Ameiric’s pasttime.

2015 years 8 months ago

@Vog–I read it not worth commenting on.
You know where I sit…

2015 years 8 months ago

Sales takes planning,persistance,effort and developing relationships.
This all takes time,be patient progress is being made.
People have little patience today,and patience is what is needed now,along with efforts.

2015 years 8 months ago

the NSS study, which you & a few others touted?

It clearly stated attendance would decline by the third season & would bottom out, and then remain stable, by seaon 5?

Rick Wilson
2015 years 8 months ago


If it wasn’t for profit sharing and television revenues, quite a few major league baseball teams would fold right now. Baseball does well when all other options are limited.

Here’s a poll for you:
Baseball or Pro Football = Pro Football
Baseball or College Football = College Football
Baseball or the NBA = NBA
Baseball or College Basketball = College Basketball
Baseball or watching grass grow = watching grass grow
Baseball or getting a root canal = Baseball by the smallest of margins

If Mandalay believed in their product, they would build their own stadium. Since they do not believe in their product, they expect the tax payers to build the stadium. Once again…….DUH?????

2015 years 8 months ago

Picture this for minute.
YOU take a job for a Widget manufacturer as a sales rep.
YOU see the market is declining for Widgets
Do you tell the boss to spend $57M in the face of declining sales for widgets?
Do you Chuck?

Of course not.
All the BS about our widgets are better than their widgets makes NO DIFFERENCE – the entire market is down. Some mfgs of widgets have gone into BK.

That’s the convention center industry, as its performed since 1998 or so. Dwindling attendance, more people getting into the biz and others going into BK.
Yes under normal circumstances I would agree that sales take time to develop and that relationships have to be built with the customers buying your product.
But if the number of customers is decreasing and the amount their buying is decreasing does it make sense to get into the business?
The answer plainly is NO.
That’s where we are at – we built our CC in the face of declining numbers of conventions and meetings, and the number of attendees at those declining numbers of conventions has decreased as well.

The REAL problem here is that how are we going to make the $88M it will take to pay this losing proposition off? You can figure it out – but you don’t WANT to. Because it will make the CC look bad. The same holds true with the ballpark – when you calculate out how much that will really cost taxpayers you cry foul because the number is so much bigger. You prefer to talk in terms of a “dollar menu lunch” per month. Why is that Chuck?
Is that all you CAN understand? Of course not – but it’s how you apply “lipstick to a pig”
Underneath it all Chuck? It’s till a pig
THAT’S our CC.


2015 years 8 months ago

this thing opened in 2010, did it not?

Was one of the first much touted events going to be some type of beer festival? And did they not have to pull the plug on it as the CC did not have an ABC permit?

Is that professional management?

Please correct me if I am wrong Duke. I am man enough to accept my errors. But I don’t think I did on this one.

And did you notice, during the Democratic Convention, the Myrtle Beach Tourism and Convention Center sent a delegation to Charlotte. Not to promote votes for the incumbent’s renomination. Rather, they were there to promote the Grand Strand to all of the business owners, well to do convention attendees, and trade groups which were in Charlotte as a part of the Convention.

Myrtle Beach saw opportunity and pursued it.

Can the same be said for Ms. Eaton?

For the record, what events is Ms. Eaton working on? You seem to be her advocate.

Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus? You could tie this one in with the never to be built ball park. You know, they could use the infield and outfield for grazing the horses, camels, zebras, and elephants.

Lippizaner Stallions? Ditto the above comment re using the ball park for grazing.

Z Z Top concert? Hey the Durham Center for Performing Arts, which your sidekick Mike T was so ineffective in using as a validation for the CC, has Z Z Top booked for a concert later in the season. Remember, the DCPA, as Mike T likes to refer to it, only seats fewer than 5,000 so it should be a good fit.

Pretty soon, I’m going to want a fee from the city for developing all of these potential candidates for CC events.

2015 years 8 months ago

I think Ms. Eaton doing alot,please give her time as well as her small staff to develop this Major project for Wilmington.
It is all about the end result,and I am sure many strategies being used,calls made to book as many events as possible.
Have faith,that the “people in place”,will get it done!

2015 years 8 months ago

ANY taxpayer liability and this “deal” sours the voters.


2015 years 8 months ago

Everyone wants to see the proposal,tax-payer liability ASAP.

2015 years 8 months ago

@Vog-it takes 2,3,4 years to build a client base,we are moving the right way.Rome was not built in a day,nor was the convention center and client base.Some companies have committed 2-3 years out,give it time and 133 events last year is not horrible.

2015 years 8 months ago

Was a “rah rah” for the CC.
Notice anything missing from the presentation?
A profit loss statement………
133 “events”?
With banquets and meetings DOMINATING the schedule? These are 1 day functions typically.
I would venture a guess (since facts are hard to come by) that for ANY 1 day event the CC loses money, as does the city.
And while I applaud the effort of the management team at the CC the fact remains there’s an over abundance of CC space nationwide and attendance levels are still mired at levels of 1998 or so – nationwide.
Its no wonder that there’s NO HOTEL ROOM SHORTAGE down town.
And THAT’S the reason why hotels aren’t in a bidding war to build one. Their market studies probably indicate its not worth the risk.


Rick Wilson
2015 years 8 months ago

It certainly seems like there will never be an agreement, at least not before the election. The Convention Center is a joke. Show the profits before proclaiming it is a success. It is a weight around the cities neck, as the stadium will be if it is financed by the tax payers. Not one single penny of tax payer dollars should go to the stadium. With other deals out there not requiring tax payer dollars, why the Mayor and council have refused to send Mandalay packing is a huge mystery…… unless there are other reasons the public does not know about?

2015 years 8 months ago

The election was in November.
You are like Little League managers,trying to win before the season starts?

2015 years 8 months ago

Last night, in an 11 inning thriller the Lynchburg Hillcats beat the Dash 5 – 4 to win the Carolina league Championship.

Attendance was a paltry 1203 – for a championship game and after having a good season.
(scroll to the bottom)

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

Not one mention by our 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, and didn’t happen during playoff and championship games.

I can’t imagine how bad attendance will be here, 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.