WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After Wilmington City Council approved an agreement with Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves to build a baseball stadium in the Port City, groups both for and against the bond referendum are bringing the heat when it comes to campaigning to voters.
Thursday the "Vote No Stadium Tax" group stepped up to the plate. Former Wilmington mayor and downtown business owner Harper Peterson made it clear to city officials and residents Thursday afternoon that building a tax-funded ballpark is the wrong decision. He says with so many people struggling to scrape by, the council needs to be satisfied with what the city already has to offer.
“They’re asking how do we balance the essentials of living in this city and we’re asked to pay a luxury tax for a baseball stadium,” the former mayor says. “Enough is enough come back to reality.”
Jim Rafferty, the group’s treasurer says he has thoroughly studied the agreement council members approved this week.
“Even if I was in favor of putting tax money into it, it is just a bad deal.” Rafferty says.
The ballpark agreement calls for taxpayers to cover the construction costs of $31 million through a two and a half cent increase in property taxes. In the end, voters will make the ultimate decision in November when they decide whether or not to approve a $37 million bond referendum that would pay for the ballpark.
Peterson says a ballpark would only take away money from businesses and teams already here.
“When I first came here there was a bumper sticker that read ‘Wilmington Has It All’ and yet we have those that want to put another feather in our cap,” he says.
During their own news conference Wednesday, the Wilmington Family Entertainment and Baseball Committee says it’s about economic development and source of civic pride.
“It’s an opportunity for the Atlanta Braves and the city of Wilmington and Mandalay Baseball to come together at this time and build a ballpark,” Frank Wren, Braves General Manager told a partisan crowd Wednesday.