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ONLY ON 3 & WHQR-FM: The only 'official' baseball stadium debate TONIGHT at 7 p.m.


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY/WHQR) -- WWAY NewsChannel 3 and WHQR-FM 91.3 are excited to announce that we will be co-hosting Wilmington's only "OFFICIAL" baseball stadium debate featuring Mayor Bill Saffo and City Councilman Kevin O'Grady along with "Vote No Stadium Tax" spokesperson Scott Harry and Jim Rafferty, who is also with the group.

This will be the only debate featuring both the mayor and the anti-tax funded stadium group.

It will be TONIGHT beginning at 7 p.m. on WHQR-FM 91.3 and on RTV, as well as streamed live at and at On Time Warner Cable RTV is channel 106, on ATMC channel 903, on Charter Cable channel 145 and over the air at 3.2.

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.


Wow....Saffo shocks me.

It is a complete shock that Mayor Saffo has the nerve to feel vilified. Maybe if this baseball stadium was handled right the first time with transparency then maybe he would have had support instead of spitting in the citizens proverbial face.

The back door deals that negotiated nothing in favor of the city was a complete failure.

For Saffo and O'Grady to state "this is it", that there would be no baseball after this is a joke. I bet Leland jumps all over this when the vote comes down not in favor of the City of Wilmington. I hope Cal Ripken's people are watching this closely.


It appears our city leaders couldn't be bothered with actually doing research and getting real answers. Their statements tonight really brought that fact home. They hand their whole justification on "hopes and dreams", not hard facts. Such a pity, when it's our tax dollars they're gambling with.

NOone watching the debate can feel comfortable with the NO folks

That was embarrassing for them. Unprepared and schooled in financing. They looked how they act on this board. Folks with bad data, arguments that dont work, and tea party funding from out of state based on ideology not the best plan for Wilmington. They looked like Obama in the first debate!! Laughable. Maybe it doesnt go through next month, but baseball is coming, that was clear from the debate. Shocked. They sure back pedaled when someone asked how they are funded. Lol...

I'm Not Voting For Looks

I don't care how "they" looked. I'm voting based on how my checking account looks at the end of each day. The citizens of this country, state, county and city are getting taxed enough. People are making tough choices due to this economy. But the choice I will make on November 6 will be a fairly easy one for me in regards to this issue. I will not vote for taxpayer funded baseball to be put on the backs of hard working people. But if looks really sway some that much, I draw your attention to our current president. Everybody seems to think he looked good in 2008 too. Looks can be deceiving and it is always a wise decision to do your own homework and not depend on some polished presentation/debate to determine "your" opinion. They could have stood up and jumped up and down on a sofa like Tom Cruise on Oprah for all I care. Still voting no.

Re: No one watching

Please explain your back pedaling remark. Scott stated that AFP has supplied funding for his side. They have also had contributions from private citizens, myself included. As far as schooled in financing, can you name a tax that ever goes away? If not for this bond, the taxes do not go up 2.5 cents per hundred. If a future council does not reduce or do away with it, it will cost 75 million dollars over 20 years, and it can stay forever.

I know there are people that want this as much as I am opposed to it. That is their/your right. It all comes down to the following:

1- Are you willing to vote yourself a tax increase for a deal that is not finalized and signed by all parties?
2- Do you think it is OK for public money to sponsor private profit? Even when this private business (Mandalay) is going to compete with other businesses that did not receive any welfare benefits.
3- Do you think the tax payers putting up 54 million to receive 10 million in rent is a fair deal?
4- Will you fall for scare tactics? Councilman O'Grady says if we pass on this, it might never be offered again. Really? Minor league has failed miserably twice in the past "because of lack of beer" but here is Mandalay knocking on the door.
5- Our downtown is not a slum. The property can sit as the city continues to collect property taxes, waiting for investors that pay for their own buildings.
6- This is a terrible deal for the city, I can not believe that the Mayor and Councilman O'Grady are proud of the deal they negotiated,Mandalay's negotiators are the one's with something to be proud of.
7- The projected 168 million dollar revenue is just that, a projection. Even if it is true, The 2.2 million the city pays each year against a projection is a huge risk. This 8.4 million per year revenue, I would love to see a projected break down of where it will come from. Otherwise it is just a number pulled out of the air. To be able to accurately project this revenue, there should also be some breakdowns of how it will be generated.
8- The Mayor's statement that the 5 most prosperous cities in N.C. all have baseball stadiums, I bet they also have car dealerships, public restrooms, and multitudes of other businesses. Is is fair or correct to give the stadium all of the credit?
9- The owner of the Braves is a multibillionaire. I am not envious or do I dislike him because he is this wealthy. I do feel that he should be willing to build his own stadium, pay his own upkeep of said stadium, and pay property taxes on his stadium. Then he would become an asset to this community instead of a moocher.....

Back pedaled?

Really? I thought they were very clear on where their funds came from. AFP, through their Wilmington chapter, offered to help them with money after they heard what they were trying to do. AFP paid for their TV ads and some signs. Other than that, they've had many, many local citizens give them money to keep them going. None of that has ever been hidden or denied, so I'm not sure what point you're trying to make?

As to "embarrassing", I certainly didn't find it so. These were just two regular guys, going up against a New York lawyer and a long-time politician. I thought they were sincere, likable, and very believable. I can most definitely not say the same about Mr. O'Grady, nor Mr. Saffo. O'Grady came off as petty, arrogant, and condescending. Saffo was blustering and angry. Not a good look for the two are *supposed* to be professionals.

Not quite

The way I saw it, nor the friends I had with me
The NO side finished very strong and the Mayor seemed to waffle in his final two minutes..
It still gets defeated


LOL this is great, NO folks getting an education

Looks like some folks only listen to themselves so much ( as the board here certainly proves) and now they are getting a lesson in financing and data, hahaha. No way you can watch this debate and see the Mayor, successful local businessman, and city councilmen support the stadium with hard data and the old curmudgeons just talk about "Mysterious documents" and then have to ask the City for help. Lol. This is basically WHQR asking a question, the NO folks interviewing the city for public data they didnt bother to prepare with, and then retreating to arguments they have yelled for months, even before a deal was even decided! hahaha, this is a riot. Never posted before but this is too good to pass up. Win or lose this election baseball is coming and the NO folks will have to go back to the Tea Party's next shouting match. Classic.

Paying Attention

Scott Harry said they were giving copies of the documents they talked about to the media that was there so I don't know why you think they are mysterious. I thought the NO guys did a pretty good job but I thought the politicians just did what politicians do and talked out both sides of their mouths. Who voted for this O'Grady guy? Must of been people that never heard him talk. He was just terrible. It was really funny when everybody there laughed at him. I will be glad when he runs again, so we can get rid of him for good.

The "problem" with the Durham comparison

In doing my research into baseball stadiums and such I continuously run into the comparison with Durham, NC.
It’s funny that the pro side wants to compare us to Durham for certain things but not other things. In other arguments they say things like “OH Vog thats Triple AAA ball not the same its not the same as single A”. That is true. The anti side likes to say Durham has over 1.7 MILLION People nearby and that’s why they are successful. This is also true.
It’s also true that Durham had a badly deteriorated downtown and at the same time, had a unique opportunity to land a AAA level minor league team so they did in fact provide a public stadium for them to use, and used the stadium as the first part of a huge down town renovation project.
The city invested $400M and private industry invested another $700M and counting and the tax “base” increased by $800M according the city’s website.
So, what affect did this have on taxes? Since 1990 the City of Durhams tax rate has increased from 38 cents or so to the current rate of 56.75 cents per hundred. That’s a 50% increase.
Additionally, they added another percentage point to the sales tax raising it from 6% to 7%. I believe their ROT is at 6% but I cannot find what it was in 1990. My guess would be it was at 3% or so back then.
What the pro side needs to remember is that although Durham has grown it has come at a steep price and that the growth has not been enough to overcome the tax implications of that growth. It is bad enough for any municipality to deal with rising health care cost for employees and for inflation’s affect on the goods and services the city buys for it’s operational budget but to add debt in the hopes of jump starting growth at taxpayers expense seems NOT to have worked out.
It is quite obvious from Durham’s example, that stadiums by themselves, are not drivers of growth and that the growth of private investment does come at a cost to the city. Governments are rapacious animals when it comes to revenues - the more you give them the more they say they need. Durham is a prime example of that. The Durham stadium LOSES money for the city. Our own John Hinnat on the Star news editorial blog said this in a response to another poster recently ”The money you want to make is growth in tax base - and like Durham, has created an additional $800 million in private sector tax base growth since the stadium was completed in 1994. Add to that the additional $300 million of public dollars and Durham has transformed into a community that is routinely cited in national publications as a great place to live and work. Durham's stadium doesn't make money as you reference - its about a community asset”
So after all these years the city paid for stadium DOESN’T make money…..the city’s property taxes are higher…..the sales tax is higher……….the room occupancy tax is higher……….and we say its matter of civic pride? Sure there are more people down town in Durham on a daily basis but the city is paying for that.
Which brings me to a question. What would have happened had they not built the taxpayer funded stadium? The pro side cannot say the development would NOT have taken place because you don’t know. The anti side cannot say that the stadium DIDN’T have an impact on growth because WE don’t know what would have happened if it wasn't built.
We do however know this. The shining example of Durham isn't so shiny when you consider that the growth failed to overcome the burden to taxpayers for the city’s cost of this growth.
so whats different about Wilmington?
First - our down town is not run down. You can argue its a bar scene at night and a working con town during the day but in either case - it is NOT run down. We have VERY LITTLE in the way of vacant lots and buildings with which to "expand". Durham on the other hand - had entire city blocks of deterioration. It was "ripe" for a big revitalization effort.
Second - we ARE looking at single A ball here not AAA ball which is one step behind the big leagues
Third - we already have a community theater and other art related centers
But what is stunning about both cities is something Durham has just NOW recognized in their new long range plan. They need to have housing in the area. They need people to LIVE in down town. They are making efforts to revitalize and/or build enough units to house a significant population in that area.

This is where we're at. Single A ball fields have nowhere near the impact of the big leagues or even Triple AAA ball clubs have - and Durham is a shiny example of a losing stadium proposition.
River Front Condo's are the way to go! Property values skyrocket - people in the area 24/7 will attract stores and other businesses.
Why are there no grocery stores down town? Answer is simple - no one is there after 5pm. There's no bowling alleys, movie theaters - nothing for a family to do. This would require private investment, but the pro side doesn't want THAT - they want government intervention into what is a private business.
That is not the function of government and using Durham as an example it may become a money losing proposition for the city.



the Durham re-development would have taken place whether the stadium had been built or not. The surrounding area was primarily run down and abandoned warehouses; and in some cases the owners donated ownership of them for re-development.

Baltimore had a similar problem prior to construction of Camden Yards. The surrounding residential area was run down and in many instances abandoned.

The city took over the abandoned properties through eminent domain; sold the properties to owner occupants for $1; loaned those buyers the funds needed to rehab the properties.

The result, Baltimore had a significant improvement in tax base along with the interest on the funds which had been loaned.

But these pro stadium folks do not get the message. The interest in Baltimore was paid to the city, not by the city.


The tobacco warehouse that was renovated houses office now. Duke University moved enough people over there to occupy 80% of that complex alone! Great to advertise saying the new down town is bustling.

But the bustle is NOT coming from the ball park, nor is it CAUSED by the ball park.
The only thing the ballpark has done for Durham is to lose them money on a continuing, ongoing basis........



quite right.

I'm there every few weeks working.

And there are a few retail and restaurant business present. And let's not forget the Center for Performing Arts which some would like to use to justify the convention center.

But I don't think you could fill 2 transit buses with the number of people employed by retail and restaurants.

And Duke had to expand somewhere; they were out of room at the Campus and no place really to expand.


It,s about 11:30 am on Thursday and this story has been very popular?
Popular for four people that is. Surf,Chef,Vog and Rick have posted 40 of the total here and hundreds through this process. I applaud their passion and respect their right to share concerns on this volatile subject. I also find it amusing how hostile they each become as they express their feelings toward those that disagree with their position. I will now leave this debate and end by saying it's the voters turn to decide this issue. How ever the vote may go, I wish all of Wilmington, those for and those against, best wishes in the future.
This has been a lot of fun and fun is the only way I have approached this debate. I offer my apology for any time when my fingers may have outdistanced my better judgement.
Wilmington will be a great Baseball City whenever this may happen.

Peyton Garret was right

Enough is enough. Even though I've been passionate about what I percieve as a potentially perpetuated injustice by a few upon the many, it's time to stop. Occasionally, because I really do have stong feelings on this issue, I've dripped an excess of acid into my keystrokes. Mea culpa.

Regardless of which side of this issue you're on, I sincerely hope that your opinions were based on altruisic motivations. If not, you're probably still not my favorite person.

That's it. I'm essentially done with this.

(Well OK, just a few more things ... For now ...Hey, did I mention that of my 5 posts, 2 were so tiny they really didn't count? ... Did I mention that Dukie still holds the record for most posts? ... Darn, I just can't stop typing!... Yikes! I just set my keyboard on fire in an effort to stop posting and yet I'm still typing! ... One (oww!) more (oww!) thing ...............)

RE: 91 Comments

You are correct, it is up to the voters. I hope to see you at the ballpark that the Ripken group will build with private funding. I believe everyone would like to see a team and stadium, the rub has been who pays for it. The voters will decide, as it should be.

The only

hostility is generated by your beleif that everyone is stupid if they do not believe the bag of lies and misrepresentations which you and your cronies spew forth.

Hey T

What was it?
My proving your predictions wrong?
Proving your economic analysis was wrong?
Proving the Civitas polling numbers were right?
Proving your math was all wrong?

For a guy who touted his marketing abilities and knowledge of this you sure spent a lot of time shooting yourself in the foot.

I particularly LOVE the cancer awareness shirts with no mention of cancer on them just as you had the audacity to announce to city Council "it's more than about baseball".

Or mentioning Port City Baseball not once but twice on your yard signs and forgetting to put the word VOTE on them.
This of course made them impossible to read at 35mph

I also like the comparison of your organization (PCB) to toxic chemicals.

Terry - there were times when you were polite and informative - heck you even got me to admit I was wrong ! there's nothing bad about being wrong either - which is a life lesson you have to learn.

I told you way back when you were running against very strong head winds - some of which had nothing to do with baseball. It is a shame that this couldn't stay as a baseball only issue but when council went after more than they needed it became truly MORE than about baseball. It became an issue of greed
Greed by council and the mayor
And greed by owners who could easily build this themselves

Good by good luck


92nd Comment

Maybe they don't have a good "text" plan...Surf,Chef,Vog and Rick that is.

The Baseball File

Enough of all the BullS+%# bantering back and forth. Kuebler has apparently finally shut up, enough of the facts if not all have been displayed for debate. Quite frankly if everyone has not made their mind up by now, they never will. Vog46 has rendered everything he possibly can. Enough. This has resorted to personal attacks and stooped as low as political jargon. Enough!


I am not watching the World Series from the comfort of my home. Why would I go downtown to watch Single A ball and drink 3.75 beers. The ones in my frig are 60 cents each.


This vote will be INVALIDATED! I know of one person NOT in the city that voted on the stadium issue...IF this happens to be a single fluke..OK...but I gets invalidated because of NHC residents having voted on it...

Vote on baseball stadium

WWAY mentioned a comment about this story regarding apartment dwellers that live inside the city limits who are eligible to vote yes or no for the stadium tax, even though they do not own property in situation is a little different. I live in the county, and own property in the city and county. I'm not able to vote on this issue, but if I could, I would vote NO to the future Saffo Stadium of Willie Stargell Stadium.......

Wilmington native

Sorry to disappoint you but the naming rights to the stadium cost money - lots of money. About $275,000 per year money. The city won't pay that nor will they give it to Margaret Weller Stargell to honor her late husband. It would have to be some corporate sponsor.

Now the convention center on the other hand COULD be named. Imagine the sign 10 years from now on a deserted building:
"The William Saffo Municipal Convention Center, Haberdashery, Hair Cutting Salon and Hawaiian Ice Emporium."
Paid for by a grateful city ...........

Brings a tear to your eyes doesn't it?


Correct me if I err, VOG

but unless the naming right fee exceeds $300,000, which is extremely unlikely, the fee goes to Mandalanta and not the City which could use the funds to defray some of the debt service or maintenance costs.

Same goes for ticket revenue; the City gets nothing until 300,001 tickets are sold; again extremely unlikely.

Vote NO


You are confusing the NSS report and the MOU
Again from the MOU:

Except as provided in Section 4(e) below, during the Term (as defined below) the
Operator shall receive all revenues from the management, operation, and use of the Ballpark
including, but not limited to, revenues generated by: 5
(1) ticket sales for events held by the Operator;
(2) the sale of “club seats” and “box seats,” seat licenses to home games, private club
memberships, and suites;
(3) the sale of food, beverages, and merchandise;
(4) the sale of pouring rights;
(5) the sale of broadcasting rights for home games played and for other events at the
(6) the sale of naming rights for the Ballpark (subject to Section 6 below) ; and
(7) the sale of advertising, signage, and sponsorships

could the city add a ticket surcharge? I suppose they could but I would have to assume it would be in this MOU.
I remember one version of this deal involving $1/tckt over 300,000 but I do not see it in this MOU.
And don't forget - the multi-use aspect. With the exception of 10 city sponsored events ALL non tenant events are Operator sponsored.
So Mandalay keeps all their tkt revenues.



I told StarNews why we shouldn't have this. They could have years ago got casino boat. The taxes from that could have started a revenue for things like this. If the field comes movie studio could film in there paying those not having a job. I used to go to MLB Spring training down in Fl. For the Pirates most fun my dad & my brother & me.So for those against I understand that you don't want to pay from your taxes on homes. They should have gotten rid of property tax. Most seniors can't afford higher taxes. Includes Vehicle tax. I Would like to see private fund make it in this town. Like they said they don't. Best thing we can do is pay a little extra for while. I mean geez people. Now you act like stick in the mud. Quit doing same routine over & over.

This is the most confusing

This is the most confusing post I have ever seen. Haha.

From your poor grammar

one would think you are Dukie or Terry


Can anyone on the Vote No side explain why the Yes! signs are disappearing along the city's corridors?