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Ballpark referendum strikes out


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- After several months of campaigning both for and against building a ballpark in the Port City, results are in, and voters overwhelmingly said no. Seventy percent of Wilmington voters decided against the city building a $37 million ballpark.

"I hope that our leaders now and in the future remember this, that we spoke very loudly," said Scott Harry, spokesman for the "Vote No Stadium Tax" campaign. "The people spoke. It wasn't me. It was the people, and they said keep your hands out of our pockets."

City Councilman Kevin O'Grady, a huge proponent for the ballpark deal, says the future of baseball in Wilmington has ended with Tuesday night's results.

"I still think it was a great opportunity for the city, but it's up to the voters, and if they've rejected it, we're not going to do it," O'Grady said.

However, Harry does not believe this is over for the city.

"I think that if it's not Mandalay, it will be somebody else," he said. "If it's not next week, it will be next year.:

Terry Spencer, spokesman for the "Vote Yes" campaign agrees with Harry.

"Our work is not done," Spencer said. "We did see from the results. We've got a lot of work to do. We have a lot of minds to convince, but that's just a challenge for us. We'll continue to go forward."

In a statement, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said:

"Baseball has been discussed in our community for a number of years and this was the first viable proposal we had seen, involving not only Major League Baseball, but also a nationally known management entertainment company. Clearly this opportunity came knocking at our door at a tough time, when citizens are worried about government spending, even when the benefits are large. That’s why it was important for citizens to have their say and that's why we put this referendum on the ballot.

"It is clear from the outcome of this election that our citizens do not want to pursue baseball and we have heard them. We will continue to focus on providing core services to our citizens, just as we always have. We will also continue to look for economic develop opportunities that will benefit our city in the future.

"This has been a healthy debate for our community with strong feelings on both sides. We ask everyone – supporters and opponents – to stay involved in city government and continue to promote positive growth and change for our community. Most of all, we thank everyone who took part in this debate for stepping up to do what they think is right for our city."

In another statement, Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Atlanta Braves thanked Wilmington.

"The Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball are disappointed that the ballpark referendum has been defeated," the statement said. "We would like to thank Mayor Saffo, City Council, the city administration, the numerous civic and business leaders and all the volunteers who worked tirelessly on this terrific opportunity for the City of Wilmington."

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They still dont get

They still dont get it......WHAT PART OF NO does the City council not get? Talk about out of touch...perhaps they are sad that they will not have free seats, or that they wont be paid......Maybe next time they will let the private sector jump in and foot the expenses since its such a " great business opportunity". Maybe the next vote by the citizens should be for a NEW group of council members from the Mayor down......someone intelligent enough to understand the word NO!

Well, the people have spoken

and in the Star News, the Mayor is quoted indicating the issue is closed for the City. No bond referendum approval means no city funded ballpark, right?

Yet, Mr. Spencer states "...we've got a lott of work to do, we have a lot of minds to convince..."

Did I miss something? If the Mayor says it is over; if O'Grady says it is over, how could there be a lot of work to do and minds to convince?

Now, is the city going to end its agreement with Mandalanta so the Ripken Group can step in and begin construction across the river?


Forget what Terry Spencer et all said last night. Port City Baseball and its leadership are irrelavent. AS much as Terry tried to get his mug on TV the plain truth is they were used - used to put out signs, get bodies to meetings, and to otherwise act as cheer leaders.
The Mayor, and O'Grady said it's over as far as Council is concerned -meaning they will not pursue a taxpayer funded stadium.
What is the MOST important thing to remember i what Mandalay was asking.
To wit:
"Will all the property owners, young and old, RICH AND POOR be willing to pay more taxes for a stadium"???
They of course got their hats handed to them.
Which told them what?
That the RICH (read local investors) by a 2 to 1 margin did NOT want to pay, even a little, for a stadium.
Mandalay knew, 3 months that this would be a tough sell. 2 Months ago they knew they'd lose - Civitas III and PPP polling told them it would be a rout. They have a plan "B" and that is to come back to the table with private monies.
The vote yesterday told them that THIS might also be a problem - because if the rich weren't willing to give up a lunch, how could they expect them to invest 10's of thousands of dollars in private investment monies????
MiLB is first and foremost a business. A business that has to be profitable. Re-read NSS and tell me this - if they paid for it all would Mandalay have made money? The answer is "no".
This is where our history comes into play. Could they make money using Lynchburg's attendance? No. Could they do it with the Waves attendance? No.
We would have to achieve "Dayton level" attendance in order for them to make profits. Mandalay knew the couldn't do it so they had to ask us to insure their P&L remained positive.
But the vote also said something else. It told them that even the wealthy people here may NOT invest in a stadium. By a 2 to 1 margin it told them that.
Now the dynamic has changed. Now Mandalay has to convince CORPORATE investors and private investors that this could work. They have been working on a plan "B" for months in the hopes they can revive this stadium deal with private investors. THey haven't had much luck so far.
The question for me is did the over whelming vote yesterday scare off the corporate sponsors Ripken has lined up? If they did? Personally it's no big deal to me as I would have only attended a game or two anyway.
The pull out of private investors 6 months ago KILLED this deal.


printed media reports no Plan B. That being true, then the city and Mandalanta should do the right thing; terminate the exclusive agreement; and thus allow the Ripken Group to step in and negotiate a privately funded facility.

Tom, it's exactly like the issue of consolidation

The New Hanover voters have rejected city-county consolidation not once, not twice, but three times, yet the zombie is not dead. People are trying to raise the issue again.

Mark my words, this stadium issue will NEVER be dead until everyone who supported it is removed from the city council. And if county residents think that they were ever off the hook, they're fooling themselves. Rest assured Mandalay (or someone) will quickly conclude that spreading the cost among three counties and Wilmington will sugar-coat the turd and improve it's flavor.

They will be back trying to soak the taxpayers and line their own pockets with that cash.


If you want a ballpark, you pay for it with your own money. Some of us need our hard earned money to stay afloat and support a family.