Chamber of commerce talks future of baseball in Wilmington

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Submitted: Thu, 11/08/2012 - 4:24am
Updated: Thu, 11/08/2012 - 5:07pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Is it past time for the national pastime in the Port City? Tuesday night, voters overwhelmingly said no to building a baseball stadium in Wilmington.

Since the city first pitched building a ballpark in the Port City, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce has been behind the scenes. Wednesday night, WWAY spoke with the president to find out what’s next.

“Sad. I mean we had an opportunity with great partners, probably the best partnerships we could’ve had for downtown and we lost it,” says Connie Majure-Rhett, chamber president and CEO. “We don’t have lots of big industry. We don’t have lots of huge employers, so we have to take every opportunity we can, every enhancement we can to make this community viable.”

For months the chamber has helped fund and build support for the ballpark referendum, most of it out of the spotlight. Tuesday, about 70 percent of Wilmington voters decided against building a $37 million downtown baseball stadium.

Majure-Rhett says though the future doesn’t look bright for baseball in Wilmington, there have been glimmers of hope.

“I guess if a great opportunity comes up that we don’t know about,” she says. “We hear rumors of private investors, but nobody ever steps forward and says I’m the private investor. We just rumor about private investors, so we’ll see.”

Mayor Bill Saffo, a huge proponent of the ballpark, says the game is over and the people have spoken.

“Baseball is done here in Wilmington, for the time being and who knows if it would ever come back,” Saffo says. “It was a healthy debate for the community and the people have spoken. It’s done.”


  • SurfCityTom says:

    no other group can even talk about privately funding a ballpark or bringing in a team to the area until the MOU is voided.

    When all of the blowhards spout off about “we hear there is private investor money but no one has shown it”, that is why.

    Baseball rules prohibit others from talking or negotiating as long as the MOU exists.

  • Guest211 says:


  • Rick Wilson says:

    According to baseball’s own rules, only one group can negotiate with an area at a time. As long as the MOU between the city and Mandalay is active, nobody else can step up with any offers. I agree that anyone in the future should negotiate with the county. The city has proven beyond a shadow of any doubt they are not able to secure a deal that is in the best interest of the people they are supposed to represent…….

  • SurfCityTom says:

    just remember. Early on, Ripken’s group indicated they could build the facility; and they would gladly lease it to another team operator.

    So Mandalay can still put a team here. They may not control the facility to their desired extent. And they may actually have to operate as a for profit if the private investors limit the amount of their investment.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    I’m pretty confident Major League would go to Charlotte. Look at the map. Makes sense geographically and market wise.

    Minot League — Ripken Group is a class act. I see them here; just not in the city. Across the river? Up I-40 on the New Hanover/Pender line perhaps?

    But not downtown.

  • Vog46 says:

    Charlotte is too far south and has nothing to the west of it. I could see High Point if it went out there, but my best guess is slightly north and west of Raleigh – to draw from Durham.
    Who knows? But my main point is that WE control our destiny in spite of a botched effort by Saffo/O’Grady.
    And I DO THINK MLB will kick in some $ to get a stadium built if they have to relocate an existing franchise OR have to help a new team develop their own farm system.
    But you are right about Ripken – he’s a class act – but Mandalay has it all over Ripken for marketing a team, IMHO.


  • Rick Wilson says:

    The city needs revenue. The city could increase its revenue if it would quit funding the Chamber of Commerce and WDI. Neither one represent all of the people anymore. It is special interest and downtown only. The city needs to take a long hard look at all the things it funds and cut the waste and special favors. The city workers salaries average 10% less than other cities in our area. I have been told (not verified) that city “bosses” average 15-25% higher salaries than other cities in our area. The city workers also keep getting their benefits cut……The priorities sure seem to be in the wrong place. The city keeps losing workers to these other areas meaning Wilmington has a less experienced work force and is constantly paying to train new workers……A complete and total audit of how the city spends the tax dollars of it’s citizens is way past due……

    It sure is funny how the city always counts the time city staff spends on different things as a cost…….except for the baseball fiasco. One honest poll could have saved the tax payers 100’s of thousands of dollars. Before any city is allowed to expand it’s borders, it should be required to prove that it is fiscally responsible to those already enslaved…….

  • ChefnSurf says:

    The Chamber, and by default its members, have made it abundently clear that they’re just out to further their own interests. They have also made it abundently clear that those interests stop at the border of “downtown”.

    There’s a lot more to Wilmington than just downtown. If the Chamber doesn’t really care about the majority of Wilmington, why should anyone care about them. There are tons of other businesses to patronize other than this selfish downtown cabal. (I’m beginning to question the viability of greater Wilmington continuing to support “downtown”, but that’s for another post, at another time.)

    As for Ms. Rhett: It turns out she’s nothing more than a pompous horse’s-behind who stupidly backed the wrong horse in the race. As a consequence of that, she has now become an actual horse’s-behind whose horse was actually behind. Hey Ms. Rhett, how’s that working out for you?

    If the Chamber’s members still have half a brain left after the spanking they deservedly just recieved, they’ll dump this fool before she drags them all down like a 50 pound anchor attached to a canary.

    Wilmington per se is still viable even though she’s not capable of seeing it. What is no longer viable is Rhett as the head of a now barely viable organization that most Wilmingtonians no longer trust. The Chamber keeps her on at its own peril.

  • Louise Dover says:

    Wilmington sure needs something. There is nothing there except some old, worn-out hotels on tiny little stretches of dirty beach. I guess the locals are tired of tourists.

  • UnwelcomeGuest says:

    Wilmington has a beach now??? Where is it? And why didn’t anyone tell me?? I’ve been wasting all that time and gas driving to Wrightsville Beach, when I could have just stayed in town. Thanks for the heads up!!

  • Guest461 says:

    So, take your nasty bathing outfit, your empty wine bottles, dirty diapers and your stinking cigarette butts off our beaches and go somewhere else where you may like it. Could I recommend the Wake County landfill? We don’t have dirty beaches here, we only have dirty little people like yourself that populate them at times! We have to clean up your residue.

  • Rick Wilson says:

    The Mayor says this deal is over. Mandalay and the Braves say the deal is over. Since the deal is over, cancel the MOU between the city and Mandalay. Once the MOU is cancelled, others will be able to step forward with any other deals.

  • Guester says:

    Mayor said the city would not pursue baseball. Doubt that it matters if there is an MOU in place or not. I’m sure after Jan. 31 it will still be the same. Anyone else with a deal should go to the county, not the city.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    so dense; and why can she not work toward consensus building?

    The private investors are prevented from stepping forward with their proposal until the City and Mandalanta terminate their exclusive agreement which would then allow another group such as the Ripken Group to step in with private investor funding.

    What does this person not understand about something so simple?

    And she’s the President of the Chamber?

  • Vog46 says:

    Ok – (Tom in particular)lets talk MAJOR league baseball first.
    MLB is set to expand by two teams. Ranking very VERY high on the potential locations is North Carolina for a MLB location. Why? Well growth for one thing – but NC love it’s baseball. We are the 3rd largest MINOR league market after CA and NY I believe with 10 teams here.
    We love baseball but where would MLB put a team? My guesses? Triangle – Triad.
    If its the Triad we possibly lose a minor league team or two in that area. Perhaps the new Charlotte stadium goes empty? Think about Gwinnett County here folks. Or perhaps the Greensboro team goes kaput – or heaven forbid – the Dash.
    Less damage would be caused by the Triangle location. We might lose the team in Zebullon or perhaps the Durham Bulls would be hurt but they could MOVE.
    So where? If MLB knows it will hurt a MiLB team don’t you think some consideration might be given to assist that MiLB team(and its parent MLB club?).
    My prime 2 locations for a stadium and team in THIS scenario are Fayetteville and Wilmington. In this case Wilmington is a better location because it’s further away from the Triangle area and it would be less affected by a MLB team there.
    It also provides that new MLB team with a potential location for? A minor league team of it’s own – just down I-40 !!!
    If I were in Mandalay’s shoes right now I’d KEEP the MOU active and talk to Bud Selig (Baseball Commish)about the planned expansion. Heck I’d try to extend the MOU !!!
    Mandalay does not manage teams exclusively for Atlanta – they “play the field”.
    I’ve said it before and I will say it again – WE are in the driver’s seat and there will be MiLB ball here at some point in the near future…..and if a MiLB team is too close the the MLB ball park my guess is that Selig will come up with “assistance” to help that MiLB team relocate……..
    Stranger things have happened folks…….


  • Josh Fulton says:

    She’s the head of the Chamber of Commerce? Isn’t she supposed to know how business actually works?

    “We don’t have lots of big industry. We don’t have lots of huge employers, so we have to take every opportunity we can, every enhancement we can to make this community viable.”

    Connie, if you knew anything about business, instead of just leeching off the government (ie your fellow taxpayers), you’d know that small business creates the most jobs in the country. The best way to support those, and every other business in Wilmington, is to lower the tax burden (we have, I believe, the third highest of all 50k+ cities in the state) and to reduce burdensome regulations.

    The way to kill jobs is to raise the tax burden, which this would have done, and to pick and chose winners in an economy, which makes it more difficult upstarts to compete because the government has already given a huge advantage to one company.


  • RSimmons says:

    The more you know it is not. Look next for the establishment of a regional development authority with taxing authority that taxes the “member” counties and municipalities instead of individual voters.

  • Vog46 says:

    I don’t believe the city should be donating any monies to this organization. Why? The answer is simple. The baseball stadium became a political issue when council put it to the voters. Much like the National level Chamber of Commerce they have gone far beyond the interests of business and industry and have embroiled themselves in partisan politics.
    But in THIS situation Majure-Rhett has failed to note something that has made me think badly about this organization. She said:
    ” “We don’t have lots of big industry. We don’t have lots of huge employers, so we have to take every opportunity we can, every enhancement we can to make this community viable.””

    Out of our top 10 employers 6 are government or quasi government entities. I count NHRMC as quasi government. The others are PPD, Verizon, GE and Corning. All of these businesses have located or expanded here in the last decade.
    Majure-Rhett has fallen for the line that the stadium is desperately needed without thinking along a macro economic scale. That is to say in tough ‘national’ economic times you cannot expect a lot of growth from large employers. So it is only natural that large employers are not moving here.
    But according to her statement – since the stadium bond failed – we are no longer “viable.” Oh the horror of it all. I must make plans to move out as Wilmington is failing. This of course is poppycock. In tough economic times stagnation is much better than having company’s moving out which is where Wilmington is at.
    Growth will happen Ms Rhett.
    But we cannot succumb to the desperation argument because it does not hold water here. We are a tourist area – it is by far our largest industry. A stadium will not impact tourism nor will it gain by it.
    Your argument of desperation smacks of idiocy. Spending $144M between a stadium and a convention center that would both employ less than 50 people TOTAL is wasteful and loses sight of what GOOD economic development is about.
    You Ma’am have failed miserably at your job. Your public statements about the stadium and the peripheral arguments have made you a laughingstock in this city. Not because it failed at the voting booth but because your arguments for the stadium are just plain bad business!!! I know of no business that would invest $54M for 25 jobs UNLESS the business were to make a profit.
    In this case the city would have invested $54M for someone else to make the profit. If I were Mandalay hell yeah I’d do that in a heartbeat and wouldn’t give a darn about the city. Obviously your support of this fiasco indicates you don’t give a darn about it either.

    But that’s OK Ms Rhett – it’s no longer viable as the stadium bond failed. You can move out.


  • Guesttenheimer says:

    It was a one-sided push to burden the taxpayers and sell riverfront, contaminated property all for a venture with no credible return. The reason private investors don’t step up to the plate is because they can’t see profit or gain. Good investors don’t “invest” in losing propositions. There is history here, there are numbers here and they all add up to a waste of an investment of either private monies or taxpayer funding.

    You just can’t polish a turd.

  • Guest Reply says:

    To the Mayor/Council and all that pressed for a stadium here:

    The vote of “NO” for this ball park only proves that you representatives did not do your homework on this issue (tax payers interest) as other projects you have submitted or even gone ahead with…without citizens interest and or approval.
    One thing you all get credit for though…you supported a tax payers vote on this project…but merely with hopes of saving face come election time. Well…even letting this go before a vote won’t help your chances come election time of becoming re-elected to office.
    The American people are coming to a breaking point with Government, “and” Government “Useless” spending that merely makes us pay more and more of hard earned dollars in a day and age of Americans trying to recoupe from a financial tragedy which started way before the crumble of Wall Street in 2008…which gave birth the the Wall Street tragedy. Look at the homeless Americans today as a result of incompetent leaders.
    Your “Pushy” tactics with this fiasco of a rejected dream by our Mayor and “Team” fell back into your laps with Thunder…as you knew it would.
    No one blames Council for fighting hard to pass what they thought was a Dream of a Life Time…it’s our American right. But it is also to your best interest, as it is for the citizens you represent, to work together instead of having an attitude, as Saffo did in the Pro/Con debate on video 2 weeks or so ago…stating that he could not understand why those of us that pushed back at him, were doing so with so much force.
    That is the way American was founded…politicians have tried and succeeded for years to turn it around…and Americans are getting sick of it.
    Hope you find other work in a couple of years…you’ll need luck!

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