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If you build it...

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Nothing says spring like the crack of the bat at a baseball game. That sound could soon be heard along the riverfront in downtown Wilmington.

Wilmington has had two failed attempts to bring minor league baseball to the area, but with the passion of one downtown developer, County Commissioners say this time around the idea could be a home run.

"We think a baseball stadium would be a great municipal activity for the community," said developer Chuck Schoninger.

On two separate occasions Wilmington has tried to host a minor league baseball team. Both times the teams struck out. New Hanover County Commissioner Jason Thompson says one big reason they failed was because they couldn't serve alcohol at their field on UNCW's campus.

"So having to go on a college campus, we started with one hand tied behind our back," Thompson said.

Since then minor league baseball teams have been in the on-deck circle, but no developer was willing to build a stadium on riverfront property until now.

"This is a perfect time in a down economy to plan and execute ideas like this," Schoninger said.

Schoninger owns 35 acres along the Cape Fear River and says a baseball diamond would be a gem for the city's entrance.

"This is our front door of our city," he said, "and this would be a heck of an ornament on our front door."

Said Thompson, "You can imagine hitting home runs into the Cape Fear River. There's just something magical about that."

But Schoninger needs support from the city, county and possibly the state to build the $18 million facility. Thompson says that might be possible.

"I'd say we're as close as we've ever been," he said.

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