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FIRST ON 3: New Hanover Co. approached with stadium plan; Ripken confirms talks

READ MORE: FIRST ON 3: New Hanover County talking to Ripken about building private stadium, no official negotiations
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A baseball stadium built without using taxpayer money. WWAY was first to uncover that's an idea one group has brought to New Hanover County.

One city councilman calls it a rumor, while the county confirmed a group did approach it with this idea.

Cal Ripken's name is once again linked to baseball in the Port City. A source involved in the discussion told us the Hall of Famer's company Ripken Design is interested in building a stadium. It would be privately funded using public infrastructure, such as sewer.

County Manager Chris Coudriet confirmed all but the name.

"Baseball is a hot topic in our community. We did have an organization approach us as a county government and say, 'Here's an idea that could be considered,'" Coudriet said.

Right now, the city is in talks with Mandalay Baseball Properties to build a taxpayer-funded stadium for an Atlanta Braves minor league team. The cost of the stadium and land could reach $37 million if voters in Wilmington pass a bond referendum in November.

The city had considered Ripken Design to do a feasibility for a ballpark, but it chose another company when Mandalay objected to Ripken's involvement.

If news of a private stadium is true, it would throw a major wrench in the city's plans. But Councilman Kevin O'Grady does not seem too concerned about this latest twist.

"What's the source of the funding? That's unidentified," O'Grady said. "What's the location? What about the infrastructure needs? I mean, if it exists at all, it's nothing more than an idea."

But if someone is willing to build a stadium for free, why wouldn't City Council pursue it? Mayor Bill Saffo says he would be delighted to talk with the Ripken group about its idea.

Residents opposed to using taxpayer dollars to build a stadium say it's a no brainer.

"If there's a glimmer of hope that someone would come in and do this for us, then they should pursue it," said Scott Harry, the leader of a group of business owners opposed to the tax-payer stadium plan.

Late this afternoon a PR person for Ripken Baseball said in an e-mail: "Ripken Design has spoken with the county through a mutual acquaintance while we were doing a facility assessment at UNC Wilmington. These conversations with the county were only in regards to the process of building a county-owned stadium."

After we asked for clarification, John Maroon wrote back, "We did not approach them with the idea of building a stadium. Ripken Design was informed that the county was exploring the idea of building a stadium If the City did not.

"After learning this, Ripken Design was put in touch with the County through a mutual party to discuss the process of planning designing and building a stadium and ways that Ripken Design could assist should the County move forward. Nothing has transpired since."

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