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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.



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