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Ballpark push cost taxpayers $291,000

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- After months of planning and debate, Wilmington's plan to build a ballpark struck out on Election Day. Voters may have avoided a tax increase, but they'll still foot the bill for the city's pursuit of a stadium.

"Is baseball good for wilmington? I think baseball can be successful in wilmington. I can't say that it's the right investment for Wilmington," Brian Parker of National Sports Service, the city's hired consultant, told City Council back in June.

City leaders, of course, swung for the fences with a $37 million ballpark bond referendum, which failed when put in front of voters. But the taxpayer dollars had already been spent on the project.

"They put the cart before the horse," said Scott Harry, a spokesman for the opposition group Vote No Stadium Tax. "They started spending money, our money, before they ever got our approval."

City spokesman Dylan Lee says the city spent $291,000 to finance the ballpark effort. Of that amount, $161,000 went to National Sports Services for a feasibility study. The city spent another $124,000 on attorneys fees to negotiate the deal with the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball. Another $6,000 went toward miscellaneous expenses, including an appraisal and getting the bond written. The total, though, does not account for the amount of time city staff spent on the effort.

Harry says this was a blatant waste of taxpayer dollars.

"I think it's gotten very easy for them to spend other people's money," Harry said. "There are plenty of problems in the city, and the mayor himself has said they're getting back to the core priorities. They should never have left that."

The city says any money left over in the budget for the ballpark push will go back into the city's general fund.

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