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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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Playing the game with the field of schemes

I would urge everyone BEHIND public financing of the proposed baseball stadium, for you to first study the body of data, research and analysis that is the touch of a finger away. Several major studies are included as links below.
What has happened too often here is that the people only get to hear ONE SIDE OF THE STORY, and it is dominated by the cronyism culture that continues to think the public taxpayer should be forced to invest in the projects that enrich a few private interests who get the big "win" in such projects.
Can't these pro-spend politicians hear the dissonance in an argument that starts, "Well, we cannot do this on the taxpayer funded and operated baseball stadium at UNCW because they do not allow alcohol sales".......followed by, "This is an important addition to bring a positive family activity to downtown in the evening, that is something besides the bars." The way minor league teams make a substantial amount of their income is concessions. The point of a modern stadium is to keep all the money spectators are spending within the stadium, not in the area around it. Most new stadiums contain larger parking, restaurant, souvenir, and other concession facilities. This reduces the amount of spillover benefits in the neighboring community. Political decisions involving such issues are likely to reflect the interests of special-interest groups rather than the interests of the entire community. Those with a large financial gain have a strong incentive to lobby for public investment in municipal stadiums while each individual taxpayer has much less incentive to become involved in this political process, and more importantly, “THE FUNDERS” of the political class tend to be the wealthy special interests pulling for the stadium, and they intentionally do not put forth any counter-points to all their positive economic development spin. I sure hope the local pols don't ram this baseball project through with no fair hearing to the "against" business case, waiting to be educated about THE TRUTH of the so-called "pro-business" benefits to the community, like has happened on issues like Titan, the megport and others. I applaud the county commish's for running away from the city on this (I guess everyone except for Jason, who is counter the rest of the group (and vast majority of the citizens he was elected to represent) on many other issues as he is no longer running for office. Unlike Mr. Davis, who seemed genuinely disturbed by the bill of goods he and the others were 'sold" as a race for their vote on Titan incentives was brought to the public eye four years ago. If the project is legitimate, prove it. Dispel the case made in many of these studies---at least acknowledge that you can be quite the pro-Wilmington resident/taxpayer, but NOT for the taxpayer funded (in full or in part) stadium. I think a better use of money and a better year-round revenue generator would be a great movie multiplex, maybe with a trendy bowling alley in it. It could be a great site for Cucalorus, and major productions throughout the year that appeal to all age groups, with weather not an issue, nor a short season. I bet a study of such a project compared to a stadium would be very interesting, in terms of revenues/profits....except, it is a hard play for a developer to ENTICE a government to build the movie multiplex complex with taxpayer money! But baseball? Big boys get as silly as little boys with their business case including, "can you imagine how cool to see people hitting home runs into the river?!" Please. Think about it. We would never build this developer a movie multiplex, but it could draw more people year round and generate more concession revenues than any baseball field! I mean, you've been to the movies lately yes?!

"Taxpayer-subsidized Sports Facilities: Who Pays, Who Wins?"
While the beginning of this article provides an argument against sports stadiums, the bulk of this document consists of an extensive bibliography of articles and books that deal with this issue.
• Joanna Cagan and Neil Demause, "Field of Schemes"
This web site contains information on the current status of sports stadiums that are being built or rebuilt using public subsidies. As the title of this website suggests, the authors are opposed to the use of public subsidies for these projects. Of particular interest is their page entitled: "The Sports Swindle Ticker."
• Daniel Sutter, "Public Subsidies for Sports Stadiums Don't Spur Economic Growth"
In this Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs article, Daniel Sutter provides a critical examination of the use of subsidies for the construction of new stadiums. He argues that the construction of new stadiums diverts consumer spending from other forms of entertainment without increasing the total level of consumer spending.
• Ronald D. Utt, "Cities in Denial: The False Promise of Subsidized Tourist and Entertainment Complexes"
In this October 2, 1998 Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, Ronald Utt argues that subsidized public investment in stadiums and similar tourist and entertainment facilities has not been a profitable strategy
• Heartland Institute, "Sports Stadium Madness"
This website contains links to an extensive collection of studies that indicate that public investment in sports stadiums provide few benefits for municipalities.


We don't have a hotel yet to support the white elephant that the powers that be pushed down our throat and now this latest, greatest idea is upon us. We have had two failures in baseball lately and I know of nothing that has changed except somebody is getting ready, once again, to make money in cahoots with the city council and the county commissioners.
This calls for a public referendum unlike what we got with the convention center.
How many minimum wage jobs will this produce?

If this stadium is such a

If this stadium is such a great idea then let Chuck Schoninger fund it with private money. Our local govt needs to stop wasting hard earned tax payer money on their pet projects such as this, the convention center & the skyway bridge,

Sure wish we would try to save some money.

Arguments are left and right, would this Stadium benefit the town as it is being mentioned that taxpayers should pay the bill. It may or may not, but can we not spend money for a couple years on luxuries until the economy starts picking back up? The education system is constantly being malnourished of money and that is a huge investment.

Why doesnt the team owners, Mandalay Entertainment wants us to pay for this, why dont they pay for it. It is their team and when they want, they leave town without taxpayer consent.

A Dream come true!

This is a perfect idea for the downtown area and for Wilmington. Sign me up for season tickets now!!!!! Hey I'm a taxpayer too and I see an importance for developing a new draw to the Wilmington area. Do people actually think we can fill this convention center with out of towners strictly by being a beach town?? Give the city something to make money for the dowtown area and maybe our budgets won't be in the toilet every July. And raising taxes to make up the difference. I agree! Wilmington be PRO-ACTIVE. Please don't pass on this opportunity!


Here's what I think. Let the people who want it and use pay for it. I am not responsible for for paying for you to be entertained.

Baseball Business

Mr. Thompson is correct about beer being necessary to minor league baseball; serving alcohol is the only way to profit from minor league ball. The nationwide pattern for minor league ball is: taxpayers fund a state-of-the-art stadium, minor league team agrees to short-team lease as long as beer can be sold, people do attend for the first three years, but as attendance falls off, team moves to another community that has just built (or promises to build) a new state-of-the art stadium. NO team will agree to a 20 year lease! Minor league baseball makes the money while the community pays for everything!

Save Downtown Wilmington

I have seen first hand in numerous cities the economic benefit of bringing something like this to a downtown area. I lived in Greenville, SC when the brought the Greenville Drive to a downtown that at the time wouldn't be driven through even in the light of day. The field and promise of activity throughout the season spurred big business relocations, residential communities, retail and dining experiences, and more! I believe this would be a HUGE success and much needed boost to our downtown economy! During the best time of year it would give Wilmingtonians a reason to spend the day or evening downtown boosting retail sales, restaurant business, even real estate purchases! Sign me up for season tickets!

This would be great!

This would be great! Baseball stadiums bring so much to an area. Entertainment, money, family fun, wholesome all American fun! We should show our support!

Worst comes to worst

If they build it and noone uses it, the WAKA kickball association will put it to kickball is the new thing.

Make it work before you build a new park!

This has been tried twice before with failure. Set the team up in Legion Stadium, sell beer, hot dogs, peanuts and soda. If the team can maintain popularity for 2 years and keep from being sold out to an out of town interest, consider building a new stadium for them. With the past record of baseball in this town, it would be assinine to spend the money on a stadium that will likely sit with the gates locked, no team on the field and no spectators in the bleachers.
I love baseball, but it has to work with OUR area and be popular with our people, otherwise...we will simply have another dead cow to clean up and bury.
The LAST thing the people need right now is ANOTHER mindless tax burden to bear!

It has worked let build the Riverfront Park!!

I agree with your premise but what you are describing by playing at Legion Stadium is Called the Wilmington Sharks! Yes they are collegiate but Division 1 baseball played with a wooden bat is not distinquishable to most fans. And yes the Sharks have been around and successful since 1998! As a mater of fact they were more profitable even when we had the Roosters and the Waves playing at the same time in Wilmington. What more can I say?


Asinine doesn't have two..... oh no wait... YES in this case it does!!! **chuckle**

Good idea btw! I know you can buy beer at the Sharks games. They seem to be doing ok. I wonder how well they are really doing? I enjoy going to the games. Would this venture hurt their attendance? This would be a fine idea as long as it is not funded in any way by a taxpayer dime... except in the case that taxpayer was attending a game.

Not on my dime

Let me get this straight-we can't afford education, and they keep raising taxes, but we can afford to pay for this so this guy can make money? How many jobs would this even create? Not that many.

Im Confused ........

I was just brainstorming by creating 2 columns, good and bad....The ONLY good thing about this whole thing is it would create jobs.

The bad ? After reading some of the posts on here it was easy to create a list :

1. Sponsors ? somone mentioned getting sponsors to help with this, PPD, GE, etc...the only sponsors that were left out were TAX PAYERS !

2. Insanity ? we hope the city gets its own private financing, not TAXPAYER money !

3. Convention Center ? what a waste...If the city is having a brain-fart on building an over-priced convention center over-looking a disgusting, oily, crusty and filthy cape fear river, what makes us tax payers think you will get this baseball field done right the first time ???

Dont use my money on some BS and then raise our property taxes !

PS, i love the game of baseball, and it would really be a form of disrespect to America's past time if the city messed this whole thing up too.



people needs jobs,we need to make downtown work,we need to fill a convention center and hotel as well.
why not build a ballpark,hire some local people and add something of value to our community?
be pro-active,not re-active!

This would be great for Wilmington

Just need to get the large area corporations involved as sponsors, PPD, AAI, GE, Corning, Screen Gems, International Paper, the local media and banking companies involved in the cost of building the stadium complex and supporting it.

This time will be different. Sure.

I think one of the definitions of the word insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. It has been tried twice and didn't work. If he wants to build it, great. Get private financing on your own. Don't look to tax money to build your pet project.

Tax Money

He's already looking at the taxpayer.

Finally a good idea for

Finally a good idea for boosting downtown....too bad that waste of money convention center couldn't have been made part of a stadium.

...and what kind of $$$$upport would that be, Thompson?

I am absolutely convinced that not a single member of city council or the county commissioners has any concept of financial reality, whatsoever.

Time to break out the tar and feathers...." the embattled taxpayers stood..."

BTW, what's wrong with Legion Stadium, just a few miles away?

Great fun!

I think it's a great idea. I used to take my son to the Mudcats and it was great fun!. But if Mr. Schoninger doesn't bring a baseball stadium to his property, perhaps he might consider a amphitheater similar to the Walnut Creek venue. Or better yet, a multi-use facility to capture both audiences.

If the state, city or county

are going to put up the funds for construction, let's hope there is enough thought put into this to require all work be performed by North Carolina based companies.

Baseball field on river

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

Sounds like a desperation move to me. It is also a horrible idea, and the word municipal alongside Jason Thompsons support is a clear indication that taxpayers would be the ones footing the bill for this ludicrous idea. The owners of this property payed too much for it and they are upside down. It is a nice piece of property and something worthwhile will go there if the owners are patient. Baseball has been steadily losing popularity over the past decades and this proposal is a complete joke.

Please, One fiasco at a

One fiasco at a time. If the (tiny new) Convention Center hasn't had a majority of the publics approval...wake up Council and hold the purse stings on this one!!
This $18,000,000 project will be $30,000,000 before all is said and done...believe it!


we got to have this it would be awesome

What does Wilmington want to be?

There have been many cost-benefit studies over the years that show the costs outweigh the benefits when talking about a minor league ballpark in Wilmington. However, the question is really what does Wilmington want to be? Most cities of comparable size and population makeups in NC and SC have minor league teams. Winston-Salem, Hickory, Greensboro, Durham, Myrtle Beach etc. These cities also have preforming arts venues, convention centers, hotels, restaurants, Univeristies, airports, etc. In order to be considered a true first-rate city, Wilmington needs a ballpark. But if we're content to continue the staus quo with a lack of entertainment options, qualitiy facilities, classy-looking streetscapes,etc. then that's our choice. We'll continue to drudge through being compared with cities like Kinston and Jacksonville. Just good luck in recruiting high-paying industry. Ultimately, you get what you pay for.

Maybe, you

should research your facts before you post.

Durham, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem all benefited from trusts established 50 years ago or longer, by the Tobacco families such as Reynolds and Liggett. Initially funded with some cash and tobacco company stock, the value of those trusts sky-rocketed when those tobacco companies were sold through leverage buy-outs.

Those funds were established to promote performing arts, museums, and such. Where do you think the money came from to establish Duke University? Where do you think the money came from to fund the move of Wake Forest University from Wake Forest to Winston-Salem?

Look at the annual tourist impact on Myrtle Beach. No wonder they have funds to spare.

I'm not conversant on Hickory; but common sense would indicate they must have access to some trusts of some sort. Does Hickory even have an airport?

Need I go on? Yes I will.

With the exception of Roy's River Boat Landing and Rith's Chris, Jacksonville can compete with Wilmington on the basis of restaurants.

And frankly, it's a lot safer to walk the streets of Jacksonville or the mall parking lots than it is to do the same in Wilmington.

If you are attempting to promote baseball, why are you knocking Kinston? They have the Kinston Indians.

It appears you spoke without researching.

Ultimately, you are what you speak.

"Does Hickory even have an

"Does Hickory even have an airport?"

Yes, they do. It is right beside the stadium for their minor league team. The Hickory Crawdads.

Kinston Indians sold and moving to Zebulon

Sadly, the Kinston Indians were sold and moving to Zebulon. The Mudcats are moving to Pensacola Florida.