Groups rally to oppose, support idea of tax-funded baseball stadium

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Submitted: Sun, 02/19/2012 - 4:59am
Updated: Tue, 02/21/2012 - 12:21am

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The idea of building a baseball stadium here in Wilmington is not a homerun for everyone. Many people are opposed to the idea of using taxpayer money to fund it. Saturday, folks rallied together to protest and petition it, but just down the street, others played ball in support.

“I’m sick and tired of my tax dollars going for something that does not benefit the average citizen,” protester Marlene Besecker said. “We are never thought of except when they want a new toy.”

Besecker was one of dozens of Wilmington residents who came out to say no to a tax-funded baseball stadium. She said it’s time the citizens get some control.

“I have grandchildren here, and I’m worried about their future,” protester Mary McLaughlin agreed. “I’d like for the city to be more careful with the money. We can’t afford the new higher taxes.”

McLaughlin and other opponents agree the stadium would be great if it was privately built and maintained.

Just down the street, another group gathered on the opposite side of the plate.

“I wouldn’t mind my taxes going up, no ma’am,” supporter Bryan Abrams said.

Abrams believes the investment would be well worth the millions of revenue the stadium would potentially bring to Wilmington.

Leader of the opposition Joshua Fulton feels our money would be better spent on law enforcement, fire rescue and road improvements, not minor league baseball.

“They fail all over the country,” Fulton said. “That $42 million is going to cost $393 per person in Wilmington. That includes kids, and kids clearly don’t pay taxes, so it’s going to cost the average taxpayer a whole lot more.”

“I’m for any way of getting it done, to be quite frank,” Abrams said. “I’d like to have city council have their own time to come up with some great ideas, whether taxes be going up for it or it be privatized or Mandalay or Atlanta contributes. I’m just honestly looking forward to hearing what they come up with in these six months to come to the table.”

New Hanover County Commissioner Rick Catlin was not among those playing softball on one of the proposed sites. He said the stadium should not be considered an economic development but rather an amenity that should not be paid for by taxpayers.

State Rep. Carolyn Justice (R-16) and New Hanover County Commission Chair Ted Davis also sent statements expressing their opposition.

Wilmington residents not only signed the petition against increasing taxes to pay for the proposed ballpark but also two others: one called for fiscal transparency from city council, and the other proposed that all projects over $15 million must be voted on by taxpayers. The group has 100 days to get nearly 3,000 signatures on each before they ask city council to create the ordinances.

For information about supporting the stadium, visit
For information about protests and petitions, visit


  • Guest676 says:

    Wilmington and the Cape Fear region have a lot to offer for the weekender, vacationer and locals. We have attraction to the beaches, rivers, golf, NC battleship, riverfront, parades, festivals, celebrities, fireworks, music cookouts, museums and arts, gardens, and more shopping than you can do in a life time. Come on down….…
    We also have New Hanover County Sheriff, Wilmington Police, Wrightsville Beach Police, South Port Police, Carolina Beach Police, Kure Beach Police, NC Wildlife, NC Hwy Patrol, Coast Guard, Helicopter, Radar, Cameras, Sub Marine devices, an Army of Parking Meter People, Tow Trucks, Citizen Volunteers watching your every move, We also have Tons of Permits, so you can do anything you want here: We’ve got one for freshwater fishing, we’ve got one for saltwater fishing, we have one if you want to sit at a picnic table in the park, and we have one if you want to drive on the beach and Fines for pulling a Neighbor out of the Sand. We have one if you want to go boating, we have one if you want to go camping, and, if you want to invite a few friends, we have one so you can have a party. And, introducing our latest service – the county can take your car and sell it at auction, so I wouldn’t recommend driving anything you want to go back home in. The trap is set. We are waiting in ambush for you.
    We love your money, and we don’t care how we get it. As long as you come back. With a smile.

  • What? says:

    You are on the right path, but quickly lose your way:

    “Rather than fix the sewer system they fail to take any responsibility and create the CFPUA which then significantly raises our rates.”

    COW couldn’t/wouldn’t fix the system because of the lack of political will to do what was necessary to fix the system. (NHC, you’re not off the hook.) What was necessary WAS to significantly raise taxes to fix, repair, upgrade. They punted (rather, created CFPUA).

    The city actually DID do something pretty smart…they washed their hands of the problem (part of which was due to out of control county development and undercapacity of the city system to deal with what was coming down the pipe).

    Now, with an EPA consent decree gun at their heads, the CFPUA must raise rates to fix it. It is now their problem, see.

    What part of this rather simple explanation do you not get? If rates were not raised to fix it, where would we be? What would you have done differently, brainiac?

    Now…PLAY BALL! I have the vision.

  • Terry S says:

    It’s a vision thing…..

    The Atlanta Braves in a partnership with Mandalay Entertainment have proposed bringing minor league baseball to Wilmington if the city/county will assist in the construction of a stadium. A developer has put forth plans for a stadium as a centerpiece in a project that includes a marina, hotel and mixed use retail/residential woven into the fabric of the downtown riverfront designed to leverage our existing downtown assets. Until we see the final structure, we won’t know the costs to the public nor all of the revenue sources for repayment…we do know that others have experienced stunning success with similar downtown projects in generating real economic benefits and a centerpiece asset for their city. It’s a vision thing….
    Those most vocal in their opposition have proposed no ideas, no vision…..their objective is simply to prevent Wilmington from making the investments required to achieve the vision. That vision is of a vibrant, family-friendly downtown, with the stadium development leading a revitalized riverfront as a magnet for private investment and redevelopment and simultaneously providing us a material asset in the hugely competitive battleground that is regional economic development and engine for future growth of our city.

    It is a vision thing. They have no vision, no plan of their own to build a thriving and prosperous future for our city. They offer no imminent and viable options, no alternatives, their only offer is NO….NO is not a strategy for building prosperity nor a commitment for a better Wilmington.

    It is a vision thing….those in support have it and this project provides the means to build it. It is available, imminent and very doable. They do not, they do “no”….that is all they have to offer.

    Between the unique and significant assets of our city and the collective strengths of the partnership available to us through this proposal, Wilmington has all the elements necessary for success in this endeavor. I believe it to be potentially a once in a generation opportunity. I’m hopeful that Wilmington can find the courage and leadership to get it done…

  • Responsible Government says:

    A baseball stadium would be fine if the city and county government had everything else under control. When they are not talking about these pet projects they complain about the lack of funds for police, fire, schools and our sewer system. Rather than fix the sewer system they fail to take any responsibility and create the CFPUA which then significantly raises our rates.

    Part of the problem is that much of our local government is made up of Realtors who use our tax dollars to build their own little playground.

  • Guest461 says:

    …you would have private investers beating our doors down to be a part of it. Your “vision” is imaginary, blown out of proportion and will burden taxpayers with another failure for the rest of their lives. Do you really believe that because you can architecturally render a bunch of pretty settings of a ballpark, a new marina all with “prosperity” for the people of the city that it will magically become real?

    You seem to be a big thinker with visions of sugerplums…WAKE UP!!! There simply isn’t enough interest in pro or semi-pro baseball in this area. Local diamonds remain empty ALL season. No players, no spectators…no interest. Who are you going to sell your 5 dollar hot dogs to? Another marina? Let me restate that…another EMPTY marina? Why would you want that? Do you have an inkling of a clue as to the health (or lack thereof) of the boat business? What used to be half-million dollar yachts are going fro 100k these days…nobody wants the expense of ownership AND skyrocketing fuel costs. Here’s another tid-bit for you to add to your dream bag. Downtown is almost 20 miles from the ICW, a far piece off the beaten path. There are already a ton of slips that never get used downtown as it is, except for one or maybe two times a year. The tanin in the river water turns your glistening white fiberglass a puke orange in only a few hours. My boat doesn’t go there…

    I’m all for downtown revialization, it needs it bad! This just appears to be a grasp at hot air that requires a lot of investment, a lot of risk and a huge burden on the taxpayers. But you know what? All of that land that nobody has been able to sell will finally get sold. Who really cares what happens after that? The Taxpayers do…the developers don’t!

  • Responsible Government says:


    I am afraid that you have lost your way. The point is that our local government (both city of Wilmington and New Hanover County) does not and has not had their priorities straight for many years. If they kept up with their responsibility to maintain infrastructure our sewers would not have gotten in the shape that they are in today.

    As I said before, a baseball stadium would be fine if everything else was in order. It is not but our irresponsible local government still feels that they can just raise our taxes for their pet projects.

    You ask “What would you have done differently?”. Simple, focus on the important stuff first and worry about baseball stadiums, convention centers, etc second.

  • Peyton Garrett says:

    I agree. I do not think this needs to be funded through property taxes. Some kind of user sales tax, room tax ect. A lot of numbers being thrown out about stadium cost. Is there even a set of working drawings, any engineering, anything to estimate a stadiums cost. I still thing the City Needs to ask other people who have been involved in stadium development.
    Someone like Dick Grubar from Greensboro would be good if He was willing. Some kind of third party, outside perspective. Educated perspective. As far as Berger, Fulton and McCoy? They know everything about everything. If you don’t believe it ask them. McCoy and Fulton not even a vested interest. Berger soon not to have a vested interest.

  • Guest461 says:

    …leftovers from Saffos hairspray cans or either you’re snuggling too close and catching the fumes! Tax is a tax is a tax. Tax the city all you want. The County wants nothing to do with another failing venture, the city residents are too meek, mild and apathetic to know how to oppose it. They’re an easy mark…so tax ‘em out!

    Now…here’s an educated perspective YOU need to get educated on: This simply isn’t baseball country! The people in this state, region, county and city are not raging fans of baseball, never were, never will be. Building this ballpark and ANOTHER empty marina in river swill water is nothing more than a land deal they’ve been trying to shuffle onto the taxpayers for years now. They can’t sell it! Nobody wants it!

    Bottom line: If this were so much the “fantastic venture” for the city, it would beg NOT to burden the taxpayers to create it! The money would easily flow from private investors on a “sure thing”!

  • Challengetheworld says:

    Yes, those two are the ones I am referring to. The problem is that I agree that the baseball team should be privately financed but with the assistance of local leaders aiding in the effort.

    To be honest I want to see the baseball team succeed in a private funded partnership with an MLB team, however, until we get some more people who are educated with the right information we will have to deal with these silly “petitions” and protests.

    Ever notice the outcasts seem to always stick together? Could you imagine a room with Berger, Fulton & McCoy? I would love to see them try to manage their way out of a McDonalds let alone lead anything.

  • Peyton Garrett says:

    The Josh Fulton and Ben McCoy who don’t own any land in Wilmington? Don’t pay Property taxes? Are those the ones You are referring?

  • Challengetheworld says:


    The greater Wilmington population is home to well over 40 ball fields and could be rivaled with maybe young soccer leagues. The Wilmington City Softball league fills up within less than 4 hours and never extends past one day. There is mens baseball leagues, the Sharks, UNCW Baseball and many more to name a few. If you’re a pub patron, you will find the MLB Season ticket in most large pubs. Baseball is popular everywhere, and yes, even here in Wilmington.

    I don’t really feel that one person can speak on behalf of our entire state on how poupular baseball isn’t. Obviously, you are not a fan of the sport. Thats your opinion. However, the town leaders should be open to those of us who are and open to suggesting what private businesses may be attracted to ownership of such an organization.

    Again, I’m not “huffing” anything. I didn’t vote for Saffo, I just think someone needs to nuture any possible economic growth and jobs into the city. Taxes don’t need to pay for that; I never stated they did.

  • Guest1212 says:

    If baseball is so popular in this area or in this state for that matter why doesn’t Charlotte or Raleigh have a MLB team yet ???

  • Peyton Garrett says:

    I beg to differ about this not being baseball country. I don’t know how they plan to pay for it or who is going to pay for it. But if You want to insult Me, that is fine also. I would just like to see your documented facts, that’s all. You want to be a pr***, Go right ahead. Also, please tell me where baseball country is, so I might visit there sometime.

  • Challengetheworld says:

    This is a great question, I have asked it myself many times. I’m not sure. It took a very long time for us to get our NFL team and NHL team. The NBA was here, then left, then came back. We are already a mecca for auto racing; I think if the right NC based company or businessman were to have the right setup, it could certainly happen. We do have many minor league baseball teams strewn about the state. Have you ever seen the Mudcats stadium? Its beautiful, and, in the middle of nowhere.

  • Straight Shooter says:

    The AAA Durham Bulls owned by a Raleigh business on the west side and the AA Carolina Mudcats on the east side of the metro area. Charlotte has a AAA team.

  • Guest461 says:

    There have already been TWO failed baseball ventures in this town. Thank goodness an entire stadium wasn’t built at the taxpayers expense for those. There’s fact number one, TWO total failures. You want to see a “passion” for baseball? Go to the midwest. Central Missouri for example. During baseball season, you can’t get access to a diamond anywhere without prior reservations months ahead. There are five-plexes all over the place. Every workforce from 7-11’s to MacDonalds to Union Electric Utilities has either a baseball or softball team. Every field is filled every night including spectators. With the minimal 40+ fields here, you rarely even find a game going on. If you do, nobody’s there watching it. Carolina Beach has 3 nice diamonds, the kids use them for soccer practice, but NO baseball games during the summer. The very same goes for Ogden Park. The very same goes for all of the high school fields….desolate during baseball season. Nobody goes to the college games, the Sharks, all basically unattended simply due to a LACK OF INTEREST. Are you getting jiggy yet?
    This isn’t fear, this is fact. The county at least has enough sense to realize this and is why they won’t participate. It would be political suicide for the commissioners. If a private venture wants to come in a build a stadium, go ahead. If Saffo wants to tax the city residents, so be it. Give the city residents discount tickets and surcharge all the rest. If it is believed that baseball is so popular here, then ticket sales will quickly make it shine and the investors will smile with profit.
    I AM a fan of the sport! I’ve lived in baseball country and know exactly what that is and exactly what that isn’t. I would personally love to see a stadium built and succeed as an investor based venture, but not some promotion of dead land that has been on the market forever and that nobody wants. And another marina? Why? The existing marinas are less than half full at best. The boat industry is near death due to the skyrocketing fuel costs. Even that isn’t fun anymore. The Self-serving interests of land owners and developers has already cost the city of Wilmington AND New Hanover County a blooming fortune. We simply do not need any more White Elephants!

  • Guestsmiley says:

    It’s about growth! Move it forward, I am so excited about a baseball stadium. Can’t wait! Bring it on!

  • Guest262626 says:

    What about the Wilmington Sharks. What happens to them. How many people go to those games.Also what about the UNCW team? Will the caliber of play be better than those two teams. UNCW always has a good team and how many people go to those games. Unless it is a AAA or major league team this will be a joke.I have seen many major league games in my lifetime and this will not even compare and will wear off after a couple of seasons.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    ….because we only have a collegiate level baseball team…

    …and you think Caitlin and Fulton are crazy?

    BTW, as far as jobs, most people were hoping for more than selling peanuts, beer, or hot dogs….and most taxpayers don’t want to pay $3.00 a month.

  • GuestFulton is full of it says:

    Fulton and Caitlin are wrong. This will not cost taxpayers $393 what kind of ignorant math are you using? Maybe $3 a month. Caitlin why are you against developing an eyesore downtown that will bring jobs and money to the region? It’s crazy thinking individuals like yourselves that cost our region the Catepillar plant. Get a clue and help bring jobs and economic growth to our area not stupid bullnosed policies that do nothing but hamper growth.

  • Challengetheworld says:

    I’m working on a petition that will somehow ban McCoy, Berger & Fulton from New Hanover & Brunswick Counties.

    Just kidding, but wouldn’t it be great?

  • Guest111 says:

    Thanks. I’ll pass this along.

  • Guest1111111 says:

    I’d sign it!

  • Guest111 says:

    Where can citizens go to sign the petition against the ball park?

  • Josh Fulton says:


    Here are some links to download the petition. You can get it back to us via the contact info on the sheet.

    You can also find downloadable copies at (tell your friends) and at

    Stadium petition:

    Limiting city spending petition:

    Increased transparency petition:

  • Challengetheworld says:

    I’m sure if you find out where McCoy or Fulton live you could find the petition. You know Ben McCoy, the guy who brought us Brian Berger. I’m sure we should all thank him for that anytime we get the chance.
    Fulton, the one who DID NOT get elected to city council because he has no experience what so ever.

  • Scott Kenan says:

    Up my certified “Kenan Family” BEHONKUS!!!


  • frontpaige says:

    The majority of Wilmington taxpayers do not want to buy a baseball stadium on the downtown riverfront. Private investors should shoulder the project and the land should remain on the tax books, adding to the tax base, not taking from it. This tax burden will be ongoing.
    Build a ball stadium without tax dollars, maintain a ball stadium without tax dollars, and without removing valuable property from the paying tax base. Home run.

  • Guestin says:

    Just like the convention center everyone voted against it and it was built so you should thank the saffo supporters this is there fault. P.S. I am anti saffo, if I wasnt anti government I would run and be a honest politician which there is never have happened

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    The “Pro-baseball Crowd” is not being led by any die-hard baseball fans or even Mandalay, but by Wilmington Downtown, Inc., a cabal of politicians’ cronies with a proven track record of taking large sums of taxpayer money and producing little beyond interest-free payaday loans to its employees.

    Scott and Kevin, PLEASE stay on top of the personal relationships and money as this unfolds. It already stinks to high heaven, and is apparently taking on a life unto itself as it morphs into an already done deal!

  • Guest11111111111111 says:

    the pro-baseball crowd is not led by WDI. You conspiracy theory curmudgeons, spread your lies elsewhere.

  • Guest2020 says:

    If Mr. Abrams is so willing to give up his money, why doesn’t he just pay for it?

  • Guest461 says:

    …resides on the top of your certified “Kenan Family” shoulders, correct? You make it completely obvious that money certainly doesn’t buy class! Nice work Scott!!! I’ll bet mamma’s proud of you!

  • CHallengetheworld says:


    Thank you for your comment, I feel the same way. In comparison I think you have way more class than FultonBergerMcCoy Incorporated.

    I bet they all have proud “mamma’s” too…

  • Guest mom says:

    I am in favor of a baseball stadium in Wilmington. We need jobs, we need something to draw tourists to the area, we need something to make downtown more attractive and family friendly. I believe a baseball stadium would accomplish all three.

    Also, the stadium could be used for concerts and community events. This is a plus, since we currently have no facility to accomodate such events. An afternoon at the ballpark is a wonderful, affordable family activity.

    My family has gone all the way to Atlanta to see the Braves play,and also to Myrtle Beach to watch the Pelicans play(the stadium was filled to near capacity each time.) And guess what, each time we spent money on restaurants, hoteld and attraction in the area.

    “If we build it, they will come.” It takes vision to dream of great things, but fear keeps us from achieving them.

    I say let the government officials grow up & work together (city & county) and research the effects of baseball on other communities and figure the costs versus benefits. It really frustrates me that counsultants get rich when we pay dearly for “feasibility studies”.

    I stongly suggest that local officials get a little creative and do their own reasearch without flying all over the country or hiring expensive consultants. They should search the internet and make phone calls –if you have trouble with this call a teenager to help.

    Anyway my vote is baseball %100 yes, feasabilty study %100 no.

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