Ballpark petition declared insufficient, council votes to move ahead with bond referendum

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Submitted: Wed, 07/11/2012 - 3:55am
Updated: Wed, 07/11/2012 - 7:44pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington voters, get ready for November. City Council voted unanimously to move the baseball bond referendum forward.

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, Wilmington City Clerk Penny Spicer-Sidbury declared the petition against a taxpayer-funded ballpark not sufficient because it lacked affidavits which are required by state law and city code according to the city attorney.

The city attorney also says that an affidavit would be required for everyone that brought the petition around to get it signed. Sidbury says she will not certify the petition.

As for the bond referendum discussion, City Councilman Kevin O’Grady says that the $42 million number that has been thrown around is going to be a lot less. He said he didn’t believe anyone on council would approve such a high price tag.

“The dollar amount that everyone will get to vote on, if we get to that point, will be very different,” O’Grady said. “It’s not going to be $42 million. It’s going to be a lot less that that. I doubt anybody up here would vote to put $42 million up.”

Mayor Pro-tem Earl Sheridan says council will be looking at several options.

“I think that was one of the things that came out in the report that National Sports [did] that there were some stadiums in some other places that were less in price and I think council will be looking at the possibility of one that is less than that $42 million mark that was noted,” Sheridan said.

A special Wilmington City Council meeting will be held July 24 to set a public hearing date before their August 7 deadline to give the bond final approval.

According to city spokeswoman Malissa Talbert, during their closed session meeting City Council instructed staff to negotiate for the possible purchase of a downtown property for a baseball stadium. The property has been identified as #10 Harnett Street, which is the old Almont Property on the riverfront that is owned by Riverfront Holdings II, LLC.


  • Vog46 says:

    Try reading it again Duke.
    Back in April there was NO liability to the city for building the stadium. This was to be totally funded by private investment.
    Now the city is apparently on the hook for MOST of the money.
    What happened Duke?
    What happened to the $40M of private investment funds that would have paid for the stadium. C’mon Duke what do you think?
    It was only 3 months ago that they had enough investors to pay for the stadium.
    Eh Duke?
    I would’ve gladly supported a stadium under those circumstances Duke.
    But when the PRIVATE sector pulls out of something and asks the government to step in and do it for THEM then I have to wonder if something is rotten in Denmark.
    Something spooked the private investors
    Spooked Raeford Trask
    Spooked the Camerons into publicly stating no city funds to be used.
    We need to be suspicious and go into this with eyes wide open.
    But I go back to April – it was paid for then but far from it now.
    The cost to the city has to go BACK to ZERO -back to where it was ORIGINALLY.
    This deal stinks more and more and more……..

    Best Regards

  • Vog46 says:

    I was under the impression that the only taxes the city could affect were property taxes.
    Any other tax changes would require county or state approval
    Am I wrong about this?

    Best Regards

  • Rick Wilson says:

    Amen! But the County Commissioners could still vote to include the county tax payers in on this project. Come election time better make sure where the people you vote for stand.

  • Wildbats says:


    It really depends on how they did the poll… WWAY’s online polling does not prevent multiple votes. With a public proxy or proxy software someone could crank up 100’s of votes. I actually witnessed this on the poll about “How do you think the petition against a taxpayer-funded ballpark will affect the future of the Sharks and Hammerheads?” I watched votes matched vote for vote; “I think it will vs. I think it won’t”, with over 100 votes being placed during 1 hour late on a Friday evening (yes, I don’t have a life).

    Just saying – WWAY polls may not be a valid indication of what the general population of Wilmington really wants.

    What would be really good (and I think Councilwomen Padgett said this) if the City (or 3rd party) would conduct a proper poll. Key would be providing the pros (yes there are some – like $42M could really kick start the construction industry here in Wilmington which IMHO we really need – see note above on having a life) and cons to the stadium so the people really understand both sides to the question.

  • 1981duke says:

    Vog–seats do not= capacity.
    Mandalay was proposing 6299 capacity,1400 are lawn seats,not chairbacks.
    At 3500 chairbacks,might be very close to 6299 capacity,depends on lawn and “suite” seats.
    But—seats do not= capacity.

  • GuestConfused says:

    The city council voted to put this on the ballot in November but you still aren’t happy? What a bunch of negative nancies. I thought what the did was a good thing. Would you people rather not have the chance to vote on it? Guess there is just no pleasing some people.

  • Joshua Fulton says:

    Some people are saying that if our petition didn’t meet the requirements of the city charter, then we should simply throw it out and start a new one. That’d be a valid point, if our petition actually didn’t meet the requirements of the city charter.

    Here is what the charter says:

    “It [the petition] shall also be accompanied by the affidavit of one or more legal voters of the city, stating that the signers thereof were, at the time of the signing, legal voters of the city, and stating the number of signers at the time the affidavit was made.”

    That’s the total description. It clearly does not say that every signature must have an affidavit, but the petition itself, which we’re more than willing to provide.

    Also, I just want to make it clear that even though a referendum will be on the budget about a bond for baseball does not mean that city council will not be able to build a stadium even if it’s voted down. They could use enterprise bonds (like they did with the convention center); they could use tax increment financing or whatever things they have up their sleeves. That’s why we still need the petition.

  • Peyton Garrett says:

    I guess the moral of this story is to know what you are doing when submitting a petition. McCoy and Fulton should have known the correct procedure for filing before wasting their own time and that of anyone else who participated in what turns out to be a mute effort. Just consulting legal counsel would have been the prudent thing to do but not Ben. He knows it all. You really can’t make this up. Council knew they had screwed the pooch all along. That photo of Ben and Josh that was front page of the Star News should be re-posted. This time with some egg on their faces. What a joke.

  • Guest7969 says:

    AGAIN thank the NC Legislature for anti annexation laws…THANK YOU JESUS I don’t have to put up with these idiots!

  • RSimmons says:

    While I think they both are a couple of pests I’ll give them props for forcing the council to call a referendum. Other than Laura Padgett there was no support of putting this up for a referendum until Ben and Josh started the petition drive. The residents of the city of Wilmington will have now have the chance to decide for themselves if they want a stadium. Fair enough

  • Guest7969 says:

    Safo likes Chicago politics…he won’t let those pesky laws get in the way!

  • Vog46 says:

    Here’s why some people are anti baseball.
    From April 11 2012:

    WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Securing financing for a proposed baseball stadium will no longer fall on Wilmington’s shoulders. Today, the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball Properties announced the ballpark would be financed and constructed privately. Even so, it will still require an uncertain amount of taxpayer dollars.

    “We’ve been able to form a development team with extensive national experience to create a private financed and construction proposal for a new ballpark in Wilmington,” Braves Executive VP for Business Operations Mike Plant.

    A privately-financed ballpark means two things: developers could secure a 30-year loan, which would reduce the annual payments, and the city will not take on the construction and financing risks. But this does not mean the private sector will actually cover all the costs. Taxpayers are still on the hook, but for how much?

    Raiford Trask, one of the developers who stepped up to the plate to help finance the project, is not sure.

    “Really, it’s a math problem, and we haven’t done the math, so it would be really premature for me to say that,” Trask, President of Wilmington’s Trask Land Company said. “It’s gonna have to work. We all know it’s gonna have to work for all parties involved.”

    A recent WWAY/Big Talker FM/Civitas Institute poll found 86 percent of Wilmington voters do not want a taxpayer-funded stadium. Mayor Bill Saffo does not know yet how much the private partnership would bring to the table.

    This whole thing started off as being mostly paid for by private investors. Now according to just about everyone concerned private investment is limited or non existent.
    This is why we’re against baseball. It’s NOT the game itself or the team – heck most fans here are Atlanta or Yankee fans.
    The problem for us is within the story:

    “A recent WWAY/Big Talker FM/Civitas Institute poll found 86 percent of Wilmington voters do not want a taxpayer-funded stadium.”

    We WANT baseball. If Atlanta wants to play here let them = with them bearing the majority of the financial burden, as originally proposed. If private finaincing has fallen apart – no big deal – go away.
    But to go from paying a small amount to paying for a large amount is a disingenuous arguing tactic by Atlanta an pro baseball proponents.

    “A recent WWAY/Big Talker FM/Civitas Institute poll found 86 percent of Wilmington voters do not want a taxpayer-funded stadium.”

    Best Regards

  • bob says:

    penny spicer-sidbury is having a hard time getting her lies straight .

    she gives differing reasons on wway, wect and star news .

  • Guest7969 says:

    with the BRAVES name in regards to this little venture…the Braves AREN’T COMING HERE…they will NEVER PLAY HERE…their pop warner team is…

  • 1981duke says:

    But you still do not know intracacies of the deal nor Tax-Payer liability,which will be held for “sensationalism”.
    A good schock for the community.

  • Vog46 says:

    Saffo said that at $32M there had to be a lot more skin in the game from Mandalay/Atlanta. Now we’re “up to” a $42M bond
    The landowner wants at least $6M for the property
    42 – 6 = $36M. This is no different from the $33 to $36M back in May
    Lets assume the builder can chop $6M off the price which leaves us with $30M. This is not a whole lot different from the $32M that Saffo was saying required a LOT more of Atalantas skin in the game. In addition, this guy wants to build a 3500 seat stadium which is far less than the original proposal from mandalay/NSS of a 6204 seat stadium(pg 72 NSS report). This is 45% smaller than originally proposed.

    But according to Mandalay private investment was off the table (for them) and that the city would have to develop a partnership to build the stadium. There was very little of that discussion at last nights meeting which leads me to believe that they are now forced to downsize the stadium.

    The discrepancies are beginning to mount in the various stories and costs…….something is beginning to stink here…..

    Best Regards

  • Guestwit says:

    Wearing a suit doesn’t give you class= self serving and arrogant- but we get what we deserve. Saffo’s arrogance and Davis conceit are our own fault. Whether it’s airlie gardens or a convention center or a stadium clear examples of what is wrong in Wilmington. Throw in little Ricky Catlin and we truly do have the three stooges. Their jokes but our money!

  • SJ says:

    Wilmington made it in the NY Times a year ago.

    I advise everyone, specifically the City Council and proponents of this stadium to read this article again and explain how spending $42M or any money on a stadium makes any fiscal sense. How does this type of transaction not move Wilmington one step closer to bankruptcy? Seriously, this does not take an MBA grad or CPA to figure it out. Just read a few highlights from the article:

    “But like local governments across the country, the City of Wilmington has been demonstrably diminished by five years of unyielding economic despair. That a place like Wilmington, until recently a real estate boom town, would defer a purchase as essential as a fire truck for even one year, much less five, speaks to the withering toll.”

    Again, this was one year ago. The Mayor, Council and proponents of this stadium need to address each issue in the article and explain how this makes any sense. If its a great investment, then private investors would be writing the check yesterday. Its not. Please do not make this town look pathetic.

  • Vog46 says:

    Here’s what we DO know.
    Back in April the city was going to have to pay very little as it would be privately financed.
    Now we may be on the hook for $10M? $20M? or maybe even $30M????
    What happened Chuck?
    All your private investors ran away?

    The more I research, the more this story stinks! Too many changes to the story lines here.
    This is what happens when people get desperate to push an agenda.

    Best Regards

  • Guest 10101 says:

    … you still don’t seem to know the intricacies of sentence structure, spelling or rational thought, not to mention reality.

    A good “schlock” for the community.

  • Guest2020 says:

    Things started stinking the second that Saffo backed down from his campaign promise to say “no” to a taxpayer funded stadium.

  • Guest2020 says:

    Mr. Fulton, I applaud your efforts and I definitely think that there is some dirty pool going on where your petition is concerned. If you do still have enough fight in you to start up another petition, I encourage you to change the language somewhat so that it is clear enough that Legion Stadium and existing teams in Wilmington are not affected. I agree that a bond referendum isn’t strong enough to prevent the council from building the stadium, so if anyone has the fortitude to try another petition, I think that’s the best way to go at this time.

  • Katherine says:

    Vog, Saffo just said the developer wants $12 million for the property. Now, that’s probably his “starting price”, but I’ve heard he has no intention of selling it for half that.
    You also need to make up a very big number to cover site clean up. Almont Shipping sat on that site for years, and Almont used the site to store bulk chemicals and fertilizers. Before that, I understand there was some other environmentally un-friendly business there. Bottom line, that site is going to be contaminated and they’re going to have to clean it up before they can build on it. Site remediation is PRICEY, as in possibly MILLIONS. That’s why all that property sits unused and unwanted along the river. The price to clean it up makes it unattractive to investors but Uncle Bill doesn’t care about that, armed with taxpayers’ money.

  • Vog46 says:

    AS I said McCoy Fultons resolution will not be on the ballot. This leaves this project, the stadium, and its cost whatever it turns out to be. This will clarify this for the voters – all they will vote on is this expenditure and this property tax increase.
    And it wasn’t me that brought up how M/F would impact the
    Sharks and Hammerheads – the city itself said we don’t know how it would impact them. And yes Duke I’m well aware that they pay for use of the stadiums.
    Oh and the highs schools? They DO get a free ride I’m glad you brought that up. This means that given the choice between free ride and paying to use the new stadium means they will chose???????? Yeah they’ll use their ball fields. OOOOoopps there goes ANOTHER non tenant use down the drain. NO Sharks, No Hammerheads, No high school, no UNCW.
    BTW Chuck since you don’t pay taxes here what is your vested interest in this stadium? Your support has been unwavering to the point of being nauseating. Since you ARE NOT a taxpayer here you won’t have to pay for it, whereas we will. Sorry to say this but as a non taxpayer here your arguments have lost all credibility.
    But like many other supporters you still haven’t come up with a response to:
    The debacle of the PORT CITY ROOSTERS
    and now
    It was gonna be paid for in full in April with private investments. Now its gonna cost the city dearly – probably MOST of the costs. What happened?

    The deal is slipping away Chuck. The best shot you had was when it was paid for. The more it costs the city, the less likely it is to be passed by voters – but keep in mind that all 3 major media outlets reported back in April that “Construction of the stadium wouldn’t cost the city a dime”. Why did ALL the private investors back away?

    Best Regards

  • OhTheThingsIKnow says:

    The rah-rah baseball crowd – all three of them – won’t be able to use this scare tactic any longer. They have effectively lost one of their biggest weapons.

    I think the poll here is the best indicator of what people REALLY think about this. Chuck, Terry, Saffo and Council aren’t going to like November.

  • 1981duke says:

    @Vog—wrong again,the City attorney has ruled on “petition language” and it’s impact.
    Also I have copies of Hammerheads,Sharks,Tigers agreements as well as NHC Middle-High Schools.
    The only entities that ride free are NHC SCHOOLS.
    Pro teams will always pay,if petition becomes ordinance it might limit teams using Legion Complex or raise costs sizeably.
    The Sharks pay $475.00 per game,Hammerheads $850.00 per game.
    This way “under market”.
    And 800,000 of Field turf just laid in 2011 and as you can see these team fees are “miniscule”.
    As far as surveys WWAY/STAR NEWS/WECT are not good examples as data is un-scientific.
    A great conversation piece,but has zero business application,example on WWAY poll I have voted 5 times,on same topic the last 2 days.
    Bad Examples-keep trying

  • 1981duke says:

    And plan is to fill it up,not “3′.

  • guesty says:

    Just plow ahead no matter how many “icebergs” city council has seen. Then look confused when it starts to sink.

  • joe28403 says:

    dear city council
    what are your plans after all of you are voted out in 2013

  • Guest22000 says:

    Give me a break…
    “hey, we can’t wait to vote out city council in November. What will they do then?” They’ll do the same thing they were doing, show up to meetings unlike your fellow residents who can’t even show up to vote.
    So instead of blowing a lot of hot air all over your monitor, start knocking on your neighbors doors and make sure they show up at the polls in November.

  • 1981duke says:

    Without advadavits,can those who gathered the actual signatures be considered valid? This is a MAJOR miscue but a law that has to be enforced,so what next?
    Right now,not on November ballott.
    Stay tuned,much nore to come as the continuing Saga and Drama continues.

  • Vog46 says:

    This actually clarifies the situation. The petition was worded in such a way as to not be clear if it would affect the Sharks and the Hammerheads.
    Now what the voters will be voting on is this stadium, this project, ONLY. It will turn into a straight up and down vote on whether the city will spend ANY money on this project.
    So look at the non scientific poll on WWAYs homepage.
    75% of the respondents voted for the city to spend NO MONEY on the stadium.

    What will be interesting now is to see how much less the project will cost and what Saffo and gang will say. The voters are very suspicious of this group of elected officials, and are very much in favor of not spending money for non essential things – and a ball park is certainly not essential in spite of what supporters say.
    I did note that no one talked private investors much. All the talk was on eliminating certain things from the building to make it cheaper. Atlanta will have to chip in quite a bit to make this even remotely palatable to voters if WWAYs poll is any indication.

    Best Regards

  • Guest22 says:

    We the People, opening words from a document which is fading into obscurity.

  • Guester says:

    Apparently only see what they want to see. If they had actually read the charter, they would have seen what was required. Instead they just completely botched and confused this initiative. Nice work.

  • eGuest says:

    They have property that was won in a court case to be exact 65 acres right off independence blvd why are they not using this talk about cost cutting they already own just saying ball field plenty of free parking easy in and out and would not have more traffic downtown that what we all want right

  • Guest9743 says:

    Some things such as gathering signatures on a petition and having all the proper documents (affidavits) to make it legitimate should be left to grown ups!!!!

  • 1981duke says:

    Adults might be needed if young adults,with petitions act like children

  • TPM says:

    You have to wonder how much Mandalay is greasing the wallets of the elected officials on this one. They are dead set on this, no matter what the citizens want. They have been fighting the petition ever since it began, and will continue to find excuses on why they will not validate it. This is going to happen unless we vote these people out and show Mandalay that we don’t want to pay for their stadium.

  • 1981duke says:

    Mandalay is not greasing any pockets,does not have to as long as the”opposition” keeps botching up things.
    The petition,improperly worded,may have forged signatures,and is not even administratively correct.
    This is comical,Mandalay and Braves,NSS have been professional since day one.The opposition are true “amateurs”.

  • GuestHuh? says:

    How can you say “no matter what the citizens want?” That’s why the council voted to put it on a ballot. Do you understand that means that people will be able to vote on it in November? If you wanted to eliminate all the pro sports in Wilmington, you should have gotten someone who actually could read and understand the entire charter. Thought they had an attorney to help with their little petition…

  • Carol Kramer says:

    Listen, the little people had better dot every i and cross every t or these guys will be able to justify stopping you from moving against them. Why, when the petition was first submitted and the signatures were scrutinized, wasn’t the issue of the missing affidavits addressed by the City Clerk? Were they running out the clock? Is there time to redo the petition?

    Here’s another classic tactic…throw out an obscene dollar figure like 42 MILLION DOLLARS, then revise it down to something less obscene like 24 MILLION DOLLARS and then grand stand about how they are responsible, even prudent stewards of OUR money.

  • Vog46 says:

    Keep in mind the following:
    McCoy and Fulton (M/F)screwed up and the city exploited this but no matter which way you slice it and dice it M/F pointed out thousands of people who were against public funding for this stadium to be used by a privately owned team. M/F did this without advertising where they were and when they’d be collecting signatures. If they had advertised the turnout would have been much much higher IMHO.
    The poster who said its $42M now but at $24M they’ll “Look” responsible is absolutely right – it’s all about perception.
    But perception is a two edged sword. But when polls indicate spending no money is what the majority wants then $24M still “looks” excessive. When voters travel over poorly maintained city roads to vote on an entertainment bond referendum they will vote “no”.
    Generally speaking, most people are asking elected officials to hold the line on spending at Federal, state and local levels. City officials are well aware of this and could have targeted downtown for another special tax to help pay for this through a revenue bond but apparently they don’t want to, or can’t. So far all that is talked about is property taxes or general obligation bonds. Given the mood of the electorate asking ALL the voters to pay MORE taxes is a very bad move for the city to make.
    Our elected officials will find this out in November.
    But as far as M/F are concerned? They did what they thought was right and they got their wrist slapped for it.
    If this was SUCH a GOOD deal private investors would be paying for it

    Best Regards

  • Guest7969 says:

    NO it doesn’t mean the voters get to decide…they get to decide on using BONDS…but the COW could STILL use other means!…and COW rules it appears says you need ONE AFFIDAVIT…they aren’t playing by their own rules!

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