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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.

“We always want to see more of the private investment go up as opposed to the public investment, but they’re also very clear this is going to be a public private partnership,” Saffo said.

Meanwhile, Rich Neumann with Mandalay Baseball Properties asks opponents to the stadium plan to wait until the proposal is presented to the city.

“Let the city and their advisors vet the proposal, question us, validate it, negotiate, whatever they need to do to protect your interests, and then they’ll have a decision to make,” Neumann said.

The private financing group says it will present its proposal to City Council and city staff in approximately 30 days.


Comment on this Story

  • Simple one

    Building the stadium would be a great addition to ILM. If a franchise wants to conduct business in our city we should welcome it. We dont have to pay for it, but we should want “$$” from outside our local area coming to our area. There would be an inital bubble. But the long term benefits, would be a complete downtown skyline, with jobs, a robust youth and middle class. The convention center would have more allure and use. The stadium could be used for public school sporting events. It would create more options with the movie industry, keeping them coming back. If residents pay tax’s to create this in part or whole, tax payers should receive dividends. Companies producing textiles and factory jobs, would be more likely to move to ILM if they had something more to do then stare at the ocean. Although it is a great ocean. The stadium will attract more tourists to our community. Tourists spending there money in our economy = growth, jobs, sustainment. When the economy goes stagnent we just pass around our money to each other and growth is very slow and very long term.

    I say build it. Give them a tax break to build it. Ensure they use 75% of NC residents to build it. Higher local companies to support the stadiums needs. Furthermore, a stadium build on the river would help clean up the older leftover industry not used anymore and replace it by building the NEW WILMINGTON on the roots of the old.


  • Michael

    Sign me up to and my three kids

  • Guest2020

    They say it will be funded privately, but there will be an undetermined amount of taxpayer money involved. It does sound merely like smoke and mirrors to try to fool the people of Wilmington. Don’t buy into this political trick. But, of course, if the people of Wilmington would quit electing the idiots that gave them the convention center against the people’s will, then Wilmington wouldn’t have to deal with this nonsense. If I was a betting woman, I would wager that Saffo gets re-elected the next time in spite of his broken promises and his insistence that this stadium get built on the backs of the taxpayers.

  • Guest2020

    An undetermined amount of taxpayer money is to be involved. That is not beneficial to a municipality that is struggling to meet its existing obligations and needs.

  • Guest20202

    They don’t care about the people’s vote. The people of Wilmington voted against the convention center at least two times. They didn’t listen then and they won’t listen now.

  • Chad Adams

    The Charleston Riverdogs play at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park The stadium is named after Charleston’s longest serving (and current) mayor, Joseph P. Riley, Jr.. The stadium replaced College Park. It was built in 1997 and seats 6,000.
    It was built in 1997 for the current equivalent of $28.2m (1997 dollars – $19.5m).
    The Charleston Riverdogs have at times boosted attendance by giving spectators bobbleheads of such political luminaries as George W. Bush, John Kerry, Barack Obama, John McCain and Alvin Greene.
    Charleston has a population roughly 50% larger than Wilmington’s at 351,482 according to the 2010 census. Will be tough to get numbers even close to Charlestons which are not consistently high.
    On April 11th, they only had 2,682 fans on hand, they did get over 6,000 on April 7th, but that was the exception rather than the rule and have gone downhill since.
    When built in 1996, citizens were told that eventually it would probably be Double-A ball and it has never come to pass.
    According to the Post & Courier, “To secure this idyllic spot along the river for this ballpark took monumental wheeling and dealing. It involved land swaps and tax manipulations and all the other tricks of the trade that (Mayor) Riley has learned along the way.” Sounds familiar. . . .
    All that glitters is not gold and I am yet hopeful that we’ll have some fact driven conversations instead of vague half answers.

  • SurfCityTom

    what do you not understand?

    The area around the Durham park was blighted and infested with run down old factories and tobacco warehouses.

    Of course the construction and investments would force property values up on run down properties, many of which were abandoned.

    Those are not found in the areas where the Wilmington facility will be built.

    You refer to “…those of us who know how projects like this go…”

    You’ve shown just how little about economics and finance you really know.

    Not even a good try.

  • SurfCityTom

    to a minor league game in your life. Why not drive up to Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Richmond, or Norfolk and see how many youth jerseys and ball caps are out on fan bodies.

    What was your point other than to sow disension?

    HaHaHa — the pure sound of a fool who has no wit or sense of fact about him.

    You must be a Yankee.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    You have to wonder, however, who is paying for the road inprovements, the exit ramps, the signs, the increased parking facilities, the additional man hours required by WPD to direct traffic, and all the other additional infrastructure that MIGHT bring in some money in the short term.

    Yes, one thing that hasn’t been mentioned is that these minor league teams are remarkably similar to a state lottery. Initial turnout is fantastic, but once the newness wears thin, so does the attendance. Anyone who attended an Indians game when they were in Kinston AND on a losing streak knows that there was a LOT of room to stretch out in the grandstands.

    But heck, as long as the county stays out of it and my taxes aren’t impacted, you guys can build anything your little hearts desire, anything that makes you happy. It will simply make the rest of us fight annexation that much harder to keep from becoming part of a city with already excessive levels of debt and taxation, likely getting worse if this nonsense goes through.

  • Guest Mary

    Better yet, pre-sale the 1st 5 years season tickets for the price of the ballpark and see who ‘steps up to the plate’.there you go!solved.no more discussion.if the tickets sell there’s your money.

  • Guest _wil

    Everyone: Wilmington already committed to a 25 million dollar annual recurring building and employee expense that you have to pay for ie…it’s called the Wilmington Police Department! Along with the new buildings to relocate the public housing from Greenfield St. to brand new multi-unit apartments next door to the police department. You already own the cow, you already spent your money! Here’s the yearly expense link in black and white figures – http://www.wilmingtonnc.gov/portals/0/documents/Finance/Budget/FY%2010-11/Adopted%20Budget/6%20PUBLIC%20SAFETY.pdf

  • GuestIvi icicle

    Who buys a jersey of a minor league team????

    Parking might cost $5.
    Hot dogs are typically $2-3 at minor lg games.
    Cokes are $3.
    You might spend $60, if you’re splurging. And kids under 12 will be around $6-10 tickets, not full price.

    Be smart, and you’re looking at around $50. For a family night out.

    Is a nice dinner at applebees less? No
    Movies? Nope
    Bowling? Nada
    Putt putt? Nahhhh

    It’s the perfect summer night out for a family at possibly the cheapest expense compared to other family outings. Unless you’re an idiot and buy a JERSEY! Hahaha a jersey to a Minor league team. How stupid.

  • guesty

    Put it to a vote? You must be joking. Just like the convention center that had/still has many people opposed to it wasn’t put to a vote. Slick saffo will just shove it on the taxpayers and sit back with greasy hair and that silly smug look on his face.

  • guesty

    Just don’t use tax money to pay for it.

  • ChefnSurf

    Opinions are like sphincters, everybody’s got one, and has a right to have one. The tone of those opinions recently has really upped the ante for craziness to the level of the surreal. And just when I thought Wilmington had maxed out on all of that, we now have a press conference where the message seemed to be that a press conference will be held in thirty days. Kind of like someone saying “You need to have a plan” and the response being “We have a plan. Our plan is to develop a plan”.

    I know there’s more to it than just that, but when someone says ” Really, it’s a math problem, and we haven’t done the math, so it would be really premature for me to say that”, the size of the elephant in the room really crowds out everything else. Why not do the math first and then have a press conference?

    Real information trumps hyperbole every time.

  • jj


    There are plenty of local teams that are just as exciting. You have 4 high school teams, America Legion, Sharks and UNCW. When was the last time you went to any of these? Ticket prices are far below $11 a pop and these teams are trying to win.

    I supported the Rosters when they played here. Until the night a pitcher had a no hitter going in the seventh with the score 0 to 6. The coach pulled the pitcher to allow a pitcher that needed rehab to pitch. The rosters ended up losing 12 to 7.

    That was my last Rosters game.


    What is wrong with using Legion Stadium?

  • jj

    Simple solution if the people in office had a brain.. Let the people vote on this. Lets get the people that will make money on this out of the picture. If it passes by vote then it is what the people want.

  • Ten Can

    No better than a curve to confuse the hitter/public on who going to foot the bill.

  • SurfCityTom

    Most folks are not opposed to baseball or a stadium. They are opposed to public tax dollars being used to fund the stadium construction.

    I’ve been to the Charleston baseball stadium when down there. Be honest, there is a stark difference between its location and where the City leaders propose to place the Wilmington stadium. For that matter, look at any stadium — Richmond, Winston Salem, Greensboro, or Durham, for starters. They are all located in areas which were not considered “prime” real estate; and the stadiums did cause surrounding areas to improve in appearance, safety, and tax values.

    Let’s not forget the stadium naming rights and the fees associated. Winston Salem and Greensboro are both named for banks, BB&T and New Bridge.

    Now take your numbers. A Family of 4 @ $11 per pop is $44. Throw in a few hot dogs and non-alcoholic beverages, maybe a program souvenir or 2, maybe a couple of jerseys, and parking, this family outing for 4 is now well north of $100 for about 3 hours; and that assumes Mom & Dad do not imbibe with a couple of cold brewskies.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think baseball is great and would be great in Wilmington. When in Richmond, I saw Dave Justice, Chipper Jones, Deon Sanders, and a host of others in the Braves organization during the 80s.

    And while we’re on the topic of baseball, don’t forget the Wilmington Sharks. Great baseball at a fraction of the cost.

  • Guest?

    Where do I sign up? Count me in!

  • Guest111

    Lynchburg is actually being backfield with a Braves team who’s contract has expired.

  • Guestqqqqqqqqqq

    Help bring a stadium to Wilmington


  • Truthseeker

    So lets see. City residents get to pay while adjoining counties, visitors get to enjoy our efforts. Yea, that makes a lot of sense. Let the minority pay for the majority. This should be completely private and cost paid for by ticket and concession revenue. Charge what you want. If people think it is so great they will pay. What happens if the private part folds? City residents and only city residents get stuck withe tab. As long as you idiots keep putting Saffo and his minions in next we will be paying for all council members to ride in limos. Wilmington you must wake up and vote these stooges out who want to use taxes for private enterprise. Presently at the Azalea Festival social functions the bigwigs while drinking their tea and admiring each other are plotting. While their daughters walk around in their gardens wearing bloomers they are figuring how to get more tax payer money. This “Gone with the Wind” group are just greedy ass snobs and they can build that stadium with their money not taxpayers.

  • Kirk Giles

    I was in Charleston over the weekend visiting family. While there I took the kids out to the ball game. Ironically, The Charleston Riverdogs played the Rome Braves. The stadium was beautiful and had well over 6,000 people in the stands at $11 a pop. The kids got to see Big Leaguer Tim Hudson pitch on rehab for the Braves. This is a great thing for the city. Keep our money in our town. So we don’t have to watch a game in Myrtle Beach, Durham, Zebulon, or Charleston. We need this. The problem with this town it has to many Negative people and those same people is holding this town back, from being great. I can’t wait till Basebal comes. It’s about time..

  • Terry S

    Additional private investors, elimination of financing and construction risk for the city, greater access, more flexibility and better terms and financing structure to go along with an outstanding blend of local, regional and national project team. Very favorable developments…..well done to all. Very beneficial to area residents…..

  • Mario

    I’m in support of this project. Those of us who know how projects like this go understand that due to the size of it, the city/taxpayer will handle at least some of the costs.
    The bigger picture is the impact that stadiums have. Durham saw close to $900 million dollars of private investment in the area around its ballpark.
    If Wilmington is to succeed as a city and move forward it needs to invest in itself.
    Convention centers, stadiums, and the like come at a cost BUT are major catalysts for further growth…
    There is a new Marriot under construction in downtown Wilmington on the corner of Grace and Second Street. (Jobs!) That is a direct result of the convention center. There is also the Indigo planned as well as the 200+ room Embassy Suites. So those opposed to things before weighing all of the facts shouldn’t complain when they can’t find a job or the unemployment rates rise.

  • Yo

    If this were a AAA team then I’d be interested.
    Why build this new home for a single A team? All it does it drive out the Sharks and replace it with a marginally better team.

    Oh and what happens to the city where they came from, hosed I guess.

  • Farmer

    Dr. Robert Baade has been studying publicly funded sports teams since 1984. I will not speak for him. But the facts he presents are compelling enough for me to give a brief abstract of his published research: With few exceptions, the taxpayer always gets screwed when funding stadium projects. Period. Watch a youtube video. Read his books and articles on Google Books. Do not drink the Mandalay Kool-Aid. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFr_MlBi7Eg
    And when the consultant presents the “Feasibility Study”, the first question should be…..How many Feasibility Studies have you performed that DID NOT recommend a stadium? I guarantee that the answer will be ZERO. I have yet to find a Feasibility Study that came back negative in regards to Minor League Baseball. The protest should be Shoeless, because the FIX is in.
    And Starnews, fire your investigative reporters. An 8th grader could gumshoe this topic better than Sebens, Bowen, and McGrath.

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