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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY’S “THE RANT” FROM NEWS DIRECTOR SCOTT PICKEY) — First, let me be absolutely clear, the WWAY NewsChannel 3 Newsroom is neither pro nor anti baseball or ballpark. It’s our ultimate goal to just cover the story as it progresses and keep Cape Fear residents, as well as the taxpayers of Wilmington, informed.

However, it’s also our job to ask tough questions of our leaders and last night’s city council meeting left me with a list of them.

The five attending council members discussed hiring Ripken Design to help them conduct a feasibility study to see if building a baseball stadium in Wilmington makes any sense. The Assistant City Manager told council no one on the city staff was qualified to do the study in-house, and felt Ripken was the best choice of the six viable companies that applied for the job.

After the presentation, Councilman Charlie Rivenbark nipped at the staff, insinuating they had taken too long to make this proposal. He then rhetorically mused that it was a waste of time hiring a firm in the first place. He said the city already had enough information, it should just hire someone to sift through it and make a recommendation. Charlie, where did that “information” come from if the city has done no due diligence to date? Mandalay Entertainment perhaps? Isn’t that the company that wants to BUILD the stadium here? Do you really think their research would be an unbiased resource for you to make an informed decision? I also thought you all promised that nothing would be done without thorough research that would be presented to the public? Did Mandalay’s self-imposed deadline for an agreement to get done trump that promise?

Then Councilman Kevin O’Grady spoke up, saying Mandalay didn’t like Ripken because some proprietary information might have to be shared. You see, both Mandalay and Ripken run minor league baseball teams. He said he’d talked to Mandalay that very morning, and they were insistent that they didn’t want to work with Ripken. So he suggested going with the second group on the city staff’s list so they wouldn’t rock the boat with Mandalay so soon in the relationship. Kevin, who’s selling who here? Which are you more concerned about, your relationship with a company that’s trying to get you to buy in to building and buying a new ballpark (whether short-term or long-term, you can bet that even with “private financiers,” the taxpayers of Wilmington will end up owning that stadium eventually) – or making an informed and educated decision that’s in the best interest of the people of Wilmington? And didn’t city staff say Ripken was THE BEST firm that applied to do the job?

Councilwoman Margaret Haynes then had a suggestion that sounded pretty good for about 30 seconds. She thinks Mandalay and The Atlanta Braves should pay for the due diligence study. They’ve got the money and brain power all lined up already, why shouldn’t they just do this too? Margaret, have you ever been to a department store, tried something on, and then asked the clerk if she thought it looked good on you? Have you ever bought a used car and asked the salesman if it runs good? OF COURSE IT DOES!!! So what do you think the answer’s going to be if Mandalay does your feasibility study to answer the question, “Is baseball in Wilmington a good idea?” OF COURSE IT IS!

Finally, a tough question for all seven members of our beloved council. Is the prospect of a single A ball team associated with the glamorous Atlanta Braves playing in a glitzy brand new stadium so sexy and cool that it could potentially cloud your judgment? Or do you feel that, despite being courted, wined and dined by big leaguers, you can still make a rational, informed and educated decision that’s in the best interest of this city? I’m sure the taxpayers would like to know the answer.


Comment on this Story

  • Terry S

    The Ripken organization is an owner/operator of minor team league teams and stands in direct competition with Mandalay in that line of business – NSS is not an owner/operator. In order for the project manager to do the kind of professional and comprehensive evaluation that Wilmington area residents deserve, they are going to have to make detailed inquiries into Mandalay’s sales and promotion strategies, game day operations and administration. In addition, to assess their worthiness as a partner to enter into a multi-million dollar, long term commitment with the city, we are going to want a complete analysis of their condidential financial position.

    The disclosure of privileged and confidential information to a direct competitor clearly provides them competitive advantage. Inasmuch as we had another well-qualified alternative for the job, it is completely unreasonable to ask one of our future business partners to provide such info to his competitors….the very notion that that is a good idea defies all reason. It just makes no sense at all….

  • Guest111

    The citizens should have the RIGHT TO VOTE ON THIS.

  • Single A?

    This is a Aingle A team we are talking about right? Who is going to go see a Single A team play?

  • guest134793

    Did they Terry? From what I have seen and read, the Council didn’t make the decision at all. That is what you are missing! The Braves and Mandalay made the decision. Phone calls made to Council the morning of said they would not work with the City if they selected Ripkin? That sounds a whole lot like the Braves made threats and the City allowed them to make the decision. So if you think the decision is the right one, that is fine, but let’s all be very clear about who made the decision.

    I voted for a City Council to look out for my best interests as a tax payer. I did not elect Bobby Cox. O’Grady is quoted in an article about not understanding Mandalay’s concerns yet he still acted on them?

    “They have expressed serious concerns about it; I don’t know if they are valid concerns or not and some of them I’m not really sure why.” – O’Grady

    If he doesn’t understand something, I don’t want him voting on something. As one of his constituents, I want him to understand “the why” before he votes — That is his job! His job is not to make make buddies with the Atlanta Braves.

    The Council has said that Mandalay didn’t want Ripkin because of proprietary information — what information is needed for a market analysis and site selection? Last time i checked, demographics are public information and stadiums take up the same amount of acreage. back. door. hand. shakes. The council is concerned about getting off on the wrong foot with a potential 30 year partner? How about worrying about your relationship with the community that has already lived here for 30 years and more? Right now it is clear that the allure of making the Braves happy is higher priority.

  • Guest1212

    Well now that i know that this will only be a single A ball team it really makes it easy to decide. UNCW baseball will probably be a better caliper of ball. As a matter of fact I would rather watch Ashley at Hoggard than a single A game. When pros do their rehab in the minors it is not in single A. For those who have grown up going to major league parks this will not satisfy your appetite. By the way how will this affect attendance at Seahawk games??

  • SurfCityTom

    1. Ripkin was going to look at site selection, construction costs, and revenue required to operate at a break even point. Mandalay would have no need to disclose any information concerning how they operate a team; although frankly that is probably known through various media sources as well as public records.

    2. Ripkin had agreed, in writing, not to compete in the area for an extended time period.

    3. Could it be the real reason was the likelihood they would recommend a site location other than the over priced water front site?

  • Guest7969

    The BEST DEAL..is that taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for a ball field DOOMED TO FAIL!

  • Terry S

    Council had the luxury of several top notch firms each capable of doing a fine job for the city and area residents. In order to do the kind of comprehensive evaluation that we deserve on a project of this magnitude, the project manager is going to have to probe and gather information on our proposed partners and their operations that is necessarily confidential in nature.

    In as much as Ripken and Mandalay/Braves are in direct competition with one another along a variety of business lines, asking them to disclose to a direct competitor confidential information that may be material in nature and provide them some competitive advantage is completely unreasonable and an unnecessary burden to force upon a potential partner when other acceptable alternatives are available.

    I too am a fan of Ripkens and know that they would have done a good job, however, we are fortunate to have National Sports standing ready as they too have a fine reputation and will provide the kind of comprehensive evaluation the area residents deserve.

    It’s time to move on to the important phase of gathering the facts, evaluating the alternatives and recommending the best deal for Wilmington area residents and taxpayers.

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