City releases consultant’s report on ballpark plan


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The City of Wilmington has released a report from a consultant on a proposal for a minor league baseball stadium in Wilmington. The city hired National Sports Services to analyze a proposal from developers, including Mandalay Baseball Properties, to build a ballpark in the city to serve as the home of an Atlanta Braves farm team.

The feasibility study from NSS is about 200 pages analyzing the proposal from Mandalay Baseball Properties, the Atlanta Braves and some developers and the impact of minor league baseball and a ballpark here in Wilmington.

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Click here to read the full report on the city’s website.
We have not yet had a chance to go through all of it yet, but we have looked at some of it.

Among the highlights, NSS says the project would cost upwards of about $42 million when you factor in buying land. There could be chances to scale down the scope of the project, which would reduces costs. NSS, though, warns downsizing could decrease the economic impact.

The market analysis led NSS to recommend building a 6,000-seat ballpark with 12 to 14 private suites, 200 to 250 club seats, a club lounge, picnic areas and a kids play zone. That’s slightly smaller than the Mandalay/Braves request.

The company estimates over 20 years the ballpark would generate $313 million in direct spending, as well as $24.7 million in new revenues for the city and county.

Of course, the big question is how to pay for it. NSS says on average, public funding accounts for 59 percent of minor league ballpark development since 1995.

NSS provided a hypothetical funding scenario, in which the city would pay for 41 percent of the project, or $17.2 million, while looking for about a fifth from other government aid. It calls for nearly 40 percent from the private sector, but the rent is money paid to the city, and property tax is paid to the city and county. As we understand it, that means for the money to defray any of the ballpark costs, it would have to come back out of the government till, which would keep it from offsetting the public share. 

NSS also crunched some numbers to show that the Braves and Mandalay could expect a 7.1 percent return on their investment over the initial 20-year lease.

National will make a presentation at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.


$36-42 million for construction, land, infrastructure
Costs for construction and land are comparable to preliminary estimates from Mandalay, but there may be some opportunities for savings either from a change in scope to the proposal, or from a more specific, detailed proposal when that becomes available.

Preferred location
Greater downtown area most preferred, followed by Eastwood Road corridor
Key factors include proximity to dining, hotels and other entertainment, as well as the potential to enhance existing and additional economic development, parking opportunities and existing infrastructure.

Economic Impact
Over 20 years, $313 million in direct spending; $24.7 million in new revenues, $451 million in new total output (City/County figures broken out as follows:)
Estimated $242 million in total new output
$168 million in new direct spending
$19.3 million in new revenue
Estimated $209 million in total new output
$145 million in new direct spending
$5.4 million in new revenue

Intangible benefits
National/regional media exposure, affordable entertainment, enhanced community pride

Total of 6,412 new one-year full and part-time jobs earning $138 million
City – 3,481 jobs that would generate an estimated $76 million in new personal earnings
County – 2,931 jobs that would generate an estimated $62 million in new personal earnings

Strong regional draw with military bases and nearby beaches as enhancements
-60% of market within 15 miles, equaling 255,000 residents; another 30% draw within 30 miles, equaling 348,000 residents
-Recommend 6,000‐seat stadium; average seating at ballparks in comparable markets is just over 6,100 seats, with a range of 4,500‐8,100
-Our demographics in same range as comparable ballparks

Public Support/funding
On average, public funding accounts for 59% of minor league baseball developments built since 1995
If Wilmington follows this model, the public investment would be $25.4 million, assuming the project would cost a total of $42 million. Mandalay would contribute $16.6 million through annual payments of $400,000 a year and other partners would need to be identified to contribute another $7.4 million.

Citizen funding support
53% of survey respondents indicated they would be willing to pay up to $2 a month for the ballpark

Mandalay return on investment
An estimated 18% profit margin in the first year, stabilizing at 10% by fifth year of operation and then an average 7.1% return over the life of a 20‐year lease

Potential partners
Nearby real estate development, free or discounted land contribution, UNCW or others as tenants, other governmental partners, corporate fundraising, private donors, foundation grants

Other activities for ballpark
Comparable ballparks host youth, high school and college baseball, concerts, graduations, religious events, food festivals, private functions, movie nights, professional soccer games

Number of events
Comparable ballparks hosted an average of 153 events each year

Attendance at comparable parks is 3,796 per game, with a range from 2,449‐5,612

Comparable parks
Cedar Rapids Kernels, Fort Wayne Tin Caps, Greensboro Grasshoppers, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, Winston‐Salem Dash

Tied to level of funding commitment; size of project can be scaled down, but benefits and return on investment diminish accordingly

June 19 City Council meeting
-Presentation from NSS, receive/take action on NSS report
-Decide on MOU extension
-Consider budget for additional professional support