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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.


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  • Wildbats


    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.

  • Vog46

    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

  • Vog46

    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

  • Katherine

    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.

  • Guest2020

    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.

  • Guest2020

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

  • Guest 10101

    … 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.

  • Vog46

    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

  • SJ

    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.

  • Guestwit

    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!

  • Vog46

    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

  • 1981duke

    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.

  • Guest7969

    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…

  • bob

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

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

  • Vog46

    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

  • Guest7969

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

  • RSimmons

    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

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

  • Peyton Garrett

    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.

  • Joshua Fulton

    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.

  • GuestConfused

    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.

  • 1981duke

    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.

  • Rick Wilson

    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.

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