Ballpark agreement still not finalized, opinions remain polarized


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A ballpark in the Port City is now in the hands of Wilmington voters.

Though a final agreement is still hanging over their heads, Wilmington City Council members voted unanimously to place a $37 million bond referendum to pay for the stadium on the November ballot.

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For several months now, the city has been negotiating with Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves, and even as more and more information is released, it remains clear that opinions are still very much polarized.

More than a dozen people voiced their opinions to City Council Tuesday during a public hearing on the bond referendum to build a ballpark. Some say council members need to first look closer to home.

“I stand before you tonight on behalf of the Wilmington Sharks. Your baseball team. Your summer league, college wood bat baseball team for the past 16 years,” said Clay Collier, the Sharks’ attorney and spokesman. “Think about what we’ve got. Think about the Sharks.”

“Enjoying our national pastime is a wonderful thing, but it’s not about baseball,” said Terry Spencer, who spoke as a pro baseball advocate. “It’s about making Wilmington a better place to live, work and play.”

Regardless of what folks think now, council says the final opinion will be recognized at the polls in November.

“We’ve brought you the package, the best package we can make,” Councilman Kevin O’Grady said. “In the end you’ll decide whether to spend the money or not.”

City staff recommended that council hold off on making a final decision on the proposed agreement with Mandalay and the Braves until their September meeting. Deputy City Manager Tony Caudle says there are a few issues that still need to be negotiated.

In a statement, Mandalay and the Braves wrote:

“Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves are thrilled the Mayor and City Council have decided to move forward with this project and we look forward to the November referendum vote. We continue to strongly believe that a Wilmington minor league ballpark combined with a quality Braves minor league team will create much needed jobs, economic growth and add to the quality of life in Wilmington.

“We would like to thank everyone in Wilmington who has supported this project, especially the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, the Wilmington Ballpark Coalition, Port City Baseball, the Downtown Business District and all who have spoken out on behalf of the ballpark project.”