ONLY ON 3: Thompson sets record straight on ballpark talks, says ‘good for our community’


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Upset with many inaccuracies in another media report, New Hanover County Commissioner Jason Thompson joined us today for an exclusive interview on WWAY NewsChannel 3 at 5:30 p.m. to talk about his perspectives on baseball in Wilmington.

Yesterday WWAY was the first to uncover and report that Ripken Design, an arm of Ripken Baseball, had expressed to Thompson and New Hanover County staffers that it would be interested in building a baseball stadium here. Thompson says Ripken and other members of its group with the plan would build the ballpark with private money. The City of Wilmington is pursuing a bond of up to $37 million to build a tax-payer funded stadium for an Atlanta Braves minor league affiliate to be run by Mandalay Baseball Properties.

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“It’s a private investor, private land, but it’s New Hanover County, and not in one of the municipalities,” Thomspon said in our exclusive interview.

Thompson said the plan is to build a ballpark on a piece of land along the Cape Fear River across from downtown Wilmington, which would also include a large retail facility, including a single tenant that would occupy about 100,000 square feet. Thompson said the plan already fits into future development already under consideration.

“We’re already talking about what we can do to run a line under there and develop the northern corridor of (US) 421,” Thompson, who is also a member of the CFPUA Board of Directors, said. “This would just be a big, private tenant that we’d have on day one to hook into our system, so we see that as a positive.”

Thompson laughed at a Ripken Baseball spokesman’s changing statements Tuesday that first claimed the company had not talked to the county, then evolved to admit it did but claim that it never approached the county about it. Thompson said he was most definitely approached by the group with the plan, not the other way around.

“I didn’t call them and say, ‘Let’s have a meeting.’ They called me,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the Ripken group’s plan would not interfere with Mandalay’s exclusive right granted by Minor League Baseball to explore putting a team in the Wilmington market. He said the Ripken venture would be focused only on developing the stadium/retail complex, and that the group has no problem with Mandalay running a Braves affiliate in the ballpark.

Thompson also offered some advice for Wilmington City Council as it continues to pursue a deal with Mandalay and the Braves. He said council members need to consider this alternative option

“Competition is good, and that’s where government sometimes loses sight of the bureaucracy doesn’t allow for the competition,” Thompson said. “And having two people kind of bid for our community is only good for our community.”