Ballpark referendum strikes out

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After several months of campaigning both for and against building a ballpark in the Port City, results are in, and voters overwhelmingly said no. Seventy percent of Wilmington voters decided against the city building a $37 million ballpark.

“I hope that our leaders now and in the future remember this, that we spoke very loudly,” said Scott Harry, spokesman for the “Vote No Stadium Tax” campaign. “The people spoke. It wasn’t me. It was the people, and they said keep your hands out of our pockets.”

City Councilman Kevin O’Grady, a huge proponent for the ballpark deal, says the future of baseball in Wilmington has ended with Tuesday night’s results.

“I still think it was a great opportunity for the city, but it’s up to the voters, and if they’ve rejected it, we’re not going to do it,” O’Grady said.

However, Harry does not believe this is over for the city.

“I think that if it’s not Mandalay, it will be somebody else,” he said. “If it’s not next week, it will be next year.:

Terry Spencer, spokesman for the “Vote Yes” campaign agrees with Harry.

“Our work is not done,” Spencer said. “We did see from the results. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We have a lot of minds to convince, but that’s just a challenge for us. We’ll continue to go forward.”

In a statement, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said:

“Baseball has been discussed in our community for a number of years and this was the first viable proposal we had seen, involving not only Major League Baseball, but also a nationally known management entertainment company. Clearly this opportunity came knocking at our door at a tough time, when citizens are worried about government spending, even when the benefits are large. That’s why it was important for citizens to have their say and that’s why we put this referendum on the ballot.

“It is clear from the outcome of this election that our citizens do not want to pursue baseball and we have heard them. We will continue to focus on providing core services to our citizens, just as we always have. We will also continue to look for economic develop opportunities that will benefit our city in the future.

“This has been a healthy debate for our community with strong feelings on both sides. We ask everyone – supporters and opponents – to stay involved in city government and continue to promote positive growth and change for our community. Most of all, we thank everyone who took part in this debate for stepping up to do what they think is right for our city.”

In another statement, Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Atlanta Braves thanked Wilmington.

“The Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball are disappointed that the ballpark referendum has been defeated,” the statement said. “We would like to thank Mayor Saffo, City Council, the city administration, the numerous civic and business leaders and all the volunteers who worked tirelessly on this terrific opportunity for the City of Wilmington.”

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