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Weekend pro-baseball rally draws crowd

By Tage Olsin

On Saturday, around 100 people showed up at Innis Park, next to City Hall to support a baseball stadium coming to Wilmington.

WHQR’s Sara Wood reports the Wilmington Ballpark Coalition and Port City Baseball sponsored the rally.

Standing in the sea of adults and little league players was Marie and Randy Hartwell.  The couple’s 5-year-old son Riley was eager to get his baseball signed by a few retired Atlanta Braves who showed up for the rally. The Hartwells say they enthusiastically support the ballpark, even if it could mean paying more taxes.

“Might not have the biggest fans in Wilmington right now saying that.  But I definitely am willing to pay the added tax for it. . . We grew up in Charleston, South Carolina and they have the RiverDogs there and they have Riley Park.  It’s a big venue for everything.  It’s not just about the RiverDogs that are there, it also opened up a great place to have a lot of concerts, a lot of festivals.  I think it’s the best thing in the world. I think anyone who is fighting it is crazy.”

Margaret Weller-Stargell is Vice Chairperson of the Wilmington Ballpark Coalition, an alliance of local businesses in support of a stadium.  She says she understands how important it is to be fiscally wise in tough economic times, but the economic benefits and civic pride of a stadium far outweigh the cost.

“We’ve got to look at the return on the investment, and I think once people understand that, and understand too, that even if there is a cost to the taxpayer it is intended to be nominal. The return on the investment is going to be tenfold.”

Last week the Flywheel/Trask development team proposed a public-private financing option at the city council’s meeting. The city hired National Sports Services to conduct a feasibility study, the results of which will be reported in mid- June.