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City reaches agreement on baseball stadium

A deal on a baseball stadium is set to go before Wilmington’s  City Council at its next meeting on Tuesday night. 

WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports that the newly-inked agreement between Wilmington and Mandalay and the Atlanta Braves outlines a 62-hundred seat ballpark that would occupy at least 7 acres of downtown riverfront property. 

The city is responsible for no more than 31 million dollars in construction costs, according to the Memorandum of Understanding.  An estimated six million dollars for land acquisition and remediation, also to be paid by the city, would be re-couped through rent and management fees from Mandalay.  Mayor Bill Saffo says a 20-year commitment from the Braves is one reason this deal is so appealing. 

“And that’s the big difference over a lot of other deals that we have seen over the years come through here.  This is – I consider it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Plus the fact is, from my perspective at least, the opportunity to put a first-class multi-use facility on the river.  We would be one of very few cities in the entire country that would have some sort of a facility of this nature on our riverfront.”

In exchange for getting all the revenue the stadium generates, Mandalay would pay the operating expenses of the ballpark.  Critics of the agreement argue that city residents should not be financially responsible for the stadium – which would be funded by a 2.5 cent property tax increase.  Even if Council approves the deal at its next meeting, voters must still pass a 37 million dollar bond referendum in November for the ballpark project to move forward. 

The ballpark could open as early as April of 2014.

To read the Memorandum of Understandingthat will be considered at the September 18th Council meeting, click on this link.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.