Wilmington Sharks will upgrade their stadium instead of paying back owed fees to the city

Mar 3, 2021

City Council will allow the Wilmington Sharks baseball team to invest $15,000 in stadium upgrades, rather than paying past-due usage fees to the city. But Councilmembers didn’t make that decision enthusiastically.

The Sharks have played in the Coastal Plains Summer Baseball League for more than twenty years. According to City documents, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the team from hosting games in 2020 — leading to financial setbacks.

However, the past-due usage fees owed to the city are from 2019. According to Interim Recreation Manager Andrea Talley, the missed payments were caused by a software system error.

This week, City Council unanimously approved the resolution allowing the fees to be invested in stadium upgrades. But Councilman Kevin O’Grady noted that Council will need to work out a new payment plan with the Sharks, to prevent any similar situations in the future:

“I don't want the situation to repeat, where our tenant can withhold a third of the money they owe us at the end of the year, and leave us now in a position of having to negotiate with them to get paid. That is not the way things should be.”

According to the team, needed improvements to Buck Hardee Stadium include seating upgrades, an improved entryway, and new scoreboards. But any official improvement plans will need to be submitted for approval by City staff.