Two baseball stadium groups gear up for campaigns
September 19, 2012By Jenny Callison
The groups advocating for and against a bond referendum to build a minor league baseball stadium in Wilmington are moving this week to name their leaders in the run-up to the November election.
At a news conference Wednesday to formally kick off the group’s “Vote Yes” campaign, membership of the initiative’s executive committee was announced. The committee includes Live Oak Bank CEO Chip Mahan, New Hanover Regional Medical Center CEO Jack Barto, Willie Stargell Foundation president Margaret Weller-Stargell, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Emily Longley and Rob Campbell, pastor of New Beginnings Christian Church.
On Tuesday, the Wilmington City Council approved a proposed agreement between the city and Mandalay Baseball/Atlanta Braves outlying conditions to build a baseball stadium on the downtown riverfront and bring a Braves franchise to the Port City.
Wilmington voters will weigh in on the issue in November through a referendum about whether to approve letting the city seek up to $37 million in general obligation bonds to buy the property and build the stadium. The project would require a 2.5-cent property tax increase for residents.
Terry Spencer, manager of the supporters’ campaign, said Wednesday that compared to the proposed baseball stadium, no other project has the potential for such positive impacts on the city.
“Make no mistake, this is about so much more than baseball,” Spencer said in a press release. “Across Wilmington, there’s a great desire to see the city do more to create and attract jobs, improve quality of life and continue moving Wilmington forward. That’s why we’re urging everyone to vote yes.”
Longley, the chamber’s chairwoman, said the stadium would “serve as an amazing shot in the arm for the city.”
“According to the city’s independent consultant, the ballpark will generate $168 million of new direct spending here in Wilmington,” she said. “That’s just direct spending. We’ve seen in other cities that the total private investment goes well beyond direct spending.”
Meanwhile, the “Vote No Stadium Tax” group has scheduled a working meeting for Wednesday evening at the Wilmington Commercial Real Estate office on Oleander Drive. Representatives said the group would announce its leadership at a news conference set for 3 p.m. on Thursday.
At that conference, group president Scott Harry said, his group will give its rebuttal of recent statements made by Wilmington Family Entertainment and Baseball Committee. The no-stadium-tax advocates will also present an analysis of the city’s memorandum of understanding with the Braves and Mandalay organizations, and will provide comparisons of the local plans with those of other cities that host minor league teams.
That news conference will take place at 515 Nutt St., in front of the Wilmington Convention Center.