Baseball Stadium Strikes Out In Leland, For Now

By Emma Dill, posted Jan 18, 2024
The town of Leland announced Thursday it will not move forward with a proposed minor league baseball stadium, at least for now. (File rendering)

A proposal to bring a minor league baseball stadium to Leland is off the table, at least for now, town officials announced Thursday.

“After careful consideration and nearly 18 months of diligent work, a mutual decision has been made between the town of Leland and REV Entertainment not to proceed with a baseball stadium in the Leland area at this time,” Town Manager David Hollis said Thursday during a regular meeting of the Leland Town Council. The announcement was welcomed with applause and cheers by some in attendance.

Representatives of Texas-based REV Entertainment, a management partner for various sports teams, including the Texas Rangers, contacted the town in July 2022 about the prospect of bringing a minor-league baseball team to 1,400 acres near Leland’s Brunswick Forest community. Later that year, Leland and REV officials along with Brunswick County and landowner Jackeys Creek Investors LLC entered into a letter of intent agreement to investigate the proposal.

In early 2023, the stakeholders decided a feasibility study was needed to determine whether the site could support the cost of the stadium through financing. In February 2023, Leland put $25,000 toward a feasibility and economic impact study, which was completed by Chicago-based consulting firm Baker Tilly.

Shortly after the study began, Brunswick County announced it wouldn't issue a county-wide bond to fund the stadium. The study wrapped up in October “with a final report indicating that under the highest and best use scenario, the 1,400-acre development in and of itself would generate enough tax revenue to pay for the stadium over a 25 year period,” Hollis said Thursday.

The development cost of the baseball stadium was estimated at $105.6 million, with the stadium costing an estimated $59 million and the required infrastructure, including site preparations and utilities, estimated at $46 million, according to the study.

Even with the study complete, there are "many other issues to consider and many unanswered questions" the study didn't address, Hollis said, including issues about design alternatives, the location and orientation of the stadium, potential zoning along with timelines and private funding, which town officials have worked to investigate.

The stadium proposal faced both support and pushback from Leland residents, who raised concerns about the cost of the proposed stadium and the impact development could have on the town’s existing neighborhoods and infrastructure. Hollis said town officials felt the need on Thursday to "clear up some misconceptions and incorrect public narrative.”

He emphasized that Leland officials have never committed to building a stadium, said taxpayers would pay for the stadium or that the town would pursue a bond to finance the stadium's cost.

“To be clear, the town of Leland has not done or said many of the things that some community members have accused it of doing as it relates to this potential project and the stadium,” he said. “There are no back-room deals, no private agreements, no nefarious actions.”

Even without the proposed stadium, Hollis said market pressures will likely bring other developments to the 1,400-acre site.

“There are many who have expressed the idea that stopping baseball in Leland will stop the development in which it is proposed. That is very unlikely," he said. "Like other vacant land in the region, the properties in and around Leland are very likely to develop with additional residential and commercial uses. There is a market demand for the area, resulting in increased population and all that comes along with it.”

Hollis concluded by thanking REV Entertainment for its continued collaboration and said town officials looked forward to working with them in the future if the opportunity presents itself.

“While both parties have decided to pause the conversation about building a ballpark in Leland,” Hollis said, “there is hope the conversation to bring baseball to Leland will continue sometime in the future.”

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