In first discussions about a lease for a new Wilmington (N.C.) ballpark, Mayor Bill Saffo has floated the idea that Mandalay Baseball Properties would pay 12 percent of the overall debt service associated with the Class A facility.
Wilmington has entered into exclusive negotiations with Mandalay and the Atlanta Braves over the finances of the proposed waterfront ballpark, which would be inhabited by the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League) after the team is purchased by the Braves.
Mandalay Baseball Properties would enter into a 20-year lease for the ballpark. If we assume that this is a $40-million ballpark with the city providing the land (and this is at the high end; the projections are for the ballpark costing between $35 million and $40 million), the simple math puts Mandalay’s share at $4.8 million. Spread that out over 20 years, and the cost becomes $240,000 annually. That number, of course, would be taken down depending on how much capital Mandalay pays up front. So while 12 percent seems low in proportion to the city’s share, it’s quite a bit when looked at from a pure rental perspective, and a little on the high side when it comes to ballpark rents.
The issue is going to be where the rest of the money comes from. Some New Hanover County commissioners say they know they need to be part of the financing discussions. The city will certainly be the main player. And we’re guessing that at the end of the day a developer pitching the ballpark as part of a mixed-used hotel/marina/restaurant complex will be financially contributing to the ballpark as well.
It will still be a big battle to secure a financing plan, as there are some city-council members totally against any increased taxes to help pay for a ballpark. One idea that’s been floated in the past: a tax-increment financing district, where increased property taxes generated by the development would help pay down debt.
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