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Poll: Wilmington residents overwhelmingly oppose public financing of new ballpark

Carolina LeagueA poll of 300 registered voters in Wilmington, N.C., indicated broad opposition to city financing of a new ballpark for an Atlanta Braves farm team — but don’t take it too seriously just yet.

The proposal calls for a $40-million waterfront ballpark in downtown Wilmington, as part of a larger development. A High Class A team owned by the Braves would play at the ballpark, which would be managed by Mandalay Baseball Properties. The city has not yet announced a financing plan, though in the past tax-increment financing has been discussed by officials.

The poll, performed by the conservative Civitas Institute and commissioned by a conservative talk station in the city, showed broad opposition to raising taxes to fund a ballpark, as well as city financing of a ballpark. The poll was pretty straightforward, though more than a little disingenuous:

Questions asked:

There is a proposal to build a $40 million, 6,500 seat baseball stadium in Wilmington. Would you support? Or would you oppose? Building this stadium if it were financed by the city of Wilmington?

Support 20%
Oppose 70%
Not Sure 9%

Would you support? Or would you oppose? Building this stadium if your taxes had to be increased in order to pay for it?

Support 9%
Oppose 86%
Not Sure 5%

Would you support? Or would you oppose? Building this stadium if it were financed by private developers?

Support 81%
Oppose 10%
Not Sure 9%

Why do we say disingenuous? Most folks don’t the different between financing and funding when it comes to ballparks — or most civic expenditures, for that matter. In the case of a Wilmington ballpark, the city could borrow the money to build the ballpark and then repay the bonds with increased property taxes generated by the enhanced property, a move that would not raise any taxes. Tax-increment financing has a solid track record in ballpark development and requires no tax increases.

Simplistic polls like this really do nothing to advance the discussion. They’re set up to elicit a negative response — remember, this was a conservative talk-radio station commissioning a conservative nonprofit to conduct a poll — especially when the city hasn’t yet put forth a funding plan. So take it with a huge grain of salt: what will matter will be public response after a concrete proposal has been presented to voters. We’d love to see Civitas revisit the issue once a ballpark proposal is released.

RELATED STORIES: Proposed Wilmington lease: Mandalay would pay 12 percent of debt service; Atlanta Braves have tentative deal to buy Lynchburg Hillcats; New Wilmington ballpark would be part of hotel, marina complex; Wilmington to move forward with ballpark talks; Wilmington to discuss new Braves ballpark tomorrow night; Wilmington looks at development deal with Mandalay, Braves; Wilmington ballpark dead on arrival?; Another new effort for Wilmington minor-league baseball?


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