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Ripken Design chosen to oversee Wilmington ballpark planning; controversy ensues

Carolina LeagueRipken Design has been chosen as project manager for a new Wilmington (N.C.) ballpark, but some councilmembers — as well as Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Atlanta Braves — object.

Ripken Design was chosen from a list of 10 possible project managers, with the news posted Friday on the city Website. (Reporedly the runner-up: National Sports Services.) The selection does require approval by the City Council, and some members of that body expressed concern over the decision and how it was made. One big issue: Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves expressed concerns that they did not want to hand over confidential data to Ripken Design.

It’s a tightrope for Ripken Design: as part of Ripken Baseball, it is part of a larger firm that does compete with Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves — which currently owns and operates four minor-league teams. It’s really not so much any competition with any current teams, but rather future competition for new markets, as Mandalay Baseball is always on the lookout for new territories and could conceivably end up going for the same area. In that case, Ripken Baseball might have an advantage in knowing some of Mandalay’s business strategies.

The city is negotiating with Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Braves for a new waterfront ballpark, with Mandalay managing the facility and Braves relocating the Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League). If financing for the $40-million project can be arranged, a new ballpark could open for the 2014 season.

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