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Wilmington ballpark sites down to three; poll indicates support

Carolina LeagueNational Sports Services has narrowed down the potential number of ballpark sites in Wilmington (N.C.) to three, while a poll indicated support for public funding of the facility.

The poll of 970 residents found 47 percent of respondents in favor of public funding of a new ballpark for an Atlanta Braves farm team, the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (Low Class A; Carolina League), with 43 percent opposed. The email poll was sent to people on the city’s email distribution list, as well as members of the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau. It was also posted on the city Website.

It was immediately met with skepticism from ballpark-funding opponents, who argued that since they were not asked, it must not be a valid sampling. Now, we’ve not seen the internals of this poll for the margin of error. However, we’re guessing the basic methodology is sound: unlike other Internet polls where opponents try to tilt the playing field by asking everyone to vote early and vote often, the respondents represented a more scientific sampling.

Which, of course, immediately disqualified the results of the poll by opponents:

“Nobody that I know knew that there was a survey anywhere,” said Helen Peckworth, who has owned property in Wilmington for 26 years. “If the city wanted to know what the property owners think, it would be very easy for them to find out, and they didn’t try.”

Those with the loudest voices — or the biggest talk, in the case of Wilmington — work very hard to dominate the discourse on a controversial issue, and that’s certainly the case here, where the leading conservative talk station has made it a pet project to oppose any public funding of a ballpark. And while that’s a valid position to take, the tactics may not be wearing well with citizens: if, after all the drumbeating against public funding of a ballpark in Wilmington is still yielding a poll result indicating a plurality of support, then perhaps those beating the drums the loudest may want to rethink strategy. However, it’s a little questionable how much local opposition there really is: a national anti-tax group, Americans for Prosperity, is the largest funder of the ballpark opposition, donating $20,000 to the effort.

The new $35-million ballpark would be managed by Mandalay Baseball Properties and built by a local developer who would borrow construction money, with the city paying down a part of that debt.

In the other news of the night: the list of potential ballpark sites has been trimmed from six to three: downtown, a site along Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, and along Eastwood Road. We continue to hear the MLK Parkway site remains the leader; an offer of free land will certainly play a big part in the final decision.

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