It took longer than anticipated, but opponents of public funding of a new ballpark in Wilmington (N.C.) finally turned in enough signatures to force a referendum or adoption.
The measure would bar the city from spending any money on a new sports facility, a move designed to prevent any public funding of a new ballpark for the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League), with the team owned by the Atlanta Braves and the ballpark managed by Mandalay Baseball Properties. Though all the specifics of any proposal have not yet been released, the initial outline calls for a private developer to build the ballpark and be repaid by the Braves and Mandalay as well as unspecified revenues from the city. Initially the opponents turned in more than 3,900 signatures, but a serious chunk was tossed out as being invalid, leaving opponents some 45 signatures short.
After opponents turned in 75 more signatures, enough were validated to allow the goal of the petition drive to move forward. By law, the City Council can either allow the language in the petition to become law or put the measure to voters in a referendum. Neither is seen as a particularly attractive option; not only will the measure put an end to any public funding of a new ballpark for Mandalay and the Braves, it could also hurt any future efforts for any other new sports facilities in the area — fallout that could affect the Wilmington Sharks (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League) down the road should the affiliated-baseball effort fail.
However, this doesn’t necessarily kill the project: the petition drive applies just to the city, and New Hanover County could in theory be involved in some sort of financing plan, or the principals could proceed with a totally privately financed facility.
RELATED STORIES: More signatures tossed in Wilmington anti-ballpark petition drive; Opponents of Wilmington ballpark fail in petition drive; No ballpark money in upcoming Wilmington budget; “Free” land not so free in Wilmington; Referendum on horizon for new Wilmington ballpark; Wilmington ballpark sites down to three; poll indicates support; Mayor slams Wilmington ballpark financing proposal; Preferred site emerging for Wilmington ballpark?; Mandalay, Braves to update Wilmington on ballpark; Five potential ballpark sites under discussion in Wilmington; The race is on: NSS given marching orders in Wilmington; Wilmington bypasses Ripken Design as ballpark project manager; NSS is hired; Ripken Design chosen to oversee Wilmington ballpark planning; controversy ensues; Mandalay, Braves to pursue private financing for new Wilmington ballpark; Business leaders to push for new Wilmington ballpark; What should Wilmington expect for new-ballpark attendance?; Poll: Wilmington residents overwhelmingly oppose public financing of new ballpark; 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?
Share your news with the baseball community. Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a subscriber to the weekly Ballpark Digest newsletter? You can sign up for a free subscription at the Newsletter Signup Page.