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Wilmington officials: Proposed ballpark lease won’t happen

Carolina LeagueA proposed lease for a new Wilmington (N.C.) ballpark hasn’t generated a whole lot of enthusiasm from City Council members, who are balking at some of the provisions.

Some of the provisions are actually pretty routine in the construction world, but in the hypersensitive bubble that is Wilmington politics, they come off as onerous or greedy. Like the proposed lease provision calling for the city to pay $50,000 every day past a deadline for ballpark occupancy (in this case, March 2014). Not unusual to see such a penalty clause, though at first glance the amount seems high. But the notion of a penalty clause isn’t exactly rare in the construction world.

For that reason and others some Wilmington city councilmembers are balking at a first reason of the lease.

“We’re certainly not going to pay fines, rent, any kind of punishment handed down by them,” Councilman Neil Anderson told the Star-News’s Shelby Sebens.

Punishment? Anderson doesn’t quite get that the city will be acting as a landlord for a tenant — Mandalay Baseball Properties, working to land a High Class A Carolina League team to be owned by the Atlanta Braves in the form of relocating Lynchburg Hillcats. We’re not quite sure why there was such a virulent reaction to a fairly normal and bland proposed lease clause, but then again, this is Wilmington, where every little thing ends up being magnified and given much more meaning than it deserves. Cooler heads have pointed out that a proposed lease is just that — a proposed lease — and is the starting point for negotiations, not a final, ungiving document that’s being shoved down anyone’s throat. Don’t like the proposed penalty clause? Then negotiate it. Want more money out of Mandalay? Then negotiate it. Want the county to contribute? Then negotiate it.

All this posturing may make hearts at The Big Talker go all atwitter, but they do little to forward the interests of taxpayers or work toward a solution that all sides can agree upon. Yeah, we know the ballpark is really a proxy battle for low-tax proponents in Wilmington and the Americans for Prosperity axis, but at the end of the day taking a hostile stance toward everything proposed is a waste of time. If Wilmington doesn’t want pro baseball, then city officials should just say so. 

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