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Wilmington ballpark opponents won’t challenge petition rejection; site negotiations begin

Carolina LeagueOpponents of public spending on a new Wilmington (N.C.) ballpark won’t challenge a rejection of their petition drive, while city officials have begun negotiations for a waterfront site.

The city rejected a petition from a group led by Josh Fulton and Ben McCoy, which would have changed city rules to prevent any public money spend on a new sporting facility. The group had troubles reaching the minimum number of signatures, and Tuesday the City Council rejected the petitions, saying they were incompletely documented. The response from the group: threatening a lawsuit compelling the city to accept the petitions.

Fulton backed away from his threat of a lawsuit after taking some time to reconsider: lawsuits take money and time, and with a fall vote scheduled anyway on the ballpark bonding proposal, it would probably just be a waste of time.

Meanwhile, the city has opened negotiations with Chuck Schoninger, who is developing a hotel/marina on the waterfront and holds land suitable for a ballpark. 

“It seems like the city is going in the direction of the riverfront site,” Schoninger told the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. “It’s more due diligence on my part, getting them the information and talking about a price I can afford to get my lenders paid off . . . we’re headed in that direction.”

The current plan calls for city bonding up to $42 million for a new ballpark for the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League), with the team owned by the Atlanta Braves and the ballpark leased and managed by Mandalay Baseball Properties. If approved by voters, the ballpark could open in time for the 2014 season.

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