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Mandalay, Wilmington, Braves agree to ballpark lease

Carolina LeagueThe city of Wilmington (N.C.), Mandalay Baseball Properties and the Atlanta Braves agreed on a lease for a proposed waterfront ballpark — if voters agree to fund it via property-tax hike in the November elections.

That’s a big if, of course, and we’re hearing that polling in the field has the referendum going down, but perhaps not by as wide a margin that some assume. Still, with a lease agreement in the pocket of city leaders, voters will have something tangible to decide upon.

“We continue to believe a multi-use facility and an affiliate of the Atlanta Braves will be a tremendous boost to the city of Wilmington,” said Mike Plant, Atlanta Braves executive vice president of business operations, via press release. “As people take time to review this proposal, they will see the value of the Atlanta Braves’ commitment to becoming part of the Wilmington community for decades to come.”

A City Council vote on the proposed lease is set for Tuesday. You can view the proposed lease here.

The terms are pretty close to what’s been reported in recent years. The city will spend $37 million on a ballpark project — $6 million for the land and $31 million for the actual ballpark — with the Braves and Mandalay agreeing to a 20-year lease. There’s no firm deadline — it could open in 2014 or 2015 — and the ballpark will feature 4,500 seats on the main level of the grandstand, another 700 on a suite/club level and 1,000 picnic plaza seats, for a total capacity of at least 6,200. The cost of office space and concessions will be borne by Mandalay and the Braves. The ballpark will be built to meet Class A specs. Mandalay will be in charge of naming rights, annually keeping the first $325,000 of any naming-rights sale and then splitting the rest 50-50 with the city. The management fee paid by Mandalay to use the facility: $500,000 annually, along with all maintenance costs past the proceeds of a capital fund.

One big issue, we’re told, is who would cover any overages on the project. The final agreement calls for whoever asked for the new feature to pay for it.

The Braves have an option to buy the Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League) in order to move to Wilmington. We’ve already seen the team referenced by all sides as the Wilmington Braves; the contract specified the use of Wilmington in the team name.

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