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Sweetening the pot in Wilmington

Carolina LeagueWhether this sways any voters remains to be seen, but it looks like a proposed new ballpark in Wilmington (N.C.) could attract outside investors, as a development firm say it will build next to the Carolina League facility if approved.

The developer, Charlotte-based South Street Partners, is pitching high-end residential and retail space if voters approve a new ballpark for the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League), under a deal where the team would be owned by the Atlanta Braves and the ballpark managed by Mandalay Baseball Properties. Voters will need to approve a hike in the local property tax in order for the project to move forward.

One of the arguments used by ballpark proponents is the potential for a facility to drive economic development, whcih is why the press release from South Street’s Patrick Melton is interesting in the timing:

“We are serious about making downtown Wilmington a magnet for economic development,” Melton said in a press release. “We know that the ballpark will make this area of downtown a true destination for entertainment and business. A mixed-use project overlooking the ballpark will be another key asset in the area’s ongoing development.”

Voters will be asked to approve the ballpark project in next week’s general elections. If the ballpark is approved — and we’re not optimistic, given the general anti-tax environment in Wilington — it won’t be because of opponents being drowned out by a sea of money. Wilmington Family Entertainment and Baseball Coalition has raised only $113,000 from 12 donations, short of the $150,000 targeted by the pro-ballpark group. The donors include Mandalay Baseball Properties (donating $12,500, short of the $50,000 originally pledged by the firm) and the Atlanta Braves, also donating $12,500. Most of what’s been raised is going to a PR firm that also manages direct mail and advertising.

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