The idea for a baseball stadium facility presented by Ripken Design is more appropriate and a smaller dollar amount than the stadium proposal by Mandalay requiring a $37 million bond, New Hanover County Commissioner Jason Thompson said Thursday, Aug. 30.
“It’s what government should do, which is infrastructure,” he said. “I got a phone call from a local attorney who said, ‘Hey I got guys here interested in maybe some different solutions for baseball that has a much bigger private piece. Are you interested in hearing it?’”
Thompson, who said he gets pitched multiple times every month, agreed to the meeting.
He held out his hands, palms up moving them in the motion of a scale when he said, “Two million, $37 million, that’s where the decision lies.”
The concept by Ripken Design also included plans outside of baseball season about ways the area could still bring in people, and therefore, money. The projected plans include a 100,000 square- foot attraction destination.
County manager Chris Coudriet said in a telephone interview Friday, Aug. 31 that the county does not want to disrupt the conversation between the city of Wilmington and Mandalay as they work to finalize their agreement.
He said he has reached out to city manager Sterling Cheatham to let him know county officials were not aggressive about looking into the idea of a baseball stadium.
“I emphasized that this was a concept, nothing more, nothing less than an idea that was brought to us,” Coudriet said. “If we can explain it and communicate it in a way that makes sense, I think, first of all, as a staff we have to understand it. We’ll internally make some decisions about the right way to proceed.”
Ripken Design consultants also previously met with the Wilmington city officials.
“And then Mandalay objected, so then the city went with No. 2 instead of No.1,” Thompson said. “The problem with the city plan is it’s a little bit limited in scope. They took away all the possibility for competition by signing an exclusivity memorandum of understanding, an MOU, with Mandalay. So now Mandalay controls baseball team, baseball stadium, baseball manager.”
He said he has spoken to one councilman who regrets the city’s decision.
“Hindsight’s 20/20,” Thompson said.
In a telephone interview Friday, Aug. 31, city councilwoman Laura Padgett said she does not regret the city’s decision to sign the MOU, but she said she does wish the board had set a price with the amount of money to go to the stadium in time for it to go to the ballot.
“I regret the amount of time and energy this has consumed and the confusing information that has come and gone,” she said. “Now these are, they have to be, fairly confidential negotiations. They are intense negotiations. We’re talking about a lot of money so it’s been a tough process, but I would have liked it to start out with the referendum. Other than that, I have no regret about signing a referendum to talk to Mandalay. I think the Braves would be a great team to have here. I just would have liked a sense of how the majority of people feel.”
The second stadium proposal locates it along the Cape Fear River outside city limits, and would be financed privately with the tenant guaranteeing the debt service, he said.
“They’re competition for Mandalay, I mean you can’t have two stadiums,” Thompson said. “There’s only going to be room in this community for one, so of the ball team being the Braves, pretty much that’s a lock because they have the exclusivity. But who builds and runs the stadium, my opinion, that’s up for debate, that’s up for bid. And whoever gives the city, or the county, or the combination of the city/county the best deal is who gets it, and then you drop the Braves in that stadium. I’m in no obligation to build an expensive stadium because Mandalay wants to.”