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Groups rally to oppose, support idea of tax-funded baseball stadium

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The idea of building a baseball stadium here in Wilmington is not a homerun for everyone. Many people are opposed to the idea of using taxpayer money to fund it. Saturday, folks rallied together to protest and petition it, but just down the street, others played ball in support.

“I’m sick and tired of my tax dollars going for something that does not benefit the average citizen,” protester Marlene Besecker said. “We are never thought of except when they want a new toy.”

Besecker was one of dozens of Wilmington residents who came out to say no to a tax-funded baseball stadium. She said it’s time the citizens get some control.

“I have grandchildren here, and I’m worried about their future,” protester Mary McLaughlin agreed. “I’d like for the city to be more careful with the money. We can’t afford the new higher taxes.”

McLaughlin and other opponents agree the stadium would be great if it were privately built and maintained.

Just down the street, another group gathered on the opposite side of the plate.

“I wouldn’t mind my taxes going up, no ma’am,” supporter Bryan Abrams said.

Abrams believes the investment would be well worth the millions of revenue the stadium would potentially bring to Wilmington.

Leader of the opposition Joshua Fulton feels our money would be better spent on law enforcement, fire rescue and road improvements, not minor league baseball.

“They fail all over the country,” Fulton said. “That $42 million is going to cost $393 per person in Wilmington. That includes kids, and kids clearly don’t pay taxes, so it’s going to cost the average taxpayer a whole lot more.”

“I’m for any way of getting it done, to be quite frank,” Abrams said. “I’d like to have city council have their own time to come up with some great ideas, whether taxes be going up for it or it be privatized or Mandalay or Atlanta contributes. I’m just honestly looking forward to hearing what they come up with in these six months to come to the table.”

New Hanover County Commissioner Rick Catlin was not among those playing softball on one of the proposed sites. He said the stadium should not be considered an economic development but rather an amenity that should not be paid for by taxpayers.

State Rep. Carolyn Justice (R-16) and New Hanover County Commission Chair Ted Davis also sent statements expressing their opposition.

Wilmington residents not only signed the petition against increasing taxes to pay for the proposed ballpark but also two others: one called for fiscal transparency from city council and the other proposed that all projects over $15 million must be voted on by taxpayers. The group has 100 days to get nearly 3,000 signatures on each before they ask city council to create the ordinances.

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