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Panel discussion focuses on ballpark pitch

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Time to play ball? The clock is ticking for city leaders to make a decision on the proposed baseball stadium in Wilmington.

This morning, some big league names from the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball came to the Port City to discuss a game plan.

“To me, it’s the perfect storm of a great opportunity,” Braves President John Schuerholz said.

Schuerholz was one of the aces at a panel discussion Monday about the proposed baseball stadium that would be home to a Braves minor league team.

“Braves and Mandalay want to become, as we have in our other communities, part of the fabric of this community,” Mandalay Baseball’s Rich Neumann said.

Mandalay Baseball, which would run the team, projects an average of 5,000 fans per game, or about 350,000 people coming out to the ballpark each summer.

But a lot of things are still up in the air. The city is looking at several sites for the stadium, though many believe the ideal spot is downtown on the river.

The big question, though, is cost.

“The Braves and Mandalay together expect to pay 20 to 25 percent of the obligation through some form of rent,” Braves CFO Chip Moore said.

How the rest of it will be paid is a little murky.

“You’re not going to find one that was built with 100 percent private funds,” Neumann said. “It just doesn’t pencil out.”

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo did not rule out a public-private partnership.

“There’s always the possibility that a private entity could come forward and help fund this thing also” Saffo said.

Saffo says this isn’t just an entertainment project. This is an economic development project, and it will take some tough calls from the city to make it happen.

The city plans to hire a project manager as soon as possible to help crunch numbers and decide whether this is a worthwhile investment for the community.

More: continued here

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