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Developers working on private financing for ballpark; taxpayer share unclear

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Securing financing for a proposed baseball stadium will no longer fall on Wilmington’s shoulders. Today, the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball Properties announced the ballpark would be financed and constructed privately. Even so, it will still require an uncertain amount of taxpayer dollars.

“We’ve been able to form a development team with extensive national experience to create a private financed and construction proposal for a new ballpark in Wilmington,” Braves Executive VP for Business Operations Mike Plant.

A privately-financed ballpark means two things: developers could secure a 30-year loan, which would reduce the annual payments, and the city will not take on the construction and financing risks. But this does not mean the private sector will actually cover all the costs. Taxpayers are still on the hook, but for how much?

Raiford Trask, one of the developers who stepped up to the plate to help finance the project, is not sure.

“Really, it’s a math problem, and we haven’t done the math, so it would be really premature for me to say that,” Trask, President of Wilmington’s Trask Land Company said. “It’s gonna have to work. We all know it’s gonna have to work for all parties involved.”

A recent WWAY/Big Talker FM/Civitas Institute poll found 86 percent of Wilmington voters do not want a taxpayer-funded stadium. Mayor Bill Saffo does not know yet how much the private partnership would bring to the table.

“We always want to see more of the private investment go up as opposed to the public investment, but they’re also very clear this is going to be a public private partnership,” Saffo said.

Meanwhile, Rich Neumann with Mandalay Baseball Properties asks opponents to the stadium plan to wait until the proposal is presented to the city.

“Let the city and their advisors vet the proposal, question us, validate it, negotiate, whatever they need to do to protect your interests, and then they’ll have a decision to make,” Neumann said.

The private financing group says it will present its proposal to City Council and city staff in approximately 30 days.

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