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City hires ballpark project manager, councilmembers say Ripken was the wrong choice

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington is one step closer to making the proposed ballpark become a reality. Wilmington City Council voted Tuesday to hire a project manager to help speed up the process. Despite the city manager proposing the council hire Ripken Design for the job, council members were not so sure that was the best idea.

“I don’t want to start off on the wrong step, so my inclination is to go to the second choice,” said councilman Kevin O’Grady.

That is exactly what city council decided to do. They voted to hire National Sports Services, a company based out of Kansas, as their project manager for the proposed ballpark. Council members said Ripken Design, who the city was originally looking to hire, may have had a conflict of interest with Mandalay Baseball Properties.

“We should honor their discomfort here and try to help them overcome that so that we can get this long term relationship going on the right foot,” O’Grady said.

“I’m disappointed that staff saw fit to put this company at the top when I feel reasonably sure they understood from the beginning that this just wasn’t going to be a workable solution,” said councilman Charlie Rivenbark.

The city was looking at six companies to manage the ballpark project. City manager Sterling Cheatham proposed hiring Ripken, who Mandalay says is the only company who also manages several minor league teams.

“We just didn’t think it was appropriate to have basically one of our fraternity evaluating our proposal,” Mandalay Baseball’s Rich Neuman said.

The council also approved $55,000 to contract with National Sports Services. The city is moving the money from next fiscal year’s budget. Mandalay says they will present their plans alongside National Sports Services to city council at their May 15th meeting.

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