Cost of professional baseball returning

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo listens to professional baseball propositions every year, but he said the Port City's newest suitors are offering the most obtainable offer.

"We have a viable candidate with The Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Entertainment," said Saffo.

For that reason, both city and county governments are researching what it will cost to build a ballpark and how to fund it.

The park is estimated to cost $42 million, according to New Hanover County Manager Bruce Shell. However, Shell added that any numbers county staff crunches now are only estimates.

A recent report from New Hanover County's Finance Department estimates the debt service payment would amount to $3.3 million a year for 20 years. It also estimates revenues from parking, sales tax and Mandalay Entertainment's lease to generate more than $700,000 annually.

That leaves an almost $2.6 million shortfall in funding, which is when the real research begins. Both governments are working on several options to cover the cost, and the finance report mentioned one.

The potential park would be built in the Northern Riverfront Investment District (NRID), which currently generates $322,647 and $405,925 in tax money for the city and county respectively.

If the NRID is expanded to allow new development, the newfound tax money would go to the city to cover the remaining bill for the ballpark. The report estimates more than $165 million in additional value from the expansion, which would boost city and county tax revenues to $2.1 million – half a million short of the initial shortfall.

"It may be feasible, it may not be feasible," said Saffo, "but we just think it's a great opportunity and we need to explore it."

There are several options being researched and the numbers are not final, so stay with for the newest details on the process of bringing baseball back to Wilmington.

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