WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Before Wilmington city leaders considered adding the $37 million baseball stadium project to the November ballot, one organization was already planning how to sway the public's vote.
The Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is working with Capstrat, a marketing firm from Raleigh, on an advertising campaign in support of a bond referendum that would use a 2.5 cent property tax increase to pay for the ballpark.
Chamber President Connie Majure-Rhett said the estimated $150,000 dollar venture is part of the organization's mission to grow the economy.
"Our board feels it's the right thing to do," she said. "We have run campaigns for issues before that we have thought would improve our quality of life."
The city of Wilmington gave the chamber $20,000 in 2011 for its Cape Fear Future program. Majure-Rhett said those dollars will not be used for the baseball campaign. Any advertising money will be collected from fundraising efforts by chamber members.
"It's a small town, and we all have to work together," Majure-Rhett said.
The group should only have to raise a third of the money. WECT.com first learned about the plan from a draft copy of meeting minutes from the chamber's July 13 meeting. It shows that Rich Neumann of Mandalay Baseball Properties attended the meeting. He told chamber members that Mandalay, along with the Atlanta Braves, would chip in $50,000.
The final third is believed to be covered by Chuck Shoninger, the owner of the land where the stadium will be built. He told WECT.com that it was not a definite commitment as of Tuesday.
Meeting minutes show that one member questioned the hiring of Capstrat, citing a lack of a bid process nor a cost breakdown of the estimated $150,000.
Majure-Rhett said the communications company has a working relationship with the chamber. Capstrat helped coordinate a trip to Durham to learn more about the city's minor league baseball stadium.
Majure-Rhett said Capstrat's campaign during the parks bond referendum in 2006 shows the company's successful history in Wilmington.
A political action committee will be formed in order to report any money collected for the issue.
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