City of Wilmington may be sued over park

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - We're learning more about what's prompted a legal dispute between the City of Wilmington and the former owners of the land now known as Olsen Park.

Attorney Gary Shipman says the city is in default under the terms of the purchase contract for Olsen Park. The contract states construction on phase 2 of the park – to include tennis and volleyball courts, as well as additional parking for the park near Murrayville Road – would begin by July 2011.

More than a year later, the city has yet to break ground on phase 2. Shipman says the last straw came when his client's were told the city had no plans to even begin design of phase 2 until 2016.

He said the cities pursuit of a potential minor league baseball stadium during these discussions was particularly disturbing to the Olsens. "We think that the City needs to fund and complete its current obligations before embarking on any others," Shipman said.

On Monday, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo admitted the city is behind on planned development at Olsen Park, but downplayed talk about a potential breach of contract with the Olsen Family. "We have not spent the money to build a $37 million stadium downtown. The citizens will make that decision," the mayor said. "This has nothing to do with Olsen Park, it's unfortunate that they use that, but we understand politics."

Mayor Saffo said the city expected some financial assistance from the county on construction at Olsen Park, but that hasn't panned out. He indicated the city would move forward on it's own to finish the job.

Shipman says if the city doesn't move more quickly on construction at Olsen Park, his clients may try to get a judge to intervene, and require the city to complete it's contractual obligations.

Wilmington bought Olsen Park in 2007 for $4.2 million, and spent over $4 million more developing baseball and softball fields for phase 1 of the park.

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