WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Months of work and debate came down to a vote of the people Tuesday.
Voters in Wilmington decided if they want to help pay to build a stadium along the Riverfront, which would become the home for a minor league baseball franchise.
The votes are in and a publicly-funded baseball stadium will not be coming to the Port City. The referendum vote failed 70-30%.
Representatives with the City of Wilmington, Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves worked for several months on a deal and agreed in September on the basics. All of the agreements in the contract were contingent upon the passing of the $37 million bond referendum that was on the ballot Tuesday.
Mayor Bill Saffo appeared on Carolina in the Morning Wednesday to talk about future plans for the baseball stadium.
"There have been other groups that have come in that talked about doing a private consortium that never materialized," said Mayor Saffo. "I'll never say never and where there is a will there is usually a way, but at this point from the City's perspective, City Council's perspective, it's done."
Mayor Saffo also released this statement Tuesday night after the referendum failed:
"Baseball has been discussed in our community for a number of years and this was the first viable proposal we had seen, involving not only Major League Baseball, but also a nationally known management entertainment company. Clearly this opportunity came knocking at our door at a tough time, when citizens are worried about government spending, even when the benefits are large. That's why it was important for citizens to have their say and that's why we put this referendum on the ballot.
It is clear from the outcome of this election that our citizens do not want to pursue baseball and we have heard them. We will continue to focus on providing core services to our citizens, just as we always have. We will also continue to look for economic develop opportunities that will benefit our city in the future.
This has been a healthy debate for our community with strong feelings on both sides. We ask everyone – supporters and opponents – to stay involved in city government and continue to promote positive growth and change for our community. Most of all, we thank everyone who took part in this debate for stepping up to do what they think is right for our city."
Mandalay Baseball officials also released the following statement:
"The Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball are disappointed that the ballpark referendum has been defeated. We would like to thank Mayor Saffo, City Council, the city administration, the numerous civic and business leaders and all the volunteers who worked tirelessly on this terrific opportunity for the city of Wilmington."
Now, if a baseball stadium is built in the area, a private donor will have to step forward.
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