Ripken Design denies reports that it pitched new stadium plan to NHC

Ripken Design denies pitching privately-funded stadium plan to county
Published: Aug. 28, 2012 at 4:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 1, 2012 at 4:38 PM EDT
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – While the city of Wilmington moves forward with discussions to bring a baseball stadium to downtown, there are conflicting reports on if a second group is considering building a ballpark in New Hanover County.

County Commissioner Jason Thompson said that Ripken Design, a private group that builds and manages stadiums, pitched the idea to New Hanover County officials.  Thompson said they proposed building a stadium on land near the Battleship. It would be paid for with private funds costing less than about $10 million dollars than the city's plan.

Jeff Eiseman, the executive vice president of Ripken Baseball, told WECT Tuesday night they have no intentions of trying to compete with a plan already underway.

"Minor League Baseball has rules and those rules say you need to have permission to explore a territory – Mandalay and the Atlanta braves have permission to explore Wilmington," Eiseman explained. "They are in negotiations in Wilmington. Anything we're there to do is merely for us as a consultant standpoint."

Eiseman said the Ripken team did consult with the county on whether to get  involved with the city's plans to build a ballpark in downtown Wilmington.

It is unclear who prompted the discussion.

Thompson said Ripken's group met once with him and twice with county staff. These meetings took place over a month ago, according to Thompson. Commissioners Jonathan Barfield, Ted Davis and Rick Catlin told they were not aware of any private group considering a stadium for the county.

Cal Ripken, Jr., who is a National Baseball Hall of Famer, is the president and CEO of Ripken Design, a subsidiary of Ripken Baseball. The City of Wilmington considered hiring Ripken Design as the project management group several months ago, but that plan was rejected.  Instead, the city chose National Sports Services.

Councilman Kevin O'Grady told us he is worried that voters will hear these "rumors" and think there's another option for baseball. As far as O'Grady's concerned, the City's proposal is the only option.

Wilmington City Council is currently in negotiations with Mandalay and the Atlanta Braves to bring a single-A baseball team to the Port City. Voters must approve a $37 million bond referendum to pay for the project.

If that bond should fail, Eisemen says it's unlikely the Ripken team will revisit the idea of coming to Wilmington.

"I think it will be a challenge," he said. "Our name has been bandied about a bunch of times in that market. We do not have a club that would be free and clear to go. The only leagues that make sense for that market are the Carolina League or the South Atlantic League and we are currently in negotiations for a stadium development in the South Atlantic League and we don't have any other clubs that would fit the footprint."

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