Baseball stadium, hotel top economic development news

by Tyler Roberts
Thursday, February 2, 2012

Staff photo by Allison Potter

City of Wilmington Public Information Officer, Malissa Talbert, from left, attends a press conference during which Mayor Bill Saffo answers questions about the construction of a proposed baseball stadium. Also pictured are city council members Kevin O’Grady, Margaret Haynes and Laura Padgett on Tuesday, Jan. 31 in City Hall.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and city council held a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 31 to announce that council will move into serious talks about locating a minor league baseball stadium in Wilmington.

The council will vote in next Tuesday’s regular meeting to approve a memorandum with the understanding that the city of Wilmington, Mandalay Entertainment and the Atlanta Braves Professional Baseball Club will work on finding an agreement for bringing a baseball stadium and team to the city during the next six months.

There are no specific details regarding the location of the proposed stadium or just how big it will be; however, it will most likely seat more than 6,000 people, Saffo said.

Mandalay Entertainment and the Atlanta Braves want the stadium to be operational by 2014, Saffo said; hence the urgency to begin discussions.

"I will say upfront that such growth does not come without a price," Saffo said, explaining that the city council will deliberate the project’s cost and its benefit to the city over the next six months.

"There are going to be costs associated with this and possible tax adjustments to our tax rate," he continued.

The costs associated with the implementation of the stadium are not definitive, Saffo said.

Though Saffo could not provide an answer about how the project might affect tax rates, he said that those figures should become more apparent during the next six months.

One location that the city has considered for a baseball stadium is on the riverfront near the PPD facility; however, Saffo said there are other potential locations being looked into as well.

"It is a great location, but it is not the only location," he said.

In a second announcement made at the press conference, Saffo said the city council will consider an agreement with Virginia-based hotel developer Harmony Hospitality to build the convention center hotel

The proposed hotel is a full service, 194-room Sheraton Embassy Suites.

"We believe we have finally gotten a proposal that gives the city what we asked for," Saffo said.

The agreement stipulates that the land would not be sold to the developer until construction is ready to begin, Saffo said.

Harmony Hospitality projects that the construction of the hotel will take about 19 months, opening the summer of 2014.

This story was first reported on on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

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