WILMINGTON -- After pitching their thoughts on plans to bring minor league baseball back to the Port City, Wilmington residents will now cast their votes. At Tuesday night's city council meeting, leaders approved putting a bond referendum to pay for a ballpark on the November ballot but not before hearing from the public.
One by one more than a dozen people stepped up to the plate to speak both for and against the plans to build a stadium along the riverfront. Each received three minutes to speak and the public hearing lasted for almost an hour. Supporters said it will enhance the quality of life and spur economic development.
"It's about a source of civic pride that will act as a catalyst to attract private investment, develop riverfront assets, and expand our tax base," said Terry Spencer, a supporter.
However, many opponents said they don't want their tax dollars footing the bill.
If the $37 million bond referendum is passed, property taxes could increase by 2.5 cents to pay it off.
One opponent wants the city to look to their partners in this endeavor, Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves.
"If it is so darn good, why don't they take and get their own money and their own bonds, they got the money to do it," said R.J. Davis.
City staff said though the bond money must be spent on the stadium, all of it does not have to be used.
Supporters said paying now will pay off later.
"No one likes to see taxes go up but I feel this would be a solid investment and it's an investment in future generations," said Daniel Minkler, a supporter.
But an attorney for the Wilmington Sharks baseball team stepped up to the podium to remind council and voters, the Port City already has a team that helps local businesses and needs more support .
"Daniels Tours does our transportation, Cheesy Bank, we had to contract with them to do the food because at Buck Hardy Field your concession stand will not pass inspection," said attorney Clay Allen Collier.
City leaders said they'll remember all this during negotiations, but ultimately the decision is in the hands of the voters.
"In the end you'll decide whether to spend the money or not," said council member Kevin O'Grady.
Time constraints forced city leaders to move on the bond referendum while contract negotiations with Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves continue.