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Wilmington ballpark to go before voters this fall

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Carolina League

Wilmington (N.C.) voters will be asked to approving bonding for a new ballpark this fall, as officials throw out a controversial petition that would bar city spending on a facility.

Voters will be asked to approve $42 million in bonding for all the costs of a new ballpark for the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League), including land acquisition and infrastructure improvements; the team will be owned by the Atlanta Braves and the ballpark managed by Mandalay Baseball Properties. City officials and Mandalay are still negotiating a potential lease and scope of the project. A report from National Sports Services indicated the $42 million would be the top end on the price spectrum; voter approval would not obligate the city from borrowing that full amount, and city officials have already indicated they're looking at a considerably more modest facility (though, if you throw out $6 million or so for land and another $2 million for infrastructure improvements, you're already looking at a considerably more modest facility than first proposed by Mandalay). The specifics of the referendum question will be determined in early August; Mandalay and the city will negotiate a lease in coming weeks.

The vote from the City Council, by the way, was unanimous.

At the same meeting the council threw out a petition that would prevent the city from spending any money on new sporting facilities. The legal rationale: organizers of the petition drive didn't attach affidavits saying they were registered voters in the city at the time, and the ages of signers were not uniformly gathered. The issue of outsiders coming into Wilmington to conduct the petition drive was a sore subject among some city citizens: outside money in the form of ad spending from Americans for Prosperity was also a topic of contention, and the issue of whether outsiders were coming in to influence city politics is a consideration here. Organizer Josh Fulton says he may go to court to overrule the council decision to throw out the petitions.

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