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New Hanover County won't assist new Wilmington ballpark -- yet

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Carolina League

Perhaps waiting to see if there's political support for a new downtown Wilmington (N.C.) ballpark, New Hanover County commissioners decided to wait on any financial backing for the project -- for now.

The hotly contested issue will be before voters this fall, as the city and Mandalay Baseball Properties are negotiating a deal to bring an Atlanta Braves farm team to a $31-million ballpark on the downtown waterfront. No agreement has been reached, but the city went ahead earlier this week to place a bond issue on the fall ballot.

In theory, the county could help out with some measure of assistance via economic development funds, but the current board decided to pass on the issue. Really, there are two issues: the current board (which could be totally different next year, as members are all up for reelection) didn't want to tie future boardmembers to a commitment; and some would see the board participation as an endorsement of the project. It's a little bit of a political hot potato.

So for now the county isn't willing to commit. If the project goes down in flames via referendum, well, that's that. If the project is overwhelmingly approved by voters, we're guessing the next iteration of the county board will be working hard to figure out how to be present at every photo op.

The two sides are working on a proposal for a publicly funded new facility to be managed by Mandalay and occupied by the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats (High Class A; Carolina League), a team to be owned by the Braves.

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