Voters dash Braves’ plan for Class-A team in N.C.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The Braves’ hopes of moving their high-Class A affiliate to Wilmington, N.C., were dealt a major blow Tuesday when voters issued a resounding “no” on a referendum to raise property taxes to pay for a proposed new ballpark.

Without $37 million in new taxes to build a ballpark on the Cape Fear River, the Wilmington plan is probably over and the Braves will remain in Lynchburg, Va., unless and until another option materializes. They had hoped to move to Wilmington in time for the 2015 season.

“As the mayor stated last night, they won’t pursue other [funding] options so most likely [it’s] dead,” said Mike Plant, Braves executive vice president of business operations. “Fortunately all the good people in Lynchburg always understood this wasn’t about any dissatisfaction with them or our location.”

The Braves had hoped to move in order to have a state-of-the-art ballpark like those used by their other minor-league affiliates, and to have a player-development contract with a minor league ownership group, in this case Mandalay Baseball Properties.

The Braves and Mandalay agreed in February to enter a six-month negotiating period with Wilmington officials. The Braves hoped their offer of a 20-year lease would help sway opinion in Wilmington, where skeptics pointed to brief stints by other minor league teams that left Wilmington for better deals elsewhere.

“Moving our high-A minor league team affiliation to Wilmington, North Carolina would be a huge benefit to the players and development staff in our organization,” Plant said in September, just before the Wilmington City Council approved the plan.

That left only one major hurdle – Tuesday’s bond referendum. It proved insurmountable, with 70 percent voting against it.

Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo thought the vote would be closer. It would have required a 2.5-cent increase in property taxes per $100 of value, or $50 per year for a $200,000 home.

“The opportunity came knocking at our door at a time when citizens were worried about government spending,” Saffo told the Wilmington Star News. “They’ve spoken very clearly. We will not pursue baseball.”

The Braves will let the dust settle before possibly looking for other options. For now, they’ll stay in Lynchburg at 73-year-old City Stadium, which had its most recent renovation in 2004.

The Braves’ minor-league teams play in upscale, recently built ballparks in all of their other full-season affiliates at low-A Rome, Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett. They went from outdated stadiums to taxpayer-funded ballparks when they moved their Double-A team from Greenville, S.C., and their Triple-A team from Richmond.

Wilmington would have been the last piece in the organization’s aim of having top-tier facilities throughout their minor league system.

54 comments Add your comment

Bream Is My Homie

November 7th, 2012
5:05 pm

Only $50 a year? The people of Wilmington are traders to Braves country!

Bream Is My Homie

November 7th, 2012
5:06 pm

F1RST Y’ALL

mexican brave

November 7th, 2012
5:20 pm

$50 a year for a $200,000 home? Come on people from Wilmington!!

Tip O' the Cap

November 7th, 2012
5:22 pm

Right now, I wouldn’t pay $50 a year more in taxes even for Chipper’s Hooters rolodex.

RBI

November 7th, 2012
5:22 pm

They probably saw how Gwinnett got screwed with the AAA Braves stadium.

Robert

November 7th, 2012
5:39 pm

Good for them. The amount of money is irrelevant. If the Braves want to relocate, let them finance the stadium and not the taxpayers.

Moobs Johnson

November 7th, 2012
5:58 pm

It would have been nice to have the chance to vote on the AAA Braves moving to Gwinnett instead of the slimy behind closed doors move that happened.

ATLcracker

November 7th, 2012
5:59 pm

Macon! Move back to Macon! Downtown Macon is already undergoing a Renaissance and this would really get the ball rolling. Restore Historic Luther Williams Field which recently starred in Trouble With The Curve and 42 The Jackie Robinson Story. It would be the second oldest ballpark in America. Think of the Tradition. Think of the convenience. Only 70 minutes from The Ted.

jbill

November 7th, 2012
6:00 pm

You didn’t bill that……

jbill

November 7th, 2012
6:02 pm

I put Bill not Build on purpose.

Brad

November 7th, 2012
6:16 pm

go to Kinston, NC

Dawgdad (The Original)

November 7th, 2012
6:26 pm

Taxpayers are tired of supporting corporate sports. Braves have enough money to pay for some of this renovation/building. Macon sounds great and would be convenient to Atlanta. Braves could afford to spend a couple million rehabbing the park in Macon in return for a long term lease. Get off the wallet, Liberty.

Dave Ramsey

November 7th, 2012
6:49 pm

Americans are BROKE !

Maybe the President will figure that out and CUT SPENDING !

Bob the Blogger

November 7th, 2012
6:58 pm

In spite of being a huge Braves fan, I could not vote in good conscious for a taxpayer funded ballpark in my county. Just from reading the AJC, my guess is the citizens of Gwinnett got a raw deal on their stadium. Everyone pays, few benefit. .

knockahomerx

November 7th, 2012
7:27 pm

Braves why not consider Athens, GA. Clarke Co. or Oconee Co. Hey l would love East Athens area in Oglethorpe Co. or Madison Co. area. Get the UGA college kids to cheer for the team. What an atmosphere. We have no beach, but we are in the heart of Braves Nation. It puts the team close and build

knockahomerx

November 7th, 2012
7:33 pm

Cont. Athens area would build fan base. I would consider putting AA in Athens, Hi A in Rome, Lo A in Miss. GM Wrenn please make sound player choices and financial choices to fill our 2013 roster. The fans are really watching and discussing our Braves. Get both Uptons. If we make our roster stronger trade some of our weaker pitchers. Trade or sign an Ace. Would Greinke solidify our staff or do we really have major league potential minor leaguers. If we do, give those pitchers a chance. Please Sir, the oppurtunity to get it right this year is there, Just do it Frank, Get’r done please.

hit a single

November 7th, 2012
7:41 pm

Macon should not have let the Braves get away. They should be embarrassed. But then again they have let the coliseum become a dump and they have done nothing to improve facilities. Inner city attitude and it has cost them. I loved going to the Braves games.

BIG MAC

November 7th, 2012
7:47 pm

The Braves got screwed by the idiots in Greenville, but they need to ‘buy back’ the franchise from the Red Sox organization. It’s a Low-A team here now in a brand new miniature of Fenway. There is also a vacancy in Columbia, SC for a team & a new stadium at USC,jr.

Ken Stallings

November 7th, 2012
7:59 pm

It is frankly past time that professional sports franchises of all types realize there is very little desire among people today to fund stadiums with tax-payer revenues. Teams should fund their own stadiums like any other private business would do. Most people understand the fiscal constraints affecting communities across the nation. Again, past time that sports team owners did likewise!

don

November 7th, 2012
8:40 pm

Obviously, they should have stayed in Myrtle Beach. Lynchburg doesn’t draw enough to fill a telephone booth.

Put in Timeout by Ken Suguira,Filtered by Mark Bradley, Banned once by Bill King & Chip Towers but only slightly loved by Jeff Schultz.

November 7th, 2012
9:32 pm

That is GREAT…..I wish the people would tell the Falcon’s and Blank to pay for their own stadium………Stop spending on crap people don’t need……

Long time fan

November 7th, 2012
10:03 pm

Don (from 8:40) the affilation with the Pelicans ended because one of the ownership group of the Rangers owns the Pelicans.

bedtime for bonzo

November 8th, 2012
2:02 am

“…..Dave Ramsey
November 7th, 2012
6:49 pm

Americans are BROKE !

Maybe the President will figure that out and CUT SPENDING !…..”

Cut spending and you cut jobs. Like it or not revenues will rise.

bedtime for bonzo

November 8th, 2012
2:06 am

Don:

Long time fan is correct. The Rangers snookered the Braves and took over in Myrtle. A+ is now an orphan, unloved, unwept, and alone.

MikeY

November 8th, 2012
6:06 am

I live close to Wilmington. One thing that really hurt the initiative is that Wilmington is in the Orioles/Nats broadcast area. Which means Braves baseball is not on TV (except for the occasional Fox, ESPN, or MLB Network game). No Fox Sports South Games. No Peachtree TV games. And MASN, which carries the Orioles and Nats, is not included in any local cable package. This is a hard area to be a baseball fan!

I had to purchase the mlb.tv subscription to watch the Braves. MLB needs to look at the blackout/pre-empt rules for TV. The rules are turning away fans. Fewer baseball fans meant fewer voters on the YES side of teh referendum.

Bill

November 8th, 2012
6:46 am

One place they won’t be coming is Savannah. Here we have an ancient stadium that has had a couple of minor touch ups. It is also located near one of Savannah’s several shooting galleries (high crime areas).

Decades ago we had a Braves AA team here. Saw Murphy, Benedict, and I think Hubbard come through here.

There have noises about building a new park elsewhere but with Savannah’s current administration that isn’t going to happen. So we will stay with the Nationals A team.

ATLcracker

November 8th, 2012
8:17 am

mcdaviddawg

November 8th, 2012
8:34 am

Finally, the time has come when we tell businesses that can pay monster salaries that they should build their own stadiums if they want them. This definitely includes the Falcons.

RMW

November 8th, 2012
8:36 am

Move them to Columbus, GA….we have a great ballpark (Golden Park) just sitting here not being used…was home to Yankees, Astros and Red Sox teams…..would be a great fit

Tommy Dew

November 8th, 2012
10:33 am

Please consider Charleston, SC. There is huge Braves support here. Currently our Riverdogs are a Yankee affiliate, but we would welcome the change.

jek

November 8th, 2012
11:28 am

Tri-cities Tennessee– Bristol- Kingsport- Johnson City !!!!

RC

November 8th, 2012
11:36 am

Would love to see Braves in Greenboro,NC. New Stadium. Marlins affiliate here now. Maybe something could be worked out. One can dream.

PEPr

November 8th, 2012
11:58 am

Macon, GA is not a Baseball town! Many teams have tried to succeed here, but little support always defeats their efforts. Also, It is my understanding that during hard rains, the dugouts at Luther Williams field flood. It is a 1930s ballpark. Thanks.

JBoy

November 8th, 2012
12:28 pm

The Braves should look at Kinston NC! Grainger Stadium is a historic, but up to date ballpark and there is great support from the community.

Dadgum.....

November 8th, 2012
1:04 pm

My two cents….I don’t blame the fine people of Wilmington voting it down. To many $50 in this economy is significant. They may not even go to a game but are being taxed for the enjoyment down the road by others in 2015? Not a chance. They can take their family to a movie with those entertainment dollars.

Charlotte is going to build a beautiful stadium next to BOA stadium. It has taken more years than you can imagine to get this done and guess what? That’s right it’s not being done with a property tax. It’s being funded by bonds and municipal monies of 8 mil. In addition a tax on hotels is there too. Certainly some of the municipal money comes from tax payers but no where are the tax payers footing the bill via a separate tax. Kudos to Charlotte on getting this done after many lawsuits tried to block it.

Now Richmond, in contrast, has big issues. The Squirrels just reupped their lease through 2015 on The old Diamond to give the city more time to formulate new stadium plans. Ground swell has begun just last month on putting the stadium in Shockhoe Slip downtown. Problem is they don’t have the support of the surrounding counties who they are needing to foot a large part of the bill. Chesterfield County was just handed a $300,000 invoice to pay for upgraded lighting for next season that nobody knew anything about. I can only see if Chesterfield came to the taxpayers in the county for a $50 tax increase to fund it. It would voted down by 80% of the people. I’m betting you right now the Flying Squirrels leave Richmond after 2015. There is simply not enough support.

smallmouth6

November 8th, 2012
1:48 pm

I love the Braves, but I would have voted against it. They’ve got money and it’s a business. They gonna let everyone in for free and then charge regular prices for food and drinks. All you folks who hate the auto and lending bailouts would be dead set against this, wouldn’t you?

Kentavo

November 8th, 2012
2:28 pm

The real screw job was by Chuck Greenberg and it’s the reason Braves aren’t in Myrtle Beach anymore.

Teddy B

November 8th, 2012
2:31 pm

We don’t need the Upton brothers! They are over paid, over hyped, and a couple years away from being benched for ever! Seriously, B.J. isn’t that good. Justin maybe, but not worth trading away a bunch of talent. Greinke can stay away too, way over hyped and he isn’t worth nearly what they would want for him. We are stacked to the gills with pitching already. We just need 2 outfielders not named Upton.

Nerdville

November 8th, 2012
4:25 pm

wilmington, nc is full of short sighted cheap nerds. hope the braves don’t give up on nc though.

Dunwoody-ite

November 8th, 2012
8:20 pm

Wilmington, NC won’t pay $50 a year (assuming a $200k house) in additional property taxes for a new ball park but their state almost endorsed our newly elected President that will eventually raise everyone’s taxes 2 to 5%. At least Wilmington would have had something to do other than watch their tax dollars go down the Government Drain.

Chopdawg

November 8th, 2012
9:11 pm

Cracker, if you can get from The Ted to Luther Williams in 70 minutes, you might be driving too fast!

BravesfaninAugusta

November 8th, 2012
9:54 pm

Read my lips: No new taxes! ((No matter how poor my quality of life is)) This is so typical of the South’s “No taxes whatsoever” attitude.. it is just stupid. A long-term agreement to have an organization like the Braves in your neighborhood is certainly worth $50 a year; that is, unless you have “No new taxes!” stamped on your foreheads like the majority of Southerners… yea, let’s keep the South poor darn it!!

Flex appeal

November 8th, 2012
10:44 pm

Move the Team to Shelby NC. Home of the American Legion World Series.

Small Town Braves Fan

November 9th, 2012
6:49 am

Have they considered Albany, Georgia. The Expos had a farm team in there for a few years and then The Silver Bullets were there. It was a nice stadium. Haven’t been there in a few years so I don’t know what shape it is in now-a-days. I bet Albany would welcome another team.

gizmoluck

November 9th, 2012
5:44 pm

lt’s hard to ask taxpayers to fund a ballpark for millionaires to play in so that millionaire owners can charge to much. Get real and wake up baseball.

gizmoluck

November 9th, 2012
5:47 pm

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[...] and some are no longer viewed as next-to-untouchable by general manager Frank Wre more… Voters dash Braves’ plan for Class-A team in N.C. – blogs.ajc.com 11/07/2012 INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — The Braves’ hopes of moving their [...]

Ralph

November 10th, 2012
10:23 pm

MOVE THE TEAM BACK TO MACON !!!. I’m sure they learned their lesson after losing the lower A team to Rome. GIVE MACON ANOTHER CHANCE !!!

freebird13

November 13th, 2012
12:49 am

Way to go tax payers.

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