The first week of 2017 started with some sweets and ended with the season’s first real winter weather. In between, there was a three-century old find in the Cape Fear River and the UNCW men’s basketball Seahawks soared in the first week of conference play. Here’s a recap of the week that was Jan. 1-7 on Port City Daily:
In business, GE Hitachi, one of the area’s largest employers, received a significant contract to dismantle aged nuclear reactors in Sweden. But, European nuclear facilities couldn’t hold up to the new ovens fired up in Wilmington. Among this week’s best read stories was reporter Benjamin Shachtman’s interview with the owners of The Red Eye Bakery. The new downtown sweet shop opens at 5 a.m. for early risers and night owls.
Downtown Wilmington also happens to be home to figuratively sweet news too. He city has announced that a long-closed section of the Riverwalk, behind the Brooks Building, is set to reopen after being rebuilt due to safety concerns.
The best read stories of the week, however, came not from above the Cape Fear, but from underneath.
Archaeologists at Brunswick Town / Fort Anderson Historical Site were sitting on an exciting gift of sorts, but one they couldn’t announce until after the holidays. Just before Christmas, a contractor for the Army Corps of Engineers pulled a cannon from the river near the fort. But there could be no announcement until state archaeologists examined the near-eight foot gun. That happened on Monday, and reporter Christina Haley was there to go live on Facebook. She was back at Brunswick Town Fort Anderson on Thursday when more details about the cannon were announced.
It was a busy week in local sports as well, especially over on College Road, where the defending Colonial Athletic Association champions, the UNCW Seahawk’s, opened conference play with a win over Townson. Before the week was over, the Seahawks won two more conference games: once at home over Elon and again on the road in Philadelphia.
The most popular sports stories of the week had nothing to do with hoops, though. In fact, they were about events months away from happening.
Reporter Joe Catenacci talked to officials about the upcoming Wells Fargo Golf Championship at Eagle Point Golf Club in Porters Neck. The major PGA event is just under 100 days away, but local officials have been planning for its arrival, or rather, the several hundred thousand people it is expected to draw, for months.
Catenacci’s first story was about logistics and the confidence organizers have in the area’s ability to handle the event. But, as he found out later in the week, one reason everyone expects the event to be successful is because of the numbers of volunteers already looking to help when the tournament arrives May 1.
Another sports story that had people talking was the return home of Steven Mintz. The Leland native, who was previously with the Texas Rangers organization, will join the staff of a new Class-A Advanced Carolina League franchise known as the Down East Wood Ducks this spring when the ball club makes its home in nearby Kinston.
It was back to basketball, however, to round out this week’s sports features. Catenacci spent some time this week
talking to Laney High School alum and current Coastal Carolina hardwood star Elijah Wilson about his time playing college ball. The Wilmington native — who shares a Laney record with Michal Jordan — had high praise for his experience and his coaches as he prepares for his final days playing collegiate ball.
Wilson is not the only local sports star making a transition. Wilmington native Jonathan Cooper has found a new landing spot just in time for the NFL postseason. The former Hoggard star agreed to terms with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday just days after his release from the Cleveland Browns.
Benjamin Schachtman’s next story took him away from ovens and into surgery, so to speak when he headed to New Hanover Regional Medical Center Orthopedic Hospital to talk about an innovative joint replacement surgery that gives patients — in this story longtime Wilmington Pediatrician Dr. Henry Hawthorne — a less invasive and faster healing option.
But it wasn’t all good news in the medicine field to start 2017. The American Red Cross announced that it is facing a serious shortage of blood and platelet donations after a drop in donations in November and December.
And it wasn’t good news for the employees and customers of the College Road Kmart, either. Sears Holdings announced on Wednesday the store would close in March as part of a nationwide restructuring program.
To prevent bad news for homeowners while the coldest weather of the season is here, The Cape Fear Public Utilities Authority on Friday issued a series of tips to prevent pipes from freezing. With temps expected to be in the teens for the first half of the week, it’s a story that will stay around for a few more days.
Politically, the year is beginning with plenty of action. Pat McCrory may no longer be governor, but the Republican’s have a large majority in the legislature, and they began the year by reshaping the state government — particularly the powers of the governor. One such change, a restructuring of the North Carolina State Elections Board, has the potential to have local impacts, but local officials had mixed reactions.
In Washington, Congressman David Rouzer is celebrating a big ‘WIIN’ when it comes to preserving local beaches,
but he’s not spending too much time celebrating. He talked to Ben Schachtman about plans to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare.”
In more hometown politics, a measure to allow helicopter tours over Carolina Beach is back in the forefront after being rejected last year. Opponents say it is back because of the company’s conflict-of-interest laden ties to town hall. Carolina Beach officials have a different take.