Saturday, July 20, 2024

Countywide bond off the table for Leland’s potential baseball stadium

REV Entertainment Group president Sean Decker with Economic and Community Development Director for the Town of Leland Gary Vidmar at a press conference about a potential baseball stadium built in Leland. (Carl Blankenship/Port City Daily)

LELAND — County and town leaders and a REV Entertainment Group official met in their first public appearance Tuesday since the announcement was made last month that a baseball stadium could be headed to Brunswick County.

The discussion carried a guarantee: Taxpayers will not foot the bill.

READ MORE: Leland puts down $30K for feasibility study on baseball stadium development

While internal emails from town manager David Hollis noted a countywide bond would be floated to cover the stadium costs, as of today that idea has been quashed.

“It’s important the public knows we’re not going with a bond,” Leland’s economic and community development director, Gary Vidmar, told press Tuesday.

Instead, the county is looking to gain revenue from the project to service debt. Brunswick County Deputy Manager Haynes Brigman said the project will not come to fruition if the finances do not pan out.

Last week, Leland announced it hired Baker Tilly for $30,000 to perform a feasibility study for the stadium. A major part of the work is determining revenue streams and financing.

How much it will cost to build the stadium has not been assessed, but officials have ideas to keep taxpayers from shouldering the financial burden. 

“The revenues generated from that type of development, whether it’s land donation, tax base, gross sales, tax generation, jobs, all of the economic impacts of that — are those enough to help fund the cost of the stadium from the county council perspective?” Brigman asked rhetorically.

REV president Sean Becker said the group will be making a “massive investment” to match dollar-for-dollar development in the vicinity to offset costs for building the stadium.

“We’re here to spur economic development in the region,” Becker said, adding REV plans to sign a long-term lease to manage the venue. “We’re committing to more than the stadium; we’re committing to ancillary development.”

REV Entertainment Group will invest in a potential hotel, restaurants, retail and perhaps a convention center, all adding to the bottom line of tax revenue for the county and the Town of Leland.

Becker noted the metropolitan statistical area of more than 500,000 people, as well as the millions of tourists who visit each year attracted the company to Leland. The town and REV were introduced by a former REV employee who lives in Leland.

The stadium will be owned by the county, with the land owner Jackeys Creek Investors LLC possibly donating its land, as well as property for a new school. The school would occupy 50 to 60 acres. Brigman said the county reached out to Brunswick County Schools about the possibility.

The LLC already plans to build in the area, with or without the stadium component.

The stadium land, about 20 acres located between the Walmart Supercenter and nearby Brunswick Forest, is not in Leland currently; however, as previously reported by PCD, the town is in discussions with Jackeys Creek Investors LLC to voluntarily annex its 1,400 acres. It stretches from Walmart to N.C. Route 133; the development would connect 133 to U.S. Highway 17.

REV Entertainment Group is working on a master plan to be completed in the next six weeks. Preliminary designs were devised by Jones, Petrie, Rafinski (JPR) Architects, with its costs covered by Jackeys Creek Investors LLC, officials confirmed Tuesday.

If the stadium moves forward, it would be a 24-month build with an anticipated 2026 opening. The team would be independent or an A or AA minor league competitor, comparable to REV’s other two teams in the state: the Hickory Crawdads and Kinston’s Down East Wood Ducks.

During the off season, Becker said 70 games will be played there and the community can expect a variety of events hosted throughout the year. Yet, concerts will not be a major part of the programming. Becker noted the goal is not to compete with the major show venues in Wilmington.

He gave a long list of examples for what REV could host there: conventions, outdoor movies, outfield sleepovers for scout groups and charity events.

Roughly 80 locals showed up to the Leland Cultural Arts Center to hear about the stadium and voice their concerns after the press conference Tuesday. 

During the public forum, the panelists occasionally had to quiet the crowd between rounds of claps, jeers and outbursts. The comments were a mix of supportive excitement and opposition. Many locals spoke out over others, as hands were raised to gain access to the floor. 

Residents wanted to know about a possible bond, the development’s economic impact, if the location abutting Brunswick Forest is set in stone, how traffic would increase and what the stadium will be used for. 

Nicholas Newell, a Leland realtor, asked for a few considerations of the construction: That the parking for the project be paved with permeable surface, rather than asphalt, that the developer attempt to save as many trees as possible, and brush is not burned during clearing. The last point received a round of applause from attendees.

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When asked whether he is supportive of the project or opposes it, Newell told PCD he wants more information.

“I think that it’s really early on for anybody to make a decision one way or another,” Newell said. “We just don’t have all the details yet.”

The feasibility study will be complete in 30 to 90 days and the Town of Leland will share the results with the public.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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