Tuesday, July 16, 2024

As Leland awaits feasibility study, early estimates exceed $115M for baseball stadium

Early design created by JPR Architects showing the baseball stadium potentially planned in Brunswick County and its mixed-use area fit. (Courtesy JPR)

LELAND — A final cost analysis to build a baseball stadium in Brunswick County’s fastest-growing town should be coming soon. So far estimates on construction, according to a document obtained by Port City Daily, reach $117 million.

READ MORE: Strike one: Brunswick County decides against financing baseball stadium

ALSO: Could a baseball stadium in Leland pay for itself?

REV Entertainment Group — an events and sports management business created in 2021 by the Texas Rangers — first approached Leland and Brunswick County leaders last summer about exploring minor league baseball in the county. 

It’s proposed between Brunswick Forest and the Walmart supercenter in Leland. The 20-acre sports complex, seating roughly 4,000 fans, would be part of a larger 1,400-acre development in the Jackeys Creek area. The mixed-use project would include retail, a hotel, convention center, restaurants and housing, but requires a voluntary annexation from its owners, Jackeys Creek Investors LLC. 

Leland paid $30,000 to Baker Tilly consulting firm in February to complete a feasibility study that will include due diligence on construction and operating costs and determine if there are financial gaps in the project. Town spokesperson Jessica Jewell said it is expected to be finalized by early June, which will give a more clear picture of the financial scope.

CATCH UP: Leland puts down $30K for feasibility study on baseball stadium development

In March, Jones, Petrie, Rafinski (JPR) Architects shared a proposed construction budget in an email to Leland’s economic and community development director Gary Vidmar, JPR vice president Andrew Cunningham, Brunswick’s town manager David Hollis and deputy county manager Haynes Brigman, Brunswick Forest CEO Jeff Earp, REV president Sean Decker, and Marta Purdy and Jeff Rowe from Baker Tilly.

David M. Rafinski, JPR’s COO, was clear the figures presented to the stakeholders were not finite but based on current information available.

“One thing I wanted to point out is the fact that our estimate is still a working document with a bunch of assumptions that need to be chased down yet,” he wrote April 4. “We’ll be revising this estimate in the upcoming days to refine the numbers and get to where everyone is comfortable.”

A – Site Preparation$29,792,467
B – North Parking Lots & Streets$3,952,114
C- Central Road E-W$2,441,647
D – West Parking Lot & Street$2,545,606
E – South Parking Lot & Street$6,088,093
F – Stadium & Plazas$63,095,168
G – Utilities$9,214,289
JPR’s budget projection done in March showing early estimates to build a baseball stadium in Leland.

JPR has $30 million going toward tree-clearing, earthwork on parking lots, ditch rerouting, and environmental mitigation, among other needs. 

Roughly $15 million is for paving the parking lots and streets, landscaping and adding in lighting. 

The construction of the stadium and plazas, including the extension of two major and minor roadways, comes in at $63 million, with utilities — water service, electrical, gas — construction costing around $9 million.

The architecture firm denoted on the budget proposal that if six months elapsed without movement, a new budget would need to be reassessed due to market-rate fluctuations. Contractor and vendor bidding could alter costs as well.

According to the document’s fine print, the numbers did not include: 

  • Professional fees, testing, financing and other owner’s soft costs
  • Furnishings and equipment other than those shown in the body of the estimate
  • Hazardous material removal and abatement
  • Premium costs for extended shift or overtime work
  • Construction contingencies
  • Building permits
  • Builder’s risk insurance 

Baker Tilly’s feasibility study will also garner community and financial impact, including how a stadium could affect job growth, and identify sources of capital funding, revenue to offset financing debt and potential financing methods.

As news broke of Leland exploring the baseball stadium, suggestions were made that its financing could be covered by a county-wide municipal bond. By the time Vidmar, Brigman and Decker held the first press conference in March, that idea was quashed.

The county has maintained it will not be backed by taxpayer dollars.

The goal was then for Brunswick County to carry the debt issuance, and REV Entertainment Group, overseeing management of the stadium, would match dollar for dollar the cost of development in the vicinity. The funds would funnel directly into the community to offset the stadium’s construction. 

The preliminary budget spurred the county’s decision to back out of the deal. In an April 6 press release, Brunswick County stated the entity was in good financial standing, yet “leadership feels that such an investment may not be prudent for the county to take on at this time.” 

However, it still expressed support, noting the project had “great merit.”

On Tuesday, a similar deal in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was announced, with multiple government entities and stakeholders onboard to bring minor league baseball to the town. It also involves a Texas Rangers’ affiliate, though REV is not involved with the plan.

Currently, the city of Spartanburg — with a population of 38,000, somewhat comparable to Leland’s 25,000 — is coming together in a $250-million development that includes building a new 3,500-seat stadium in downtown on 16 acres, according to a report from WYFF. The facility could be operational by the 2025 season, with proposed multifamily housing units, office space, and entertainment.

The city will own the stadium and has partnered with Spartanburg County, economic development group OneSpartanburg Inc., Diamond Business Holdings and The Johnson Group to bring it to life. OneSpartanburg Inc. CEO Allen Smith told news outlet WYFF the plans have been in the works for three years.

Playing in the new stadium will be the Kinston Down East Wood Ducks. The Texas Rangers purchased the Wood Ducks in 2016 and had a lease with the City of Kinston and Grainger stadium through 2031.

When the exploration of Leland’s stadium build was announced in February, Wood Ducks’ General Manager Jon Clemmons told Kinston news channel 12, it would not affect the Ducks, as some presumably feared the Rangers might move the baseball team to Brunswick County. 

On Tuesday, the Rangers sold the Ducks and its other North Carolina affiliate, the Hickory Crawdads, to Diamond Business Holdings for an undisclosed amount. 

DBH, which started in 2021, owns multiple minor league teams affiliated with Major League Baseball. The company was founded by Pat Battle and Peter Freund, the latter of whom has Wilmington ties and owned the Wilmington Sharks from 2013 to 2015

According to John Blake, vice president of public affairs for the Texas Rangers, its former teams will maintain affiliation with the Rangers.

“This transaction was made in the best interest of the Rangers organization from both a baseball and business perspective,” Blake wrote to Port City Daily in email Wednesday. “Regarding the potential partnership in Leland, that is a totally separate development being pursued by REV Entertainment and it has nothing to do with the sale of the two franchises.”

No decisions have been made about Leland’s team. The goal is to bring an independent minor league competitor, comparable to the Crawdads and Wood Ducks.

“We are continuing progress on the Leland project,” Madison SanFilippo, vice president of brand and team operations for REV, wrote to PCD Wednesday morning. “We look forward to receiving the feasibility report findings this summer, which will help us determine next steps.”  

Brunswick County commissioners’ chairman Randy Thompson said in its release last month, despite no longer agreeing to finance the Leland stadium, county staff would work “with all parties involved to find other ways to fund this concept.”

Jewell told PCD earlier this month it’s too early to say whether Leland will carry the debt since the county bowed out.

Local Government Commission chair and State Treasurer Dale Folewell, who is seeking a 2024 governor run, confirmed he has not been in talks with Leland about taking on any debt, nor revealed its financial standing to do so. The LGC oversees fiscal management of government entities across the state. 

“We look at the applicants anew every time,” Folwell told PCD earlier this month,
“the town’s budget, fund balance, outstanding debt and their annual debt service.”

Upon inquiring the viability of multiple municipalities coming together to jointly apply to fund the debt, Folwell said it’s not something that’s been done in the state; always one government unit seeks debt issuance.

“In our nearly 80-year history, we can’t recall any example of units coming together,” Folwell said.

Want to read more from PCD? Subscribe now and then sign up for our newsletter, Wilmington Wire, and get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.

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.

Related Articles