Sunday, June 16, 2024

Strike out! Baseball stadium not moving forward for now in Leland

Baseball will not be moving forward in Leland at this time, the town announced Thursday evening. (Courtesy of Leland)

LELAND — Almost a year after exploring bringing a minor league baseball stadium to Leland, its town council has chosen to table conversations.

READ MORE: Future of Leland baseball stadium proposal uncertain as petition passes 2,100 signatures

At Thursday’s meeting, Leland Town Manager David Hollis announced the town would not proceed with the stadium at this time. The town came to the decision mutually with REV Entertainment — the team behind the Texas Rangers.

REV approached Leland at the end of 2022 about the possibility of bringing a 1,400-acre complex to the Jackeys Creek area of Leland. Jackeys Creek Investors were also slated to be included in the partnership.

The complex was going to be a mixed-use development, complete with restaurants, retail, residences, hotels, and more surrounding the stadium and entertainment complex.

Originally planned for Brunswick County to carry the debt — with REV saying it would match development “dollar for dollar” — Brunswick commissioners backed out of the deal last spring. It was proposed to cost $105 million.

Leland paid Baker Tilly Consulting Firm $30,000 over the summer to complete a feasibility study. It determined the stadium could bring in $5.1 billion in economic and labor income and 29,695 temporary direct, indirect, and induced jobs. The study estimated total property tax revenue over an approximate 30-year period to be more than $182 million.

The study did not address short-term financial requirements for the proposed project or the specifics of how tax funds generated by the stadium would be utilized. 

“The study’s final report indicated that under a highest and best use scenario, the development would generate enough tax revenue to pay for the stadium over a 25-plus-year period,” a press release from the town indicated.

But the town added it had more questions and pausing the deal was mutually agreed upon with REV. It also took into account feedback from its residents, many of whom have been against the move.

Resident Rhonda Florian, who started a petition against the proposal currently with 2,351 signatures, spoke at Thursday’s council meeting. She argued public resources could be better used on social necessities such as infrastructure and education.

“Whenever a municipality spends money on the construction of a professional sports facility, it diverts funds from other needs,” she said.

Leland resident Chuck Whitlock said citizens were “proud” the town government decided to set the project aside, but argued it wasn’t enough.

“I beg you not to tell people: ‘For the time being we’re not going to do it’ — I want to hear that you’re never going to build a stadium,” he said.

Leland’s press release, sent to media Thursday evening, stated “there is hope” the conversation about a ballpark will continue in the future. The town also said it was open to varied ideas on innovative developments and public-private partnerships for its growing region.

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