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Why aren’t massive expenditures like the proposed baseball stadium put up for a referendum?

Shelby Sebens

Conceptual artist’s rendering. Courtesy of Northern Riverfront Marina and Hotel.

UPDATE: In November 2012, Wilmington voters did vote on whether to support a taxpayer-funded stadium, and it failed 70-30. Read all about it at StarNewsOnline.com/Baseball.


The Wilmington City Council determines how it will pay for large projects when preparing the annual budgets. Some projects, such as major improvements or expansions to parks, were paid for through a bond that was voted on by the public. In 2006, New Hanover County and Wilmington residents voted for a $35.5 million parks and green space bond.

The convention center, however, did not go to a public referendum because the type of bond being used did not require it. Council is paying off that debt with revenue from a Room Occupancy Tax fund, generated by hotel and motel taxes.

It’s unclear at this point how a proposed baseball stadium would be financed and whether or not a bond would go to a public referendum. The city council has said there is not enough time to take it to the ballot to get the stadium built in time for the team to open in 2014. But a group of citizens is pushing a petition that would force the issue onto a ballot.

The city council has a couple of options when it comes to issuing debt for projects. All debt has to be approved by the Local Government Commission. The LGC votes to either approve or deny the unit’s debt application during its meeting. Cities can issue an installment purchase bond. These can be in the form of certificates of participation or limited obligation bonds, both of which are secured by the asset being financed, according to Julia Vail, deputy director of communications for the N.C. Department of State Treasurer.

A referendum is required when general obligation bonds are to be issued that pledge full faith and credit (i.e. taxing power) to secure the bonds, according to Vail.


What happened to the minor league team the Braves had in Myrtle Beach?

Are any of the former Wilmington Waves baseball players in professional baseball?

Did any of the Port City Roosters players ever make it to the big leagues?

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3 Responses to “ Why aren’t massive expenditures like the proposed baseball stadium put up for a referendum?”

  1. On May 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm John wrote:

    The answer to the question is that our form of government is a representative democracy, not a direct democracy. We elect representatives to decide matters of public policy, we dont hold an election to decide every matter.

  2. On May 8, 2012 at 10:10 am Wilmington Watcher wrote:

    First of all, the ROT does not generate enough revenue to pay for the convention center. A fund was set up with initially $15 million to supplement the over $7 million a year cost of the center. The ROT only generates about $3 million a year. A third grader can do the math to figure out how sustainable this is. What happens when the supplemental fund dries up? At this rate, that will be within the next 4 years. The only choice will be to tap into general fund tax dollars. If we pay for a baseball stadium on top of that, we will be well beyond insolvency. The Star News needs to be honest with their answers regarding how these projects are paid for. We simply do not have the money to purchase all of the large shiny monuments to politicians self-perceived glory.

  3. On May 17, 2012 at 7:58 am Dave wrote:

    The City council certainly controls the path of the bond procedure and knowingly will take the path of least public involvement. 2014 deadline? Why are the Braves the only option? What is the hurry except for the wanting of a few moneymakers and their ability to bulldoze this thru. Single A baseball is a notch above High School ball.

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