Councilman Kevin O'Grady and Mayor Bill Saffo answer questions during a debate about the city's stadium project
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Both sides of the baseball stadium debate met Thursday night to discuss the pros and cons of the project, which voters in Wilmington will decide on November 6th.
WHQR-FM played host to a pair of representatives from each viewpoint. Scott Harry and Jim Rafferty head up the "Vote No" campaign against the project, while Mayor Bill Saffo and City Council member Kevin O'Grady discussed issues from the side supporting the endeavor. The audience also asked questions of the panelists, which sparked debate on several different topics related to the Memorandum Of Understanding the city has with the Atlanta Braves and Mandalay Baseball.
Voters in the city of Wilmington will decide whether to approve a $37M bond referendum to buy land along the riverfront and construct a stadium, which will become the home to a minor league baseball affiliate of the Atlanta Braves. Approval of the referendum means city residents will see a two-and-a-half cent property tax increase.
"I compliment Mandalay and the Braves for moving the process ahead as much as they have been able to do," Rafferty said at one point during the discussion. "But this is a business, and this is a business decision, and this is a bad business decision."
The discussion at times got heated, with O'Grady and Saffo offering explanations to claims made by some who are against the project. At one point, after discussing the specifics of the deal, O'Grady said to Harry "Scott, if you didn't understand the financing, you could have picked up my phone and called me, and I would have explained it to you."
At another point, all four men talked over one another, disagreeing on whether the MOU includes a term for the Mandalay group and the Braves to occupy the stadium if it is approved by voters and built along the riverfront.