As is typical with large, high profile public projects, last night's presentation to the Wilmington City Council clearly demonstrated that the highest priority concerning the baseball stadium project is exactly how many palms get greased in the process.
The presentation, which was conducted by the ever-growing development team under the watchful eye of local land developer Raiford Trask III, was entitled, "Private Development Proposal Overview", giving the impression that perhaps a truly privately-funded stadium is within reach. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
One of the key players involved with Trask is Clay Boardman of Augusta, GA, who owns Flywheel, LLC. The "private" stadium investment team was referred to in the presentation as "Flywheel/Trask" or "FT". The Greater Wilmington Business Journal (GWBJ) recently wrote a piece on Clay Boardman, in which they said this:
An Augusta, Ga. native of dapper style, Boardman, 53, announced his firm — Flywheel Projects — would finance and construct the stadium at its own risk to bring an Atlanta Braves franchise to the Port City. http://wilmingtonbiz.com/industry_news_details.php?id=3603
Leading up to last night's presentation, one may have had the impression that Boardman was planning on financing the stadium completely on his own, without the use of tax dollars, which is what over 80% of Wilmingtonians said was the only way they would support a stadium. However, Tuesday night's presentation not only revealed the use of tax dollars in the project, but a strong reliance on the public's money for the project.
GWBJ went on to quote Boardman who said:
“I want to be transparent about all this,” Boardman said of current stadium negotiations. “I want to do the right thing because we’re spending money on this and so are the taxpayers . . . there will be no deal done if the taxpayer gets screwed, because I’m not going to be a part of it.” http://wilmingtonbiz.com/industry_news_details.php?id=3603Boardman gave an interesting personal story at the council meeting, where he talked about how his hometown of Augusta was trying to do basically the same deal as far as obtain a minor league baseball stadium. Boardman stated that he did not support the project there, and said it wasn't a good deal. However, a few hours up the road, in a town where he has no tax burden, and a tasty piece of the action; we're told a stadium is somehow perfect for us.
Proposal Details RevealedThe devil was definitely in the details of the Flywheel/Trask presentation, and answered the specific questions about exactly how much "investment" taxpayers would be in for.
The most fascinating element of the presentation was the fact that a private group of investors are clearly running the show, and dictating to the city exactly how much money is required from we the taxpayer. FT's presentation contained a graphic which identified the funding model of the stadium, which conveniently has FT sandwiched in the middle between the city and the stadium, getting a piece of the action both ways. Mandalay and the Braves pay a very nominal lease payment not to the city, but to FT; FT pays sales and use taxes to the city; the city turns around and makes all of its large payments not to Mandalay or to a bank, but to Trask and Co.; and in turn, FT makes the payment to the bank, after "administrative" costs are accounted for of course.
The basic premise was this:
According to FT, the proposed cost of just the construction of the stadium is between $32 and $38 million, and does not include the cost of land, remediation, etc. FT will have a total investment of only $10.5 million, payable over 30 years in $350,000 installments. The city will pick up every dime of the rest, including land and interest. Taxpayers could end up with a burden of around $50 million or more over the 30 year period.
This is the much anticipated and wonderful "private" funding mechanism that we have heard is coming after the much-ballyhooed announcement and press conference held at the Wilmington Chamber headquarters last month, that revealed a "private" investment team.
As far as economic impact, FT and Co. state that as a result of all of this, 139 permanent jobs will be created, at an average pay of less than $28,000/yr. FT referred to these jobs in the presentation as "high paying".
The much-anticipated details of the "private" funding plan have been unveiled, and leave much to be desired, as well as leave the taxpayer on the hook for as much as 85%+ the total 30 year cost of the entire project. The private investment part has their bases covered, situating themselves in a position to recoup their investment from both directions.
Now is the time to solidify our opposition more than ever against this ridiculous waste of taxpayer dollars and the public trust in general. The Wilmington City Council has shown itself a willing party in being manhandled, ordered around, and dictated to by Mandalay and Trask; from the choosing of a sports analysis firm, to exactly how much money they will bilk future generations of taxpayers out of.
One thing is crystal clear about the proposal at hand: Flywheel/Trask and Co. are going to get paid; and taxpayers are going to be on the hook for decades to come.