Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Private" Stadium Plan Completely Hoses Taxpayers

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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.

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.” 
Boardman 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 Revealed

The 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.


  1. This is such utter and complete BS!

  2. Please elaborate. Proclaiming it to be "BS" but avoiding any specifics as to how and why, is in and of itself - BS.

  3. Oh I'm on your side. I think it's BS that some corporation and the City Council are trying to pull the wool over the people of Wilmington! Despite the fact that over 80% would only support this if it were privately funded, they're giving Wilmingtonians the middle finger and just doing whatever they want anyway! I thought this was a democracy for crying out loud!

    Sorry that my previous comment wasn't clear. Keep exposing this mess!

  4. Ah - thanks for clearing that up. In that case, it is I who owes the apology. Thanks for reading and commenting. Please pass these facts on to others so they won't only hear the spin in the media. Thanks!


  6. Ben, you have a promising career in fiction...the lengths to which you go to distort, misrepresent and fabricate is extraordinary. But if I were you, I would have some concerns that some of your readers are capable of seeking and thinking independently. They are the ones that will discover that the overwhelming share of benefits, both economic and quality of life, go to the public investors. In fact, the economic benefits alone going to the public sector dwarf those available to private sector investors by as much as 5X in most scenarios. THAT is why there is no shortage of public investors ready and willing to take our place if we decline to participate.

    My advice.....don't quit your day job. btw, it was pleasure to meet you the other day.

  7. How exactly did I distort or misrepresent anything at all? The city and the local media already do a good job of only showing one side of the story with all of this promised so-called economic development, and I have no interest in repeating any of that. I welcome my readers to think independently, and if they do concerning this issue, the only logical conclusion is that this is a terrible deal for taxpayers. Feel free to disagree with my analysis all you want, and even utilize this forum to try and pitch your argument - but don't accuse me of misrepresenting the facts. I was at the presentation last night, I have a copy of the powerpoint they presented, and I took comprehensive notes. What I have written here is absolute fact. Just because I didn't beat the drum about all of this imaginary economic prosperity that will supposedly come as a result of a minor league baseball stadium doesn't mean that I distorted anything. And speaking of this economic development we have been promised, even down to the exact number of jobs created, who is held responsible when those numbers don't transpire the way we have been told? Or is part of the natural process that we are simply required to forget all of the promises?

  8. I was at this presentation and watched again on TV this morning and I wonder if writer was present,or sleeping.
    This is a crazed,twisted tale.
    If you like fiction,this is a story for you.
    Maybe the writer knows MANDALAY produces LIFETYME MOVIE NETWORK and looking for a role in Sci-FI?

    1. Friend, my most educated guess tells me that this is supposed to be an insult. But it's hard to be insulted by something completely incoherent.

  9. Where to begin.....and I quote "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."

    If that is not a distortion or misrepresentation then I have never heard one....Ben you need to be careful my friend. Such tactics will isolate you and move your views further towards the radical fringe than they already are....the radical fringe, for obvious reasons, has never nor will ever have a meaningful influence on public affairs.

    Your political ambitions and vendettas are well known by all, but political leaders need vision and ideas. Your agenda will continue to be superficial and incredibly transparent and without ideas, nobody will follow. Just saying no will not attract investment, generate growth nor is it a strategy for economic prosperity, but it is the stock-in-trade for politcal wanna bes and also-rans.

    You are going to have to do better than that...area residents are looking for more.

  10. First off, I can live without the patronizing. Second, I stand 100% behind my comment. It is my opinion - which after all, is quite appropriate for a blog. These people have run the show since day one, and the city council has quietly putted along and danced to their tune. When I saw the presentation last night, which conveniently has Trask and Co. situated between the city and Mandalay to pick up a piece of the action coming from both ways, I couldn't believe it. The original discussion concerning this whole issue was between the city and Mandalay/Braves. Now we have a couple of opportunists, who, with minimal investment, are going to skim taxpayer money as it flows from the city to the banking firms - you did see that graphic they displayed on page 5 or 6 of the presentation, no?

    1. obviously you didn't. You're a damn idiot McCoy. It's shame too, you're a bright kid, just a blind idealist.

  11. Gosh. I guess I'm supposed to be insulted. I just got called an idiot by an anonymous internet tough guy. I guess that ends the debate. Here I am explaining the details of the presentation, and defending my opinion on the matter, and somehow it escaped me that all I had to do is call someone a "damn idiot" and I automatically win the argument. Rational and logical debate is highly overrated. It takes much more intelligence and skill to call someone a childish name.

  12. HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA OMG WATCHER..where do you get your info!? It is so wholly incorrect. FT does not have a investment of 10.5 ya tard. FT is taking on all the debt and risk, Mandalay/Braves will pay in 1/3 in an annual lease payment of $350k. FT finances, builds the pay down the debt. Lets not forget M/B are paying 12mil to buy and relocate the team here. 12mil + 10.5mil = 22.5mil. They're paying half of the overall cost of this project. Now calm the hell down, I know steam is coming out of your ears and your fingers fidgetting..waiting to reply to this..these numbers mean nothing right now really and are merely a starting point. There is a crap ton of negotiation still to happen. So calm the hell down ya freaking over-reacting crap starter. Maybe speak with someone from the city council or Mandalay and get your facts correct before you spew nonsense to people like the ass-rag you produced above. You're reply to everything is NO NO NO..It's no wonder you lost your election bid NO NO NO is a crappy policy. Bye bye

    1. And you tell me to calm down? It's like religious fanaticism with you people - the lust for the public's money to build your sandbox. You ain't winning any hearts and minds with drivel like this I can promise you. And it is your "facts" that are far from accurate. I clearly mentioned that the $10.5 million is their investment in the stadium - I never even mentioned the relocation of the team in my piece - that is a completely separate transaction that has nothing to do with the cost of the stadium. And where do get this idea that FT is taking on "all the risk" when it is the city who pays the debt? You may want to take a basic finance class to learn about what debt, risk, and investment all mean. And $10.5 million is not half the cost of the project - the construction of the stadium is estimated between $32-$38 million - that doesn't include land or relocation of the team, or anything else.

      Everything you wrote here is completely false - just because FT draws up the debt note with the banks doesn't mean they are in it for anymore than their $10.5 million, because the city pays the debt down. FT is insulated from any risk whatsoever - they have no chance of losing their money - and that by definition, is not an "investment".

      It wouldn't be that big of a deal if you sounded like a rational adult and came here with completely wrong facts. But to have a complete meltdown laced with insulting rhetoric directed at me personally, AND be completely wrong, is just pathetic.

      "So calm the hell down ya freaking over-reacting crap starter."

      Funny - I assume you were at the meeting the other night, but I didn't see any 7 year olds in the audience.

  13. Hold off on the bickering boys......common sense is evidence enough. We have people out of work, off of unemployment benefits, abundant foreclosures, well established businesses closing....Everyone needs to be thinking of how we can help our neighbor, not how can our neighbor help us! I'd love to have a pool in the backyard, but I can't afford it, and I doubt my neighbors would want to help me pay for it. Now is not the time, unless the stadium can provide shelter for the homeless when there aren't any games...and by the way...who would want to have their wedding in a stadium when we have the lovely seas and sands? And YOGA? Come on....give me a break.

  14. The petitions will never fly as if put to a vote in November 2012 it will never and see.
    24 HOUR,Wilmington Watcher!

  15. Funny Blog,where is the SERIOUS part?


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