02baseball pub penThe Fayetteville City Council voted 9-1 to approve $300,000 of city funds for the baseball stadium construction with the only holdout being District 2 Councilman Tyrone Williams.

What is that all about? The Fayetteville Observer reported that Williams’ rejection was because of his concern over the costs. Few people are buying that explanation, and many are hoping he will provide a more detailed and justified explanation in the very near future. After all, his District 2 includes the heart of downtown Fayetteville and is in the best position to benefit from the baseball stadium development project.

Another reason for disappointment in and skepticism of his vote is that the baseball stadium is the biggest economic development opportunity Fayetteville has seen in decades. And, even though being fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money is the highest priority of every council member, the people expect the city council, including Williams, to know and understand all the short-term and long-term economic benefits and positive quality-of-life implications a project of this magnitude will have on the community.

Here are my thoughts about this major undertaking and why nine out of 10 council members did support the additional $300,000 of city funding.

The baseball stadium and the new development that will come to Fayetteville as a result will no doubt be a catalyst for future economic growth. We already have indicators predicting that. This means Fayetteville and Cumberland County will be able to recruit new businesses and industry to the community. This means new job creation and the ability to expand our tax base beyond residential property owners. What’s not to like about that?

In addition, the new baseball stadium will be the home of the World Series Champions – the Houston Astros. Fayetteville will receive national exposure as the country focuses on the Astros’ Minor League training and development of the superstars of tomorrow. All of this will be great for attracting new businesses and industry to Cumberland County. Fayetteville negotiated a $9 million, 30- year lease with the Astros. This is a longterm investment.

Another unique and encouraging feature of the baseball stadium project is that it comes with an immediate private commitment and investment of $65 million of new economic development, including renovation of the Prince Charles Hotel (again), a much-needed flagship hotel that will be named very soon, a parking deck, residential condominiums and corporate office spaces.

It’s all part of the master plan with a projected $7.2 million in annual economic output. The annual labor income is projected $1.7 million with 1,086 fulltime construction jobs just to build the stadium. In addition, we can expect new property tax revenue and increased sales tax revenues for both the city and county. More hotel beds, more restaurants, more shopping and more visitors.

If that’s not enough, consider this: No tax rate adjustments are anticipated for the stadium funding model. Lease payments provide 17 percent of the funding; parking revenues are expected to provide 8 percent of the funding; new development at the Hay Street site estimates city and county taxes to provide 15 percent of funding; and the savings from a variety of areas within the General Fund are expected to provide 60 percent of the required funding.

I am not well-versed in all the details of the baseball stadium project. However, everything I mentioned above provides national exposure and makes Fayetteville and Cumberland County attractive to newcomers and new business and industry. All of this works in conjunction with the prescribed city and county mandates to help retain current business, increase Fayetteville’s civic and community pride and improve quality of life for our residents.

I’m sure Councilman Williams of District 2 has a better understanding of the stadium project than I do. In the big scheme of things, $300,000 sounds like a pretty good investment to me. I hope he comes around. We need leaders with vision. This is no time to be on the sidelines playing it safe or being coy. This is the future of our community. We need to move aggressively forward with the baseball stadium master plan and do it in a way that fosters inclusion, enthusiasm, excitement and cooperation. In other words, it’s time for us to “play ball,” and we desperately need to win this game.

For the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community, this is our World Series. It’s the last inning of the final game, the score is tied, the bases are loaded, and (your name here) is coming up to bat.

Thank you for playing, I mean, thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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