High Point Residents Debate Over Publicly-Funded Baseball Stadium
Guilford County residents will get another chance tonight to voice their questions and concerns about the plan for a baseball stadium in downtown High Point.Leaders and members of the public disagree on how to fund the $30 million stadium.
At a High Point city council meeting earlier this week, residents had the chance to say why they support or oppose the publicly-funded project, which would include the city receiving a loan for the full construction cost and then paying it back over 20 years.
“I think the part of it being paid for is just smoke and mirrors,” resident Dee Stover said at the meeting. “I think it's going to cost us and if it's going to cost us money we should get the option to vote.”
Stover is referring to the $50 million that High Point University President Nido Qubein raised privately. This money will go toward a baseball team, a children's museum, a park and an event center. Other Triad developers like Roy Carroll and Blue Ridge Companies plan to build a hotel and apartments in the area.
The economic development of the area is one reason why High Point resident BJ Clary supports the stadium project.
“This is the first time I've seen us really put a focus on what is needed for the people that live here throughout the year,” she said.
The project would take up 649 acres in downtown High Point. The city would own the stadium and has already allocated $15 million to buy the land for it.
Forward High Point Chairman Doyle Early said this plan is more than just a want for the city, it’s a necessity as they no longer have Showplace, a building they used as an event center. It’s been permanently used by the International Market Center as a showroom.
“From 2012 to 2016 we lost almost $125 million in tax value,” he said. “Both the city and the county are losing tax revenue.”
If implemented, not only will downtown High Point gain the multi-use stadium, the project is expected to attract other amenities like a brewery, a theater, shops and restaurants.
However, Early said they won't get any of these things if they don't get the stadium first.
“The economic development that is spurred by catalyst projects such as a downtown stadium is a proven entity right now,” he said. “It's working everywhere.”
Within the past six months, Kannapolis, Gastonia and Fayetteville have all agreed to build stadiums. If High Point gets the go-ahead, this will be the 15th stadium in North Carolina.
But there's still apprehension surrounding the plan from some Guilford County commissioners and other area leaders.
Some commissioners think the plan was rushed and that they didn’t receive enough time to thoroughly look over it.
Americans for Prosperity State Director Donald Bryson said he thinks both city and county leaders need to prioritize and value all Guilford County residents.
“I don't know why people in McLeansville up in northeaster Guilford County are going to be asked to pay their tax money to High Point, for a baseball stadium in High Point,” he said. “It's just an inappropriate use of government money.”
The construction loan will take between 15 to 20 years to repay. A portion of the money to pay off the debt will come from surcharges on tickets and parking.
Bryson said he thinks a stadium should be built, just not at the expense of taxpayers. He said the money used for it should go to roads, public education or law enforcement.
“Is it really the role of the city of High Point and Guilford County to fund a baseball stadium,” he said. “I think if you ask taxpayer's from a taxpayer's point of view, the answer is absolutely not.”
Early said downtown High Point desperately needs a project like this to sustain the city year round.
“We have the furniture market in High Point, which is vibrant and extraordinary for twice a year but in between those spikes, economically, downtown High Point is dead,” he said.
If approved, developers expect to have the stadium ready to open by May 2019.
The public hearing is set for 5:30 p.m. in the Old County Courthouse, 301 W. Market St., Greensboro. Commissioners are expected to vote on the loan next month.