The Carolina Mudcats want Wake County to buy a $1.5-million scoreboard for Five County Stadium in Zebulon that the minor-league baseball ballclub says will help it stay competitive for fans.
Wake County administrators recommended Monday taking $1.5 million in hotel and restaurant tax revenue to purchase and install the new 34-foot by 82-foot scoreboard in time for the 2015 season. While the vote won’t take place until next Monday, both Republican and Democratic members of the Wake County Board of Commissioners said the new scoreboard will help protect the millions of dollars they’ve invested over the years at Five County Stadium.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to complete a project that we have worked on for a very long time,” said Democratic Commissioner Betty Lou Ward.
Wake County has invested more than $23 million over the years to build and renovate the stadium in eastern Wake County. Five County was one of the original seven projects funded by the hotel-motel tax, whose revenues are used to finance projects that will have a major impact on economic development.
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The Mudcats first requested a new scoreboard in 2012. The team says it needs to replace the aging, county-owned scoreboard, but can’t afford it.
“Our current board is over twelve years old, is obsolete, and parts are no longer available,” Steve Bryant, owner of the Mudcats, wrote in a recent letter to County Manager Jim Hartmann. “The scoreboard replacement is a critical need and will enhance patrons’ game day experience consistent with other area scoreboard systems.”
Bryant noted that the stadium has drawn more than 5 million visitors since 1991.
David Goodwin, director of Wake County’s General Service Administration, said the current scoreboard is at the end of its life, noting that Bryant bought a similiar scoreboard from N.C. State to use for spare parts.
Goodwin gave three reasons for purchasing the scoreboard:
• Protecting the county’s existing investment in the stadium.
• Improving the county’s position if the Mudcats leave.
• Providing the Mudcats at least $140,000 a year in advertising revenue.
The county would own the scoreboard, but the Mudcats would maintain it.
Republican Commissioner Paul Coble said that it’s the county’s obligation to keep up the quality of the initial projects funded by the hotel-motel tax.
“It looks like everything that could be done has been done to make that scoreboard work,” he said. “I hate to spend money, but it makes sense.”