McCormick Field funding approaches Buncombe vote

Now that the city of Asheville has agreed to play ball, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will consider joining the financial team for improvements to the home of the Asheville Tourists.

The board meets Tuesday, March 21, to consider pitching in $250,000 annually over a 20-year period — a total commitment of $5 million — for Major League Baseball-mandated upgrades, additional video displays and other fan amenities at McCormick Field.

Asheville City Council unanimously agreed to approve city funding March 14, committing up to $20 million over 20 years towards the stadium improvements.

As previously presented to the board March 7, the team seeks to improve the stadium’s clubhouse, construct facilities for female umpires and other baseball staff, expand the concourse and cover deferred maintenance, among other updates. The full project, including interest payments on borrowed funds, would cost more than $56.1 million.

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority would supply $21 million over 15 years, in addition to making a one-time contribution of $1.95 million from funds previously allocated for a streetscape project on Coxe Avenue. The Tourists club would pay about $9.4 million over 20 years under this plan.

An alternative plan would cover minimum structural and MLB-mandated upgrades while limiting enhancements related to potential additional programming at the stadium, such as concerts or holiday light shows. The cheaper project would cost $43.1 million and require smaller contributions from the Tourists and BCTDA; Buncombe County would still be on the hook for $5 million.

If a funding plan is approved, the Tourists have agreed to sign a lease to play baseball in Asheville for at least 20 years. The team has until Saturday, April 1, to send its plan to MLB.

The Tourists are owned by Brian DeWine, son of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, and DeWine Seeds Silver Dollar Baseball, who have leased McCormick Stadium from the city for $1 a year since 2010.

In other news

Commissioners will consider adding a full-time homelessness response position at the recommendation of a report commissioned by the county, city of Asheville and Dogwood Health Trust.

The “Within Reach” report, compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit National Alliance to End Homelessness, recommends the position be established to “provide direct coordination activities with the city on homeless issues and to support coordination efforts of County mainstream resources” with other stakeholders.

County staffers are requesting the position be established in the Planning Department’s Community Development Division using lapsed salary from unfilled positions. A staff report on the matter does not list an actual cost for the role or specify how it will be funded beyond the current fiscal year.

Consent agenda

The consent agenda for the meeting contains nine items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following:

  • A resolution allowing the county library director to waive unpaid library fines accrued before July 1, 2021. Buncombe County’s libraries eliminated late fees as part of the fiscal year 2021-22 budget. County staffers have identified over $48,000 in overdue fines from before that policy change that need to be cleared; this forgiveness does not include fines associated with lost or damaged materials.
  • Approval of an Asheville City Schools request to apply for $715,000 from the public school building capital fund supported by the North Carolina Education Lottery. If awarded, approximately half of the funds would be used to renovate classroom space near Asheville High School’s media center, and the other half for lighting at the school’s baseball field.
  • Authorization to use a $15,000 grant from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to replace three electric vehicle charging stations at Leicester Crossing. These stations would be free to both the public and county employees.

The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. Prior to the meeting, the commissioners will hold a 3 p.m. briefing to discuss the county’s homelessness response, opioid overdoses and other matters.

In-person public comment will be taken at the start of the regular meeting, which begins at 5 p.m. in room 326 at 200 College St., Asheville; no voicemail or email comments will be permitted. Both the briefing and the regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.


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3 thoughts on “McCormick Field funding approaches Buncombe vote

  1. Mike Rains

    Buncombe County should pay in the same amount of Asheville City for the McCormick upgrades. Here’s another example of Asheville (with much smaller revenue stream) bearing an oversized load for an amenity that the entire County uses. How about the Municipal Golf Course? The Nature Museum. These and many more are really County-wide venues and yet Asheville bears all or most of the expense.

    This inequity is based also on the fact that Asheville has never been able to annex property into the County to expand its tax base (as virtually all other cities have done in NC); all based on the water pricing restrictions imposed by the state. Asheville’s tax base is woefully inadequate when viewed against the County, yet for some reason Asheville continues to spend on these nice-to-have projects at the expense of public safety infrastructure such as the police department and water department. How soon everyone forgets that we just had a one week water outage over a large portion of the water system at and after Christmas. Anyone that believes this was a “one-off” event isn’t aware of the history of serious mistakes made by this department as well as the inadquacy of water line replacements planned. And the police situation is abysmal with the only real solution is getting real about police salaries. This reality even while the County pays their sheriff’s more in salary to the detriment of attracting Asheville police to switch jobs!

    This issue needs to be looked at in a comprehensive manner to sort out the inequities that have resulted in Asheville’s confined geography and thus confined tax base, all the while with expectations that Asheville proper will support all these amenities that are really benefical county-wide.

  2. NFB

    “This inequity is based also on the fact that Asheville has never been able to annex property into the County to expand its tax base (as virtually all other cities have done in NC)”

    Not so. Annexation was a common practice for Asheville up until the state legislature banned it for all municipalities in the state. To say that Asheville has “never” been able to annex is not the case.

    You are absolutely correct that there are many ways in which the city ends up subsidizing the county (which is pretty typical for all municipalities and their nearby ares outside their jurisdiction) but the city does own McCormick Field and thus is going to have a greater responsibility towards its maintenance and upkeep. The proposed renovations will likely result in more events other than just baseball being held at McCormick Field and the city will benefit from fees and ticket sales to those events.

    Having said all that I certainly wish the county was being asked for more money for this project and I absolutely think the TDA needs help out, but this is the agreement that has been worked out and so here we are.

  3. indy499

    This is a drop in the bucket of city vs county inequity in taxation.

    Here’s the obvious one for which city Finance people have no answer.

    Buncombe provides all policing (via Sheriff’s Office) to county residents in unincorporated area. The Sheriff does a small amount of the policing within the city—warrants and the like—-but no real policing. Yet, all county residents pay identical county tax rates.

    Why doesn’t the county either provide city policing or ship $ to the city for the services they provide to some residents and not others?

    This is where the real $ is.

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