by Julie Tisdale
City & County Policy Analyst
Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote about Cumberland County’s plans to divert money from the school system to build a ballpark in Fayetteville for the Single-A Advanced affiliate of the Houston Astros. At the time I argued that building a $33 million stadium with city and county tax dollars for an affiliate of the Astros, who were worth $1.1 billion, didn’t make a lot of sense.
A year later, those same Astros were valued by Forbes at $1.45 billion, a 32% increase in just a year. And that was before they won the 2017 World Series, so no doubt that number’s continued to go up.
Nevertheless, this week, the City Council approved $300,000 for ballpark construction. That’s one payment, not a total figure. There’s been no update to the original cost estimate of $33 million, though they say they’re expecting one in the next couple weeks. That estimate is already a month past due, and I’ll be shocked if the $33 million hasn’t gone up.
The lone vote against it was Tyrone Williams, who cited concerns about cost. I commend him. The contract has been signed now, so the stadium will have to be built, but that doesn’t mean elected officials’ responsibility has ended. They should make sure there are protections in place for taxpayers so that the costs can’t just spiral out of control, ensure good value for money, and reduce unnecessary extras. I’m glad to see that at least one City Councilman is doing that.