News: Quick Takes

Watchdog criticizes $7 million Guilford County will give for improvements around High Point ballpark

Artist rendering of the High Point stadium complex. (Image from Odell Associates)
Artist rendering of the High Point stadium complex. (Image from Odell Associates)

A government watchdog criticized a plan by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners that could send $7 million to High Point to help pay for improvements around Truist Point ballpark, home of the High Point Rockers minor league baseball team.

Now that the board has a Democratic majority, it decided to help pay for improvements around the stadium. High Point leaders say the $35 million stadium, which opened two years ago, will generate $1.3 million annually in tax revenue for the county, and provide 500 jobs over two decades, the News & Record reported. 

Americans for Prosperity-North Carolina argues that the $7 million likely to be offered up in the name of economic development is just another stadium subsidy that will harm taxpayers.

“North Carolina taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook to bailout private companies or sports teams—especially those who continue to come back to local officials asking for more handouts,” said state director Chris McCoy. “Families and small businesses are working hard to overcome the financial devastation of COVID-19 and bailing out the Rockers should be the last thing on commissioners’ minds.”

The commission initially wanted to send $7 million to High Point to help pay off the loan for the stadium, but after residents balked they decided instead to fund up to that amount over 20 years in general infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks, streetscapes and parking. 

High Point must show in annual reports that economic development is boosting the tax base by at least 3% per year over a rolling five-year period to get $350,000 per year from the county. 

High Point Mayor Jay Wagner reported significant growth in the area near the stadium since it opened.

Democratic Commissioner Carly Cooke told Wagner during Monday’s council meeting that, “I do think it’s important to reiterate that while that growth is impressive … we’re voting on supporting what is to come, and we’re voting on what we can do to help you continue to grow. There are metrics built in to protect the taxpayer.”

Republican Commissioner Alan Perdue was one of two no votes. He said if the county offers up incentives to High Point, it would feel obligated to provide similar incentives to other cities in the county that ask for them. 

High Point asked Guilford County to help foot the bill for Truist Point before it was built, but commissioners balked at that proposal three years ago. 

Johnny Kampis is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.