GREENSBORO — High Point leaders thought their new baseball stadium would be a hit three years ago when they asked the county for money. But commissioners balked and the city had to finance the $35 million stadium on its own.
Now, two years after Truist Point ballpark opened, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, with its new Democratic majority, is ready to give the stadium another chance with a $7 million economic development proposal.
But two sitting commissioners and one who barely lost reelection last year are not happy with the incentive plan.
One question they ask: Why now?
Chairman Melvin "Skip" Alston said the answer is that it's time for the county to help out High Point as it should've done in 2017, when the issue first came up.
And now that Democrats are in the majority for the first time in eight years, Alston said the board is ready to vote in favor of the incentives.
Commissioners held a public hearing Thursday night during their regular meeting. But because the meeting was virtual, the board has decided to wait two days for the public to submit further comments by email before taking a vote.
So the commissioners will hold a special meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. to vote on the stadium and one other issue.
At issue is an incentive that would give $7 million to High Point — or $350,000 a year for 20 years — to help pay off the loan for the new home of the High Point Rockers minor league baseball team.
High Point officials say the stadium will generate $1.3 million a year in new county tax revenues and 500 jobs over 20 years.
Republican Commissioners Alan Perdue and Justin Conrad oppose the plan. Perdue said Thursday that if the county gives a major incentive to one city, it will be obligated to give money to every other municipality in the county that asks.
Conrad questions whether the stadium will be the economic catalyst High Point officials say it will be.
Then there's former Commissioner Alan Branson. Branson, who lost reelection last year by 72 votes, called the proposal "foolish" and accused Alston of being a "showboat" during Thursday's public hearing.
Alston said Friday he believes stadium discussions ended in 2017 when personal conflicts arose between Republican commissioners and High Point officials.
"I thought that was wrong and that was one of my first priorities," Alston said. "If Democrats got back in control ... we were gonna right that wrong."
Democratic Commissioners Carly Cooke and Kay Cashion asked for County Manager Michael Halford to provide more information about the proposal before Monday's vote.
Alston said he had an earlier meeting with the board's three new Democratic members — Cooke, Mary Beth Murphy and James Upchurch — and "they understand it now and I think that they’ll be supportive."
Branson in his comments Thursday night accused the Democrats of being a "puppet" board for High Point leaders.
"If I'm gonna be a puppet for doing right," Alston said, "I'm going to be a puppet for doing right."
Contact Richard M. Barron at 336-373-7371 and follow @BarronBizNR on Twitter.