Thankfully, cooler heads did prevail, and the kids of Wilmington will finally benefit.
Salesianum School will benefit, too, of course, but that’s what a public-private partnership is all about, which is something that somehow eluded Wilmington councilman Charles Potter Jr., who almost ruined what would have been, and now will be again, a sweetheart deal for everybody.
Baynard Stadium, the best athletics facility in Wilmington, is in a sad state of disrepair and in November of last year Salesianum, the all-boys Catholic high school that sits across the street from Baynard, came up with a $20 million plan to restore and even improve the 95-year-old stadium.
Everyone enthusiastically embraced the idea and everything seemed like it was full steam ahead, until Potter decided that Sallies was benefitting too much from the deal. He convinced other members of city council to stop it from going forward so he could study it further, even though council had already reviewed the Salesianum plan and approved it. Sallies was understandably miffed by the slap at its integrity and promptly backed out of the agreement, and we were back where we started, which was not a good place.
That same week, Potter sent out a memo in which he emphasized the benefits Salesianum would receive in the Baynard Stadium deal, and there’s no question Sallies had quite a few caveats, including control of usage by other schools and organizations (although Sallies made it clear that anyone who used Baynard in the past could use it in the future), the right to sub-let to organizations affiliated with Salesianum, exclusive naming rights for the stadium and adjoining street and the right to keep revenues generated by the stadium that weren’t directly linked to the schools and/or organizations using it.
Potter listed all of that and more, and then put this at the bottom of his memo, in bold, capital letters:
“IS THIS WHAT A ‘GREAT DEAL’ FOR THE CITIZENS OF WILMINGTON LOOKS LIKE?”
Well, yeah. Again, that’s what a public-private partnership is supposed to look like – a deal where both sides benefit and even profit. It is not a charity give-away and Salesianum never claimed it was doing the renovation strictly out of the goodness of its heart. For both sides, it’s a simple matter of adding up the plusses and minuses and deciding which list is longer.
And the biggest plus for the City of Wilmington is the item with the dollar signs in front of it. Salesianum will raise $20 million and manage the facility, and in return the school will get a bunch of nice perks that makes it worthwhile for it to spend the time and effort needed to raise that much loot.
Apparently, nobody else can do that, which is why the City of Wilmington has once again decided to become partners with Salesianum – it had no other choice. Mayor Mike Purzycki released a statement on Tuesday where he made it clear that no other entity contacted the city about a public-private partnership, which means the city has to play ball with Salesianum or raise the money itself, which, of course, it can’t do.
Purzycki also praised Sallies for its commitment to the City of Wilmington and thanked the school for resuming talks about renovating Baynard Stadium. Purzycki understands that even though Salesianum will benefit, the school also has a history and a high standard of conduct and ethics that guarantees it will be a good and fair steward of the treasured facility.
Of course, valuable time has been wasted and everyone’s job has become more difficult – including the job of fund-raising – because of the unnecessary delay. But this is definitely a case of better late than never, and eventually the people of Wilmington will have a first-class facility to enjoy for at least another 95 years.