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Nay Voters reject Triad referendum for baseball stadium

(AP) WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (AP) -- Dreams of luring major league baseball to the Triad were shattered Tuesday when voters in two North Carolina counties overwhelmingly rejected a tax proposal to help build a $210 million stadium.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in Guilford County, opponents had 55,732 votes -- or 67 percent -- to 27,180 votes -- or 33 percent -- for supporters of the initiative.

The same trend was true in neighboring Forsyth County. With all but one of 99 precincts reporting, opponents had 39,605 votes -- or 59 percent -- to 27,483 votes -- or 41 percent -- for supporters.

"It looks like a slam dunk," said Ken Conrad of Citizens Against Unfair Taxes, borrowing a cliche from another sport. "We didn't have rain and we fared well with a record turnout."

Conrad said voters understood his group's argument that one business should not be taxed to support another business, in this case professional baseball.

"I'm a progressive person and I want to see my community grow, but not full speed ahead at any cost," he said. "We have a lot of problems with our schools, roads and other things we need to fix."

"I'm particularly surprised the turnout in Guilford County was so negative," he said by phone from a Greensboro hotel, where supporters gathered to watch returns. "The people have spoken.

"But this is not going to dampen our spirits. We still think North Carolina is an outstanding market."

Pressed if his next step would be to pursue the Charlotte market, Beaver would not provide specifics.

"We're going to move ahead and look at our options," he said.

To win approval, a majority of voters in both counties had to agree to the 1 percent prepared-foods tax on all meals served in restaurants and a 50-cent tax on baseball tickets.

Strong interest in the initiative was reflected in the heavy voting Tuesday. Turnout in both counties was much higher than in a typical primary year.

Supporters of major league baseball wanted to use the taxes to raise $140 million in public funds, which would cover two-thirds of the cost of the project.

The stadium would have been built on the Forsyth County-Guilford County line if Beaver's group was successful in buying and relocating the Twins to North Carolina.

Despite all the lingering doubts, the "Vote Yes for Major League Baseball" campaign made the initiative's outcome uncertain in the days leading up to the election.

Supporters won the spending race long before Tuesday's primary.

"Vote Yes for Major League Baseball" raised 28 times what opponents collected. The group raised about $716,000, with half of it being reserved for a last-minute TV and radio advertising blitz and a direct-mail push.

Citizens Against Unfair Taxes raised about $26,000. One of the group's most memorable signs reads: "Vote No. Food Taxes Bite!"