The Charlotte Knights’ most-important pitch of the night—if not the decade—will take place about 400 miles away from the International League affiliate’s game at the Columbus Clippers’ Huntington Park.
The Knights’ long quest for a new ballpark may come to an end this evening when the Charlotte City Council votes on the team’s latest, and arguably best, proposal for a new home tonight. The team is seeking to build a new $54 million ballpark in downtown Charlotte—about 30 minutes from its current base in Fort Mill, S.C.—and is asking the city to donate $8 million toward the project. The Knights would pay $38 million—funded largely from a naming rights deal with BB&T Corp—while Mecklenburg (N.C.) County would contribute $8 million and lease the 8-acre stadium site to the team for $1 a year.
The proposal seems to have enough support on the city council—particularly since the team lowered its original request from $11 million and withdrew a request for a $2.5 million property tax rebate—and would bring an end to a saga that had been frequently delayed by a series of lawsuits from a local attorney on the use of the property. The new ballpark, scheduled to open in time for the 2014 season, would significantly alter the fortunes of a franchise that last season finished last among IL teams in attendance. Team officials have said they would draw closer to 600,000 fans at the new ballpark.
“It would be a 180-degree turn to be able to have that franchise in (a downtown) ballpark,” International League president Randy Mobley said this afternoon. “I think all of us are convinced that this would have the potential to be the best set up in the league. It will certainly be as good as any, but it has the potential to be better than anything we have going . . . The opportunities this will present for that club from a business perspective cannot be overstated.”
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