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Rising from the ashes: a new Knights ballpark

Charlotte KnightsGiven up for dead by many, a new Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League) ballpark pitched for uptown Charlotte is showing some signs of life, as team ownership and local economic-development officials plan on coming up with a new financial formula in coming weeks.

To say the crusade for a new Knights ballpark has been a drawn-out process is an understatement: it’s been going on longer than this website has been around. Right now the road is clear to a new facility: the last of the lawsuits filed by gadfly Jerry Reese have finally been purged from the legal system, as his quest to bring Major League Baseball to Charlotte by blocking a new Knights ballpark (yeah, we’re mystified by the logic, too) was finally rejected by an appeals court.

Which paves the way for a new ballpark on an eight-acre lot near the home of the NFL’s Charlotte Panthers. Right now the Knights and Mecklenburg County are working under a deal signed in 2005 that called for the team to be playing in a new ballpark in 2009.

Obviously that didn’t happen, so a new deal is on the docket. Originally the Knights were willing to pay the total construction cost of a new 11,000-seat ballpark if the county could come through with land, estimated at the time to be $30 million. The land is apparently still available, but the other parameters have changed: the Knights are now looking at a ballpark with a total capacity of 10,000 (which could mean a split of something like 7,500 seats and 2,500 berm seating), which still could cost as much as $46 million, along with $8 million in infrastructure improvements that would ultimately be paid by the county. 

In any case, things are on the move, we’re told. As a tangible sign, the county economic development committee will be discussing a road map toward ballpark completion. There still are some significant hurdles — financing $46 million for Don Beaver and crew will be a challenge, especially given the changes in the local business scene and the rapid loss of local banking institutions — but the good news is that the project is still alive.

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