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Back from the dead! Mecklenburg Co. moves forward with Knights ballpark

Charlotte KnightsMecklenburg County is ready to move forward on a new Uptown ballpark for the Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League), extending a land lease held by the Knights but setting up specific deadlines for the Knights to come forward with a financial plan.

The Knights have until June 30, 2012, to present a financial plan for what’s projected to be a $56-million ballpark, though that number could change given present market circumstances. The Knights have been hamstrung in their attempt to finance a new ballpark by local gadfly Jerry Reese, whose lawsuits tied up progress on a new facility. All of Reese’s lawsuits have been tossed, clearing the way for Mecklenburg County to extend the team’s land lease and set up some solid deadlines: besides the financial-plan deadline, the county wants construction to begin by October 2012 and the new ballpark opening by the 2014 season.

Now, having a year to come up with a financial plan may seems like a long time, but Knights GM Dan Rajkowski noted the process’s timeline will be tight. The lending situation is considerably tighter than it was when the Knights first began working on a ballpark plan, and the number of local banks willing to finance a hometown loan is considerably lower. Still, with no legal challenges on the books (though Reese threatened yet another legal challenge — a challenge very few are taking seriously) and a clear commitment from Mecklenburg County, it would appear the Knights are back on track for a new ballpark.

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