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City funding for Knights ballpark: iffy

Charlotte KnightsDespite a naming-rights deal and indications that financing is almost in place for a new Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League) ballpark, some councilmembers are questioning city funding.

City staff has recommended $8.5 million be paid toward the $54 million ballpark project: $6 million from hotel/motel taxes and $2.5 million in property-tax rebates from the increased value of the ballpark. Since the hotel/motel taxes cannot be used for anything but tourism — which may be a stretch for a ballpark, but defensible — the only real impact to city taxpayers would be the loss of $2.5 million over 30 years.

That’s not stopping some councilmembers from posturing like the city is paying for gold-plated seating in the ballpark.

“No matter how you look at it, it’s city money,” said at-large council member Beth Pickering during a City Council discussion of the issue last night. “We are looking at a 9 percent property-tax increase. We have CATS fare increases. We have water bill increases.” (None of which, by the way, could be paid for with the money targeted toward the Knights.)

Other councilmembers questioned whether the Knights were contributing enough toward the construction cost of the ballpark: the team is paying $37.5 million of the $54 million construction price tag. That’s 69 percent of the real cost of the ballpark.

(The Charlotte Observer isn’t helping the matter any; at some point there was a conscious decision in coverage to peg the price of the project at $74 million, which isn’t entirely true. That figure includes a somewhat arbitrary valuing of the land underneath the ballpark — currently used for surface parking — of $20 million. The Knights won’t actually own that land, as it will be retained by Mecklenburg County and leased as part of the project. So we do not include that $20 million as the actual cost of the ballpark: no one in this process is actually forking over $20 million for the land. But the Observer unfairly and misleadingly insists on including that figure as a price of the ballpark.)

Still, there are signs the measure could pass. Mayor Anthony Foxx has expressed opposition toward the measure; he now tells the Observer he’s ambivalent. Let’s face it: there’s a lot of posturing going on here, and any other developer who walked into City Hall with a similarly structured deal (covering more than 69 percent of the construction costs of a high-impact project that will bring a new business into a part of the city currently underutilized) would be greeted with open arms.

RELATED STORIES: Knights sign BB&T for new-ballpark naming rightsCity OK’s Knights funding request, at lower levelCharlotte outlines ballpark funding planKnights: We’ve met big condition for new ballparkReese returns with another anti-Knights lawsuitEconomics of new Charlotte ballpark iffy: MayorEconomic of new Charlotte ballpark questionedKnights make economic case for city funding of new ballparkCharlotte may help fund new Knights ballpark;More legal silliness in CharlotteBack from the dead! Mecklenburg Co. moves forward with Knights ballparkRising from the ashes: A new Knights ballpark


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