With the team outgrowing Sims Legion Park, the Gastonia Grizzlies (summer collegiate; Coastal Plain League) and the city are studying the feasibility of a new downtown ballpark.
The Grizzlies did exactly what a solid summer-collegiate team needs to do: take an old ballpark (Sims Legion Park dates back to the 1970s), build a fan base and push things there to the limit. The team now averages 2,146 fans a game, which puts much stress on the Sims Legion Park facilities. (Let’s just say porta-potties are now a required item at very modest ballpark.) Add in some impending freeway construction that could end with the loss of ballpark parking, and there’s some concern among all concerned that the ballpark may not work as a summer-collegiate facility in the future.
So the Grizzlies, the city and the Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce are paying $1,000 each to study the feasibility of a new downtown ballpark, retaining Kansas City’s Pendulum to study both the economics of a downtown ballpark as well as a renovation of Sims Legion Park. Downtown Gastonia is attracting some new investment, and adding a ballpark in the mix could add to the momentum. From the Gaston Gazette:
With a more modern downtown stadium, there would be greater potential for luring additional events, such as larger concerts, car shows and more. The stadium and field could work in lockstep with the Gastonia Conference Center in some cases, said Grizzlies managing partner Jesse Cole.
“The point would be to make a year-round entertainment facility,” he said. “The possibilities are endless.”
The idea is enticing to the city because it could provide better connectivity between downtown and the Loray Mill. The historic textile factory in west Gastonia is undergoing a $39 million redevelopment and will soon be home to 190 loft apartments with retail and restaurant space.
We are talking a modest facility here: certainly under $10 million. But we’re seeing summer-collegiate ball emerge as a very affordable option for cities wanting to bring some new life into older downtown at a very modest investment.
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