The City Council authorized city staff to put together bids to buy the downtown land with a budget of $3.24 million, which is currently comprised of eight parcels along West Franklin Boulevard. An October meeting will yield public comment; after that the city could pull the trigger on the purchase and move ahead with the project. The new Grizzlies ballpark would be the center of a new downtown development featuring recreational, commercial and residential construction.
The stadium itself would cost another $10 million to $15 million, and would have to be financed separately. It would be owned by the city and likely leased by the Gastonia Grizzlies, a summer collegiate baseball franchise based here. But to be financially solvent, it would also have to be used for a wide variety of other year-round events, from food festivals and concerts to holiday celebrations and conferences.
“Whether the Grizzlies end up being operators of the ballpark, or however that works out, we would have to determine that,” Munn said. “What they get from it and what the city gets from it all has to be negotiated. But for us, it has to be more than a ballpark.”
City leaders would pay for the stadium construction using limited obligation bonds, which are paid off solely based on pledged revenue. The city would pay the bonds off over 25 years using the newly acquired property as collateral.
If all the pieces fall into place, construction of the new ballpark could begin in 2018. The team currently plays at Sims Legion Park, the former home to Minor League Baseball in the city.