As discussions continue about a proposed downtown ballpark, the Kannapolis Intimidators (Low A; Sally League) and city officials are planning for the future.
Under a proposal that is still in the works, the Intimidators would move to downtown Kannapolis to play in a new ballpark that is constructed as part of a redevelopment project. The Kannapolis City Council has already signed off on the design of the new ballpark, which could seat 5,800 fans (3,800 fixed seats, 2,000 berm capacity) and include a 360-degree concourse among its amenities.
One of the questions the city will have to address if a new ballpark is built is the fate of Intimidators Stadium, the team’s current home off of Interstate 85. The city purchased Rowan County’s share of the ballpark in 2011, and has debt remaining from that transaction. While some concepts–including an office park–have been suggested for the facility’s site, officials say that they still need time to sort out the exact plan for the location. More from the Salisbury Post:
By pursuing a downtown stadium, however, Kannapolis has decided to abandon a facility for which the city still owes $2.8 million to Rowan County. Under the current schedule, Kannapolis won’t pay off its stadium debt until April 2061.
City Manager Mike Legg and Mayor Darrell Hinnant say Kannapolis could pay off debt with any money it receives from selling the existing stadium. Kannapolis will “always honor debt in the future,” Hinnant said. However, council members haven’t quite decided what to do with the Intimidators’ stadium, which it purchased from Rowan County in 2011.
“I think we’re all actively looking at it to decide on the highest and best use,” Hinnant said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to say we’re sitting on our haunches. We just haven’t reached the right answer yet.”
The Intimidators, meanwhile, are looking ahead to some of the features that could be included in the ballpark. Intimidators Stadium opened in 1995, and does not have the amenities that more recent facilities can offer.
With the move to the new facility, the Intimidators could not only be a key part of the city’s redevelopment plans for downtown, but provide a more modern fan experience. Intimidators COO Randy Long, who spoke to the Post in a separate feature, cited similar projects that have taken place in recent years:
Citing the Charlotte Knights and Winston-Salem Dash, Long said teams who have moved to a downtown were better off afterward.
“Successful as a baseball team, but also as a downtown,” he said.
At the same time, he said the Kannapolis Intimidators didn’t approach the city with a request for major upgrades that led to talks about a downtown stadium. The Intimidators also didn’t explicitly ask for a new stadium, he said.
“A lot of the talks just really progressed naturally as the city acquired (downtown) land,” he said. “They do want to revitalize it and they do happen to have a minor league baseball team. Those steps have just sort of gone that way.”
Long said minor league stadiums operate much differently than when the Intimidators’ facility opened in 1995. There’s a great emphasis on the experience of fans.
“It’s a place for people to go and gather just as much as it is for people to go and see a baseball game,” he said. “You know, you can get gourmet food at some of these ballparks now. They actually have professional chefs on staff.”
If the plans for the proposed ballpark are finalized, it could open by the 2020 season.
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