Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Uptown baseball? Yes. Publicly financed? No.

We love baseball. Major leagues and minor leagues. Last summer, we saw phenom Bryce Harper play in Kannapolis, and we drove down to Fort Mill for the Charlotte Knights, and we even made it to Fenway Park on a warm, August night.

We also like the idea of baseball in uptown Charlotte, as we've said before. But publicly financed baseball?

The Observer's Steve Harrison reports this morning that the city of Charlotte could help pay for a new uptown baseball stadium for the Knights. City councilman James Mitchell, chair of the city's economic development committee, said there have been preliminary talks about the city helping out with the cost of the stadium.

Already, the county has contributed to the concept of the uptown Knights with a long ago, tentatively approved $8 million worth of land and infrastructure for a Third Ward stadium. Now the city may consider doubling down on that investment with another $6 to $11 million for a stadium.

We get why it could be a good thing for Charlotte. Uptown baseball is another jewel in the satchel, another feature to tout when businesses and talent consider a move to Charlotte. There's the potential, too, that an uptown stadium could spur economic development on the streets nearby.

(The counterargument: A baseball stadium would host fewer than 80 home games a year, leaving an empty shell on most other nights. A 2004 study for the city concluded that other uses of the land - like a large park - would encourage more residential and office development, which is what Third Ward needs.)

More importantly, the Knights have thus far shown an inability to finance and sustain a stadium. Yes, the team was squeezed by the recession, along with several lawsuits from Charlotte attorney Jerry Reese, who continues to tilt at the windmill of Major League Baseball in Charlotte. But moving uptown brings no guarantee that the Knights will succeed. Charlotte already has its share of publicly financed failures, including the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Even if baseball is more popular, it comes with a real risk of being another boondoggle.

Last summer, the county granted the team another at-bat by extending its lease agreement a year. The team has until March to show that it has two top-tier sponsors, and we're hoping that we'll see even more - financial documents that show that the team can survive if the stadium costs more, or if attendance projections aren't realized.

What we have thus far is little evidence, from the team or from corporate Charlotte, that the Knights have the support they need to make baseball work amid the skyscrapers. If the franchise can do so, we'll be among those happily walking to Third Ward on summer nights. But let's not rely on public dollars to make it happen.

Peter St. Onge


Anonymous said...

Jewel in the satchel? OK never mind, on to the important stuff. Panthers host 10 home games a year and make a huge profit yet have never spawned the "development" everyone thought it would other than an upgrade to the nearby topless bar. I do think that a 80 or 90 night/day a year facility downtown just might spring a little development, certainly more that the Panthers have. This could also host some smaller events that aren't quite large enough to justify renting out the Panther Stadium for 400,000 dollars a weekend. What ya'll think about that?

Rboggs81 said...

Love baseball, hate public financing of any sport facility. Knights need to do it on their own or don't do it at all.

Ghoul said...

Hey Pete, so we are allowed to comment on baseball and hospital CEOs, but not on the county revaluations? What is up with that?

EuroCat said...

Peter, I'm not trying to be nasty, but why is it that you evidently "love" basketball and NASCAR racing more than baseball?

After all, the Charlotte Observer was one of the first passengers on the "public funding of Bob Johnson's Basketball Gym" and "public funding of NASCAR's Indoor Junkyard" bandwagons; in fact, I think that the CO might even have been the driver of those bandwagons. Now, over $800 million (including interest through the life of the bonds) later, all we have is two money-pit albatrosses to show for that taxpayer funding.

It's refreshing to see the CO finally come to its senses about using tax dollars to subsidize millionaires and billionaires, but couldn't y'all have "gotten religion" around six or seven years ago?

The Observer Editorial Board said...

Ghoul: What are you talking about? I haven't stopped any conversation on county revaluations.

Eurocat: I've been a public skeptic of the arena, too - although I'm willing to admit that it got us the DNC, which is a good thing for Charlotte.

Nathan: No on jewel/satchel? Ah, OK. On your point: The stadium would have to host a lot of events, and it would have competition.



Ghoul said...

Pete, go to the Observer's front page story on evaluations, no comments allowed there, I would assume that is an editorial board decision, and you are on the board now.

Shelly said...

Panther stadium was not built with tax dollars, so we have lost nothing with it not being rented out...

The Observer Editorial Board said...

Ghoul: The editorial board moderates comments on this blog, but that's it. (I also moderate columns on my personal blog, as other bloggers do.) The staff of moderates comments on other articles and columns that appear on


kantstanzya said...

I read this twice thinking I was imagining things. The CO is opposed to public financing of something? Well O.K. then. Well said.

But your later comment: "I've been a public skeptic of the arena too- although I'm willing to admit that it got us the DNC, which is a good thing for Charlotte." A good thing?

I'm am going to be embarrassed to explain to friends and family around the country why the conservative south I have been bragging on for decades would want to host and promote nutty speeches by Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, Slick Willy, Maxine Waters and the rest of the cast from the bar scene of Star Wars on national TV. Not to mention repeat #327 of our messiah's "fair shot" "fair share" "play by the same rules" speech. I haven't yet told them of Charlotte's permanent tilt to the party of tax, spend, borrow and redistribution.

Anonymous said...

Shelley, the Panther Stadium had 33 million tax dollars spent on it buying the land and paying for infastructure improvements before the site was ever walked upon by the builder. It would really help if you knew what you were talking about.

Adolf said...

I still despise the way the Arena uptown deal went down.

If the Charlotte powers that be try to pull that sort of stunt with Major League Baseball, I will boycott it for life.

I would NEVER patronize a baseball stadium financed with public money. That is just ridiculous and wrong! Any politician that allows it will have stepped on the Third Rail.

Royalsman said...

So after the Panthers (benefit = tailgating, parking, boost to NFL spending for CLT,) Bobcats (benefit = team sucks sure but CIAA, concerts, DNC, ACC tourney,) Whitewater Center (epic fail,) and NASCAR (epic fail,) I would support the baseball stadium. I do believe a lot of people (myself included) would attend and be drawn to the area there for nice summer nights after work in uptown.

Live after 5 works great but do well in the stadium exterior and you can have that at each game.

Full disclosure, I am a baseball fan.

Wiley Coyote said...

Yooo. PETE!

How about asking the County when they plan to get the $7 million in tax dollars back loaned to the Whitewater Center.

That is one fiasco of a reason to not even consider public financing for baseball downtown.