New uptown ballpark to bid for 2015 ACC tournament - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

New uptown ballpark to bid for 2015 ACC tournament

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CHARLOTTE, NC (Erik Spanberg/Charlotte Business Journal) -

Last month, two Atlantic Coast Conference schools played in the College World Series. BB&T Ballpark, the new home of the Charlotte Knights minor-league franchise, hopes to host all 15 schools as soon as 2015.
 
Dan Rajkowski, chief operating officer of the Knights, told me during a recent interview at the uptown stadium construction site that the team and city intend to bid for an ACC baseball tournament later this year. The Charlotte Sports Foundation, the nonprofit organizer and operator of the Belk Bowl and ACC football championship game here, will lead the bid campaign, Rajkowski said.
 
Greensboro's NewBridge Bank Park, a 7,500-capacity stadium opened in 2005, hosts the ACC tournament next year. The conference has not made any site selections beyond 2014, ACC spokesperson Amy Yakola said.
 
The Knights hosted the ACC tournament at their current home in Fort Mill in 2000 and 2001. South Carolina's all-but-endless Confederate flag controversy led to a refusal by the NCAA and, later, the ACC and Southeastern Conference, to award tournaments and other events to the state.
 
By 2015, the first year Charlotte could host the ACC's baseball tournament, the conference will have expanded to 15 schools. Maryland will be gone to the Big 10, but Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville and Notre Dame (which is a member in all sports except football) will have joined.
 
Hosting the ACC would help fulfill a promise by the Knights to bring tourism-friendly events to the new ballpark when the minor-league team isn't using it. A combined $16 million in city and county taxpayer money, plus a $1-a-year lease on the $24 million county-owned stadium site, are helping the team build the $54 million ballpark.
 
ACC baseball should be attractive to local and regional sports fans. This year, both UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State played in the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, as did future member Louisville. Clemson, Florida State, Virginia, Miami and Georgia Tech are among the other conference members with strong baseball pedigrees.
 
For more on the Knights and the new stadium, see today's print edition of the Charlotte Business Journal. The package of stories includes a look at whether neighborhood development in Third Ward can be attributed, in part, to the stadium.
 
Michael Smith, president and CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, called the surrounding apartments and other projects a result of what he dubs ballpark-oriented development. Kennesaw State University sports economist J.C. Bradbury said years of studies and analysis show there "does not appear to be economic spillover" from stadiums and other sports venues.
 
Smith attributes the momentum and accelerated development in Third Ward to the momentum created by the baseball stadium and the 5.4-acre Romare Bearden Park across the street. Before the city approved a request for $8 million in taxpayer money last summer for the stadium, Smith's organization said the ballpark could help spur a makeover of 26 empty or underutilized acres nearby.
 
The Knights broke ground last year after five years of legal scuffles with Charlotte real estate attorney Jerry Reese. He opposed the minor-league stadium both for how the land swap and other aspects were structured between local government and private sellers and because he contends Charlotte would be better off pursuing a Major League Baseball franchise.
 
Asked this week for his thoughts on the potential impact of the minor-league stadium, Reese answered, "You reap what you sow."

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