KANNAPOLIS, NC (WBTV) - Could the Intimidators be looking for a new home in Kannapolis? City leaders are exploring the possibility of moving the team to a new stadium that would be part of the new downtown area.
The Kannapolis City Council heard the first phase of a ballpark stadium planning study regarding the Kannapolis Intimidators Monday night at their regularly scheduled meeting.
The study evaluated the Kannapolis market area and its ability to support minor league baseball.
The study found the Kannapolis Intimidators has the potential to attract significantly greater numbers of people to enjoy minor league baseball.
The Kannapolis Intimidators is the minor league baseball team affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. The Class A team will celebrate their 21st season this year. There are 167 minor league baseball teams in the U.S. but only 30 are Single A.
The team plays at CMC-Northeast Stadium off Lane Street in Kannapolis. Because the stadium is located within a protected watershed zone that limits development growth, the stadium property cannot be expanded nor can additional supportive development occur on the remaining vacant property.
The stadium was jointly built in 1995 by the Rowan County-Kannapolis Regional Sports Authority, attracting a team that relocated from Spartanburg, SC. The City acquired full ownership of the stadium in 2012. The team is locally owned by Smith Family Baseball who has a lease with the City which expires in December 2016.
The stadium currently seats 4,700. Average per game attendance in 2014 was 1,925, with a total season attendance of 119,377.
Due to the age of the stadium, deferred maintenance, and the pending renewal of the lease between the Smith Family and the City of Kannapolis, city staff is exploring the feasibility of renovating the stadium or building a new stadium.
Modern baseball facilities focus far less on fixed seats, allow for varied seating configurations at different price points, and provide more group gathering areas for fans to enjoy socializing and walking around.
With the purchase of 46 acres in downtown Kannapolis city officials would like to explore the possibility of a baseball stadium in the downtown core which would be a "game changer" – a venue that would bring a significant number of people to downtown to not only attend athletic events but to shop, eat and live.
The City hired Brailsford & Dunlavey (B&D) Venues, who are experienced sports facility consultants to conduct a study on the ability of the Kannapolis regional market to support a minor league baseball team. B&D reviewed all of the Class A minor league markets in the U.S.; and minor league markets demographically and regionally comparable to the Kannapolis region.
The Kannapolis regional market is defined as being a 30-minute drive time to the current stadium.
The report found that among all 30 Class A minor league baseball markets, the Kannapolis regional market has a higher total population and higher level of economic activity than 75% of the Class A markets, and has a higher household income than two-thirds of the Class A markets.
The Kannapolis regional market is ranked 3rd in total population, 6th in total retail expenditures and 8th in average household income among the ten most demographically comparable minor league markets.
The ten comparison minor league markets are: Greensboro, NC; Comstock Park, MI; Greenville, SC; Metairie, LA; Zebulon, NC; Fort Myers, FL; Modesto, CA; Colorado Springs, CO; Reading, PA and Syracuse, NY.
The study also looked at markets in the South that support two minor league baseball teams within a 60-minute drive time (similar to the Intimidators and the Charlotte Knights), with no major league baseball franchise, and a regional population of more than 1.5 million within this drive time.
The four regional comparison markets are: Columbus/Dayton, OH; Raleigh-Durham/Zebulon, NC, Lansing/Comstock Park, MI; and Nashville TN/Bowling Green, KY. Among these four regional comparison markets, the Charlotte/Kannapolis market ranks 2nd in population, retail expenditures, and average household income.
Jason Thompson, Regional Vice President of B&D pointed out that these factors are important because baseball is not just for baseball fans anymore. Attending a baseball game has become family oriented and a social entertainment option for people.
Factors such as household size, household income, attendee ages and disposable income impact the potential market size for minor league baseball.
Thompson further commented attendance from 2011 to 2013 at the Kannapolis Intimidators was 132,264 or approximately 19% of the market population. The national average capture rate of Class A markets is 58%. B&D concluded through their three comparable analyses that with marketing and an appropriate stadium, Kannapolis has the potential to double its annual ballgame attendance.
The report further concluded with the expected population growth in the City over the next several years the market for baseball should continue to be strong.
Council approved spending $20,000 for Phase II of the study which will evaluate the economics of a new stadium versus renovating the current stadium, including a building program (size and seating capacities), a project development budget, financial analysis, and economic benefits analysis. The study will be done jointly with the strategic planning of the Downtown Revitalization Project.