CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte is becoming one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.
The Queen City already has three professional sports franchises, with another one to start next year.
Will Charlotte add another?
As minor league baseball delivers its first pitch in Charlotte Tuesday with the Knights opening the season, there has been discussion about a Major League Baseball team.
Will MLB add Charlotte to one of its future destinations?
Commissioner Rob Manfred said he would like to expand the league from 30 to 32 teams.
And, he has also said he sees Charlotte, Las Vegas, Nashville, Portland, Montreal and Vancouver as potential suitors for a new team.
We’ve been down this road before. In the late 1990s, there were efforts to relocate the Minnesota Twins to Charlotte.
A sale for the team fell through and the Twins eventually got a new stadium, which it desperately wanted.
Then came the fight over moving the Knights uptown.
The franchise had been struggling to draw in Fort Mill and wanted to build the stadium we have now in uptown Charlotte.
But local attorney Jerry Reese kept suing over the land deals needed to complete the ballpark.
“Any official action to extend or modify this lease will be challenged in court,” Reese said.
What Reese really wanted was the city to pursue Major League Baseball instead.
Eventually, the lawsuit was settled and the Knights ballpark was built.
The stadium, now called Truist Field, has been open for seven years now.
It continues to draw rave reviews and sellout crowds, with the Charlotte skyline as its backdrop.
That success has led to more speculation on if Charlotte is ready for Major League Baseball.
Michael Smith, from Center City Partners, was asked about it in 2017.
“We’re thrilled that the commissioner of Major League Baseball is calling Charlotte out as a market that’s of interest to them,” Smith said.
However, city leaders have never really rallied to the cause like they did the Panthers back in the 1990s, or even more recently with Major League Soccer.
And, of course, Panthers’ majority owner David Tepper did land that MLS team. Charlotte FC kicks off next spring.
That raises the question of whether Charlotte is in a position to add MLB to a roster that already includes MLS, the NBA and NFL.
Because it won’t be cheap.
Commissioner Manfred said that an entry fee to Major League Baseball will cost $2.2 billion.
Then you have to build a stadium.
There are massive hurdles.
However, hardcore fans like Rick Curti aren’t giving up hope.
Curti has been leading a grassroots effort to bring Major League Baseball to Charlotte.
“I always thought that Charlotte should have a Major League Baseball team,” Curti said. “We’re one of the fastest-growing cities. We have basketball. We have football here. We have a hockey team in Raleigh, and I mean I’ve lived in other cities that were smaller than had Major League Baseball. And I just thought why? Why doesn’t North Carolina ever have Major League Baseball?”
Curti told On Your Side Tonight that he believes Charlotte can absolutely handle another major league sport.
“I mean, you know we have other cities out there that have multiple sports teams,” Curti said. “I think that’s great that MLS is coming and it’s great that we have hockey. And while I think it’s great, it’s just showing that our city is growing exponentially every single day. We got the banks out here so you know there’s a lot of potential for sponsorships. You know we have a lot of Fortune 500 companies out here.”
So far, we aren’t hearing publicly from anyone with the kind of money to support a Major League Baseball team in Charlotte.
“I think you know when it gets closer because you know we don’t know when expansion is going to come,” Curti said. “We’ve heard from the commissioner that will happen when Tampa Bay and Oakland get new stadiums and then that’s when they will expand.”
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