Knights Say Uptown Stadium Would Double Attendance
The Charlotte Knights believe they could double attendance at their games and possibly triple their revenues with a new stadium in Uptown Charlotte. Now the AAA baseball team needs to convince the city of Charlotte to step up to the plate. There are several reasons the Knights believe they'll be more successful Uptown than they have been in Fort Mill. First off, General Manager Dan Rajkowsi says people love new stadiums. "We base it a lot on the history of what's happened in all minor league cities - for the most part without exception - that there's been a doubling of attendance when you're moving from a previous location to a new location," says Rajkowski. Plus a new stadium means the chance to sell naming rights and upscale tickets with amenities such as club seats and suites, which the Knights currently don't have. And Rajkowski maintains a lot more Charlotte residents will go to Knights games if they don't have to contend with traffic to the stadium in Fort Mill. The new uptown stadium will cost about $55 million. Rajkowski says at least 60 percent of that will be funded privately, but he needs the city and county "to help close the gap and make this thing happen." Mecklenburg County has committed land in the Third Ward and an $8 million grant for infrastructure improvements. On March 15, Rajkowski will tell the City Council what he needs from them. The Charlotte Knights hired economist John Connaughton to make their case. He predicts the new stadium would be a $38 million boost to county - though it's unclear how much of that would be new money, as opposed to people substituting their usual entertainment activities for a ballgame. Last year, the Knights had attendance of 279,000. Connaughton says it would easily hit 600,000 Uptown. Councilman Patrick Cannon worries the numbers may be "pie-in-the-sky" and he's squeamish, considering the failure of the NASCAR Hall of Fame to live up to its projections. "We've been there done that once before," says Cannon. "Are you certain about these numbers relative to these economic times? He said these are conservative numbers but we will see. I think it's also worth trying to get a second opinion." The Charlotte Knights are under the gun to get major sponsors lined up by March 31 or lose the land offer Mecklenburg County has made.