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Knights Want $11M from City for Uptown Stadium

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Don Beaver (right), Charlotte Knights Owner and Dan Rajkowski (left), Knights General Manager make their pitch to the Charlotte City Council. The Charlotte Knights want local taxpayers to cover half the total cost of a new baseball stadium in Uptown, including $24 million in prime real estate and $19 million in other funds. Yesterday, the Triple A team made their pitch to the city council. First came a study - paid for by the team - promising an economic boost for Charlotte of $38 million a year from a stadium uptown. Then yesterday, Michael Smith of Center City Partners went to bat for the Knights at a city council meeting, predicting $300 million of new development around the new stadium. "The introduction of a ballpark will be a super-catalyst for development," said Smith. The Charlotte Knights are racing toward a July deadline set by Mecklenburg County to work out a full funding plan for the new stadium or risk losing the county's support. Construction will cost $54 million. The county has pledged free land in the Third Ward worth $24 million and $8 million toward construction. Yesterday the Knights asked the city to kick in $11 million, without which General Manager Dan Rajkowski (pictured, right) says the stadium won't be built. "Candidly, if there is not a mechanism to close that gap, we cannot proceed," Rajkowski told the council's Economic Development Committee, adding the team has "exhausted" all opportunities to secure private funding. "The public participation and investment on behalf of the citizens of Charlotte and this project will provide a home for the Knights, but it will also be a showcase for Charlotte," vowed Rajkowski. The Knights are languishing at their current stadium in Fort Mill, South Carolina - last season's attendance was the worst in the International League. Rajkowski believes a move uptown will double ticket sales. But several city council members - including Claire Fallon - are leery of the team's projections. "I don't want this thing to be the straw that breaks the public's back. . . they don't trust us anymore," said Fallon, referring to the NASCAR Hall of Fame's failure to meet attendance goals. Earlier this week, Mayor Anthony Foxx told the Charlotte Business Journal the Knights' request for public money a "hard sell" in light of other city needs. Councilman James Mitchell is not troubled by the proposal. "Would I want it to be smaller? Sure I would," said Mitchell, who chairs the council's Economic Development Committee. "But the number didn't intimidate me at all. Now we need staff to get creative and come back and say this is how we can fund the $11 million. The city council will meet again in early April to consider its "creative" options for helping build the Knights' uptown field of dreams.