Officials postpone move to Charlotte until 2010

April BetheaMay 15, 2008 

The Charlotte Knights have pushed back the proposed opening date for a new stadium in Charlotte to 2010, team officials said Wednesday.

The Triple-A team, which is currently based in Fort Mill, had wanted to be playing in uptown Charlotte sometime next season.

But major work on the stadium has been delayed as team and county officials fight lawsuits from a resident challenging the project. Also, the Knights still haven't closed on a financial deal to pay for the stadium.

Earlier this month, Knights officials met with an architectural and design team who laid out scenarios of what it would take to open the stadium in 2009 versus a year later.

Accelerating construction would have cost more, said Dan Rajkowski, the team's vice president and general manager. But officials also wanted to give themselves more time to properly build a stadium.

"I wanted to and our team wanted unequivocally to (play uptown) in 2009," Rajkowski said. But "it just doesn't make sense for us to hurry this process and run the risk of not doing it the way we wanted it to be done."

The roughly 10,000-seat stadium will be built on county-owned land bordered by South Graham, West Fourth and South Mint streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The entire project is expected to cost about $48 million, with $40 million to build the stadium.

The Knights used to play in Charlotte before moving to Fort Mill in 1989.

The team has tried for years to return to the Queen City, and the effort gained the strongest support after it was wrapped in a complex land deal that also adds a park near the stadium and mixed-used development in Second Ward.

But real estate attorney Jerry Reese, who thinks Charlotte should field a Major League Baseball team, has fought the plans.

Earlier this week, a judge dismissed Reese's request for a preliminary injunction to stop the stadium project.

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