Opinion

So long to Knights

York County fans of the Charlotte Knights will have to travel farther to see games when the Knights make their move to downtown Charlotte. But the move is likely to be a boost for the team and for York County, which owns Knights Stadium and highly desirable adjacent property.

Knights officials recently announced an agreement on a site for a proposed new baseball stadium in the city. The move would occur in the midst of a downtown building boom, including new high-rise condos, more office construction, a new Charlotte Bobcats Arena and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

More people are choosing to live in downtown Charlotte, increasing demand for entertainment and recreation opportunities near the city's central business district. And that should be good news for the Knights if plans to relocate pan out.

Fortunately, it also should be good news for York County -- diehard Knights fans notwithstanding. The county owns the stadium, which sits on 32 acres of prime property.

If -- when -- the Knights move, the county could sell the stadium for another purpose or level it. County Councilman Buddy Motz said the county, itself, might consider turning the stadium into a center for cultural events.

But the land -- minus the stadium -- also would be an ideal site for industrial development. It is perfectly situated between Interstate 77 and U.S. 21, and close to the state line. Construction of the Fort Mill northern bypass, which should be completed next month, also enhances the value of the property.

Plans are in the works for a $200 million mixed-use development on property surrounding the stadium and fronting on Gold Hill Road. The project could include 2 million square feet of office space, 550,000 square feet of retail space, some for light industry, office buildings with condominiums on top and townhouses. It also could feature a plaza with cafes and shopping, a nearby hotel and a cineplex.

Clearly, the stadium's proximity to a project like that makes the property a gem. And its value can only increase during the time it will take for the Knights to move out.

York County now leases the stadium, built in 1990, to the Knights, with the lease renewable on an annual basis. In addition to revenue from the lease, the county gets half the parking revenues, and the Knights pay for maintenance.

Attendance at Knights games has declined steadily over the nearly two decades the team has been at the stadium. Last year, it was second-worst in the International League. A move to Charlotte undoubtedly would increase attendance and probably draw more sponsors.

Thankfully, what is good for the Knights may also be good for York County.

IN SUMMARY

Move to Charlotte would be good for the team, but might also be a boon to York County.

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