The Charlotte Knights – who drew a minor league-best 687,715 spectators in 2014 during their debut season at BB&T BallPark in uptown – announced Wednesday that they have been selected to host the 2016 Triple-A Baseball All-Star Game.
The game, which will be held during the week of July 11-13, 2016, has featured 86 players who have gone on to play in All-Star Games in the majors. The game will be broadcast on MLB Network.
According to Knights Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkowski, the lobbying for this game began well before any of the 59,045 bricks were laid on the 5.6-acre uptown lot that houses the Knights.
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“Almost three years ago, even before this ballpark began construction, I was lobbying (International) League President Randy Mobley for this prestigious event,” Rajkowski said Wednesday. “A pitch hadn’t even been thrown in Charlotte and it was already in the mix for an All-Star game.
“We were pretty aggressive in going after this. We firmly believed that Charlotte would be the best host for this game and we knew we wanted to host it sooner rather than later.”
Charlotte hosted last year’s Triple-A National Championship game between the Omaha Storm Chasers and Pawtucket Red Sox. Minor League Baseball officials were impressed by the $55 million facility and the fact that 8,500 fans packed the park despite a rain delay that lasted nearly two hours.
That night played a large role in the Knights earning Class AAA’s most prestigious event.
“When this ballpark became a reality, we were convinced that those discussion prior to it being built were not going to have been in vain,” Mobley said Wednesday. “Then, as last year developed and the fan and community support was overwhelming and we finished it off with the national championship game, we knew that there was no other choice for this 2016 All-Star Game.
In December, during baseball’s annual winter meetings, Charlotte was unanimously endorsed by all 30 minor-league teams.
The Knights have not previously hosted a Triple-A All-Star game, which began in 1988. The site for the game alternates each year between Pacific Coast and International League host cities. The host for this year’s event is Omaha, Neb.
The All-Star game itself will be the culmination of a three-day affair that begins with a home run derby on Monday night. Tuesday has traditionally been reserved for a luncheon and gala for players and team executives.
The Durham Bulls hosted the 2014 game and drew a crowd of 10,274 at Durham Bulls Athletic Park. As it is currently constructed, BB&T BallPark seats just over 10,500.
The Knights’ 2015 season begins with a home game against the Norfolk Tides on April 9. The ballpark will also host two previously announced events, an exhibition against the Chicago White Sox on April 3 and a college baseball game between Charlotte and N.C. State on March 31.
Knights notes: Without getting into the numbers, Rajkowski announced season ticket sales are up from last year. … Construction has begun on the 150 new “Power Alley” seats in right-center field. There is still a plan to add an additional 85-96 seats on the right-field upper deck. … Charlotte Center City Partners President and CEO Michael Smith said Third Ward has seen over $650 million in new development centered around the ballpark. … Rajkowski also spoke about the Knights’ intent to ramp up the number of exhibition and collegiate baseball games held at the ballpark, beginning in late March 2016.