With a deadline looming to shore up its financing, officials with the Charlotte Knights say theyre working feverishly to sign deals for its planned minor-league baseball stadium in Third Ward.
Team officials wont say how much has been raised so far. But General Manager Dan Rajkowski said the effort received a major boost this week after the Charlotte City Council approved an $8 million subsidy toward the project.
The city wont pay the money upfront, though officials have said the subsidy could act as collateral while the team lines up its financing.
Rajkowski said the team is continuing to talk with local lending institutions about the ballpark. Meanwhile, it also is seeking long-term founding-level sponsors whose money would go to pay off debt for the stadium.
There are so many different tiers to putting this package together, Rajkowski said. But every day we get one step closer to it .
The team is working against a June 30 deadline to submit a financing plan for the ballpark to Mecklenburg County. If all goes as planned, the team would play uptown in 2014.The new ball park is set to be built on about 8 acres of land between South Graham, West Fourth and South Mint streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
It originally was supposed to be completed last fall, but county commissioners agreed to extend its lease if the team met certain benchmarks. Among them was the deadline for the financial plan.
The lease does not specify what needs to be part of that plan. But county General Manager Bobbie Shields said he will talk with the Knights about what type of information they plan to submit.
Shields said county staff then will determine whether the information is adequate, and likely share the information with commissioners at their July 3 meeting.
The Knights have previously announced two sponsors: BB&T has purchased the naming rights for the stadium, and Piedmont Natural Gas is a founding sponsor.
Return to its namesake
The Knights, a Class AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, currently play just over the state line in Fort Mill.
The team has eyed a return to Charlotte for years, with the latest effort gaining steam in 2006. But the project stalled because of the economy and lawsuits filed by an attorney who wants a major-league team in the city.
Under its lease with the county, the Knights are required to start construction of the ballpark by October.
The move to Charlotte means officials in York County, S.C., must decide what to do with the Fort Mill stadium. York County owns about 35 acres in the area, including the ballpark.
York County Manager Jim Baker said the team has received many ideas about how to use the property, including keeping it as a sports site or turning it to commercial property. Selling the property could be a financial boom for the county, which would receive money not only from the land but from any structures built on it.
Weve got numerous ideas, Baker said. Its just a question of trying to pick whats ... going to be the best for York County.