A block from Bank of America Stadium is an excavation full of cranes, ladders, spikes, tools and serious equipment with serious names such as Caterpillar, JLG Lift, Skyjack, Doosan and TMS900E.
Inside men wear hard hats and orange vests. The green dragon does not.
If you hadn’t seen Homer, the Charlotte Knights’ mascot, you wouldn’t know what the excavation will be when it grows up. All you’d know is that, based on the sheer size, it’s going to be important.
It is important. BB&T Ballpark is where the Class AAA Charlotte Knights will play next season. The 10,000-seat stadium will be a tremendous boon to our downtown (I know there are hills and traditions but uptown is too pretentious).
The Knights play 144 games a season, 72 of them at home. The Carolina Panthers and Charlotte Bobcats play a total of 49 home games.
The idea of a baseball game after work, with nothing but green grass below and sky above, is utterly appealing.
I used to take my sons to Crockett Park, where the Class AA Charlotte O’s played. The old wooden ballpark was destroyed in a fire. If it were still around it would be in Dilworth’s Olmsted Park.
My kids weren’t old enough to appreciate the intricacies of baseball. They liked the mascot and the food, the sounds and the smells. They didn’t know what they were part of but they knew they were part of something good. I paid minor league prices and every game felt like a bargain.
The Knights have yet to set ticket prices for 2014. But they know their role. A minor league team, they will charge minor league prices. They have always been true to their word.
There are people in Charlotte who believe the city can support Major League Baseball. One of them proved it by filing a series of frivolous look-at-me lawsuits that delayed construction of the Knights’ new home.
We can’t support big-league baseball. I promise.
Let’s say a middling National League team decided to relocate here. Thousands of us would show up initially. We’d fill the place. Then the newness would wear off.
Weekends we’d be fine because fans from Greensboro and Greenville, S.C., and dozens of other cities and towns would join us. But on a Tuesday night, for a game against a nondescript opponent, we’d put scalpers out of business.
We don’t have to have Major League Baseball and football (I’ll be shocked if the Panthers leave) and basketball. The Charlotte Checkers, hockey’s Class AAA equivalent, certainly have created a niche, and the Knights will, too.
If you have to see big-league ball go to Atlanta. Want to beat traffic? Oops. You’re too late.
On Tuesday the Knights added steel beams to the ballpark site, and invited the media to watch. One of the things we learned is that not everybody is designed to wear a hard hat.
Construction is scheduled to be completed by Dec. 31.
On Tuesday, 140 people worked the site. At the peak of construction 450 will.
The Knights will play the 2013 season in Fort Mill, which is in South Carolina. I like the town. Good friends live there. A buddy owned a bar there.
But to leave N.C. to watch a Charlotte team play? That’s not right.
What’s right is lingering downtown (never uptown) and sitting outside and watching the local team.
The beauty of baseball is the lack of hurry, as the multiple lawsuit-driven construction delays attest.
There’s no crying in baseball. There’s also no clock. Get there when you get there. And remember to bring your kids.
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