FORT MILL The Charlotte Knights hosted their 24th and final Knights Fest fan event at the club’s Fort Mill stadium Saturday.
The team plans to be in the new BB&T Park in uptown Charlotte for the 2014 season opener. Knights general manager of baseball operations Scott Brown said the organization expected about 1,000 people to turn out for the final Knights Fest, a larger number than usual.
Knights Fest included complimentary batting practice, stadium tours, auditions to sing the national anthem during the 2013 season, ticket specials, a media softball game and children’s activities.
“There’s a lot of sentiment, people will miss this place,” Brown said. “We really want to honor this (facility), it’s been our home for 24 years.” For instance, he cited Flashback Fridays, which will feature throwback jerseys, stadium history and guest appearances each Friday home game during the season.
Though Saturday morning got off to a rainy start, Brown said the field had been covered the night before. “People have been waiting for the weather to break, so we’ll take (Saturday’s weather) as a good omen for the season.”
By the time Knights Fest started at 11 a.m., the sun was out and fans like Fort Mill resident Benjamin Williams were wearing T-shirts and shorts.
Williams brought his 11-year old son, Bo, out to enjoy the weather. “We’re getting a fresh start to spring,” he said.
Williams said he grew up in Rock Hill, and when he came to Knights games as a kid with his church there was little more than dugouts. “Now it’s completely revamped,” he said, looking around the facility.
“Going (to) uptown Charlotte is a lot more intimidating. One-way streets, parking is tough,” he said. “This is basically back in the woods.”
Katie and Garett Macera brought 7-year-old Miles out Saturday, and the Fort Mill residents said they’ll miss having the ballpark so close to home.
“We usually come every Fourth of July and get tickets way ahead of time,” Katie Macera said. “It’s going to be sad this is the last year.”
Garett Macera said he’s attended numerous games each season for at least 15 years. But once the organization moves, he said, the family will likely only go to one or two per year.
The 2013 season will be the second year Mary Downing, 69, has been an usher at Knights Stadium. “This is one of the few times I get to sit and watch,” she said with a laugh. “I love this ballpark, I wish they weren’t moving.”
Downing said she only lives about three miles from the Fort Mill stadium but will try to get on staff again after the team moves to Charlotte. “I love all sports, I love being outdoors and I love talking to people,” Downing said, noting she’ll likely look for a carpool.
But before they go, Downing said, she’s hopeful the final season will bring fans out to the stadium in droves. “We want to fill it up as many times as possible.”
Brown called Knights Fest a dry run for the between-innings entertainers, such as the new dance team that will perform during select games. Another new feature this season will be the “Royalty Race,” to pay homage to the Queen City moniker, Brown said.
“There will be a queen, a king, a jester, a knight,” Brown said. “It’ll be like the sausage race in Milwaukee or the presidents’ race in Washington, D.C.”
The final Opening Day in Fort Mill will be April 11. “It’s like Christmas for baseball fans,” Brown said.
Trenda: 704-358-5089; On Twitter: @htrenda
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