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York County has a buyer for Knights Stadium

York County has a buyer for Knights Stadium.

Cato Corp., the Charlotte-based apparel retailer, wants to purchase the 32-acre site off Gold Hill Road for $844,160, or $26,380 per acre, according to York County officials.

The York County Council will consider a proposal Monday to sell the land to Cato. It is the first step in the possible sale. Council members must approve the sale three times and hold a public hearing before the deal is final.

A portion of the land will be used for a $36 million distribution center that will be about 1/2-mile east of the ballpark. The distribution center is expected to create 130 jobs. A fee-in-lieu-of-tax agreement between York County and the women’s fashion retailer is also on Monday’s agenda.

The county and Cato have discussed development of the remaining land. Plans call for mixed-use development with top-of-the-line office space, retail shops, multifamily housing and a hotel.

Britt Blackwell, chairman of the York County Council, said Cato’s proposal was “an attractive offer. I haven’t seen better.” Blackwell said he would support any offer that brings the “best return on our investment.”

This is the last season at the stadium for the Charlotte Knights. In 2014, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox will move to a new, $54 million stadium in uptown Charlotte.

The Knights have played in Fort Mill for 25 years, including 24 at the stadium built by George Shinn, then the team’s owner, for $14 million. The team has leased the land, which was donated to York County, for $1 a year.

Cato Corp. and the county have discussed a development plan for the 265 acres adjacent to the ballpark. The company recently purchased the adjacent land for about $7 million.

Cato officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The price for the stadium land is based on what Cato paid for the adjacent acreage, said Mark Farris, York County’s economic developer.

Farris said the proposed deal is attractive to York County for several reasons.

The proposed mixed-use development would be a “Ballantyne-like concept,” Farriss said, referring to the south Mecklenburg development. Recently, insurance giant MetLife announced it was relocating to Ballantyne with a workforce of 1,380 employees. The Ballantyne area is one the fastest growing in Mecklenburg County.

Cato’s proposed development plan is attractive to York County officials because of the proposed office space and hotel and the possibility of a convention center.

“I’ve not see anything that would be better,” Blackwell said.

Farris said development of the property would add it to the county tax rolls.

The proposed purchase also includes Cato demolishing the stadium, Farris said. Tearing down the stadium removes the liability that comes with an empty facility, Farris said. The Knights’ lease on the stadium expires Dec. 31.

Worthington: 803-329-4066
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