Could Charlotte one day land a Major League Baseball team?
Speaking at an All-Star Game town hall meeting in Miami Monday night, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said the league is holding off on adding expansion teams until after the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays get new ballparks. But he named Charlotte as a possible expansion city.
“The mayor of Montreal has been very vocal about bringing baseball back to Montreal,” Manfred said, according to an AP report. “The fact of the matter was baseball was successful in Montreal for a very long time. Charlotte is a possibility. And I would like to think that Mexico City or some place in Mexico would be another possibility.”
Charlotte tends to pop up now and then in conversations about MLB expansion, and every time it does, it tends to spark quick and emotional reaction on social media, local sports radio and beyond.
One major challenge would be sponsorships, and the question of whether Charlotte could support another major-league franchise on top of its other professional teams, NASCAR races and major sporting events it’s landed, including the NBA All-Star Game in 2019 and the PGA Championship in August. NASCAR executive Marcus Smith is also trying to bring Major League Soccer to Charlotte.
Another big issue is the fact that the $55 million, 10,200-seat BB&T BallPark uptown that the Charlotte Knights opened in 2014 cannot be retrofitted to accommodate major-league specifications. Even if it could be, density and traffic uptown would be another challenge: Major League Baseball schedules feature 81 home games, including many on weekdays.
Having the Knights uptown has been a boon for businesses nearby, and attendance remains high. In fact, the Knights are among the top in Minor League Baseball attendance, with an average of 8,827 fans a game so far this year.
“It’s always a compliment when Charlotte is noticed as a potential MLB city, however we still contend, as does Commissioner Rob Manfred, that this is years away. We are thrilled that our team has led the country in Minor League Baseball attendance for three straight years, and intend on continuing that tradition for many years to come,” the Knights said in a statement to the Observer.
The construction of BB&T BallPark was delayed by lawsuits from Charlotte lawyer Jerry Reese, who argued the region could support a major league team and that building a minor league ballpark was short-sighted. The city is now in the fourth year of a 20-year agreement with the Knights.