Gaston & Catawba

Regional sports park on Kings Mountain's radar

A regional sports/entertainment complex just off Interstate 85. Fields for softball, baseball and soccer. A 20,000-seat outdoor theater for concerts by big-name bands.

A multimillion-dollar attraction that could bring in customers from a 200-mile radius of Kings Mountain.

It's a grand vision, local leaders admit. But one they're actively pursuing.

They say the key to making the project happen is a recent proposal from Neisler Brothers Inc. to donate 40 acres on U.S. 29 to any group that can find the money for the complex. The sports park likely would be annexed by the City of Kings Mountain, about three miles away.

There's no plan yet, but Kings Mountain Mayor Rick Murphrey said one that's under consideration is from Chino Hills, Calif.-based Big League Dreams, which has six sports complexes in California, Texas and Arizona.

Each has smaller-scale replicas of Major League stadiums such as Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park for youth baseball and softball tournaments.

Murphrey and other local officials recently visited a Big League Dreams sports park in League City, Texas, and liked what they saw.

The local park would cost an estimated $10 million to $15 million. Where the money would come from hasn't been determined. But Murphrey said the local textile family's offer to donate 40 acres of prime property off I-85 is a major step toward forming a public/private coalition.

“One of the big hurdles is finding that much land,” he said. “Getting that commitment is real exciting. That's big.”

Earlier this year, Big League Dreams was interested in a sports complex for Gaston County.

After a complex is built, the company takes care of maintenance and security and splits the profits with local governments, which fund construction.

Former Kings Mountain Mayor Scott Neisler said the land his family agreed to donate is along the industrial corridor between Kings Mountain and Grover.

He said the decision was based on a desire to do something long-lasting for the community and also spark the development of hotels and restaurants on the family's adjoining land.

Murphrey said he'll appoint a financial study committee with a membership from Cleveland and Gaston counties.

When the committee wraps up its study, Murphrey said, the group will begin making presentations to potential investors and governmental leaders in the region.

He estimated the project, which would be done in phases, could begin in 48 to 60 months.