This past week a new proposal was presented to give the Charlotte Knights $8.5 million in city money to help build a new stadium uptown. As I heard this news, I thought, “Do we really need another stadium uptown?” Is this a good idea, or a shot in the dark to bring in a MLB franchise?
The proposal is down from the before price tag of $9 million and the original asking price of $11 million. It should be noted that this is just a proposal and would have to pass through a city council vote next month in May. I don’t want to get too much into the issue of whether or not funds for the stadium should come from public money. For years sports teams and cities have been in partnership to build stadiums. Of course there wasn’t the biggest support for the uptown Bobcats arena to use public money. The issue I have is, why uptown?
I will go ahead and say that I am not the biggest baseball fan. It’s not that I don’t like the sport, but as far as being an avid follower goes I am far from it. I normally don’t pay a whole lot of attention to MLB until September when the playoff race starts to heat up. To me, baseball is merely background noise on a Saturday or something to turn on when I have already seen all the episodes of Storage Wars that are on. The argument isn’t whether baseball is better than other sports (I’ll save that blog for a later date), but whether we really want or need a baseball stadium uptown. Just because America’s past time isn’t my past time doesn’t mean that it’s not for many, many people.
The move of the stadium to uptown seems ridiculous. I understand that Charlotte has made and is continuing to make uptown the pulse of the city, Bank of America Stadium, Time Warner Cable Arena, the EpiCentre, countless bars, clubs and restaurants – if there is something to see or do in Charlotte, it’s uptown. Any random night in uptown you can find an influx of people being seen and heard from the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center to college night at Town Tavern to Live After Five to concerts at the Fillmore – there are businessmen and twenty-somethings alike making the most of what our city has to offer. Charlotte is so much more than uptown, though: the neighborhood feel of Dilworth, the arts district of NoDa, the University area, Ikea, Ballantyne and South Park. So why would we want to try to cram another attraction into an uptown area that already feels piled on top of itself as it is? As much as there is to like about uptown, there is plenty to keep me out of the area. For starters, let’s go with parking. Parking is already a major issue uptown – you drive around for thirty minutes trying to find a spot, only to have to pay $15 to $30 dollars. The Panthers have eight home games a year and they range from either 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. on a Sunday to the occasional Thursday or Monday night game. During these times most people are not at work uptown. The Bobcats are at home approximately forty one times a season. Most of their games are at night, usually with a 7 p.m. tip off, or on the weekends, again while most people aren’t working. Baseball plays at all times: week nights, weekends and even occasionally during the day throughout the week. Now you tell me where exactly during normal working hours six to ten thousand extra people are going to park.
I do agree that a new stadium should be built in Charlotte as opposed to the Knights playing in Ft. Mill, SC. But why not put it somewhere that it could help build up that area? Make it a whole attraction to help another area of Charlotte prosper. If the Knights are going to use money from the city to help build the stadium, put it somewhere that can help Charlotte build. What about the area where the old Charlotte Coliseum used to be? There is plenty of parking and room to build a stadium along with lots of other attractions. Think along the lines of the NC Music Factory, but for sports. The Music factory currently features the Uptown Amphitheater along with the Fillmore, Comedy Zone, Small Bar, Butter and countless other bars and restaurants to keep it thriving even on nights when the venue doesn’t feature a concert. They took an area of Charlotte that had nothing there but old factories and mills and made it into a thriving nightlife hot spot. The Music Factory is still considered to be in the uptown area, but anyone who has been there can attest that is off the beaten path from the attractions of Tryon and the EpiCentre. So how about something similar based around the new Knights stadium? Make the stadium the main focal point but also feature shops, sports bars and maybe even a bowling alley to keep with the sports theme. You could have batting cages, mini golf, perhaps even a go cart track – I propose an all-out attraction that can support itself alone with or without a Knights game going on. We would build up a part of Charlotte that is otherwise desolate, spread out the city a little more, and it wouldn’t add to a continuing parking problem uptown. It creates more jobs that the Charlotte area is in dire need of and is appealing to people whether they are baseball fans or not.
If we can learn anything from the sports teams we have now, it is that football is king in Charlotte and most other sports are an afterthought. If the product on the court or field is not good then we will not get behind them. The Bobcats are a prime example that nobody wants to go watch a losing team – even when the Panthers have a bad season people will lose interest. A venue with everything would be able to attract people despite the record of the team on the field. The fact of the matter is that while I don’t support an uptown baseball stadium, I do support the Charlotte sports scene and I think the marriage between Charlotte and the Knights can be a happy union.
As always feel free to send me your thoughts, praise and hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: the views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Sports Radio 610 AM WFNZ The Fan.