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Cato Corp. considers buying land near Knights Stadium in Fort Mill

MARK FARRIS: Cato Corp. might open a distribution center on 260 acres near the Charlotte Knights' ballpark in Fort Mill. Mecklenburg Times file photo.

FORT MILL, S.C. – Charlotte-based Cato Corp. could become the owner of roughly 260 acres that surround Knights Stadium in this York County town, the county’s economic development director said Friday.

Cato, a women’s clothing and accessories retailer, submitted a $5.73 million winning bid for the property, which is divided into three parcels, during a bankruptcy sale this month, Mark Farris said. Jennings Enterprises and Gold Hill Enterprises owned the land at the time it fell into bankruptcy.

But the Cato sale is not a done deal, according to Farris, who said Cato is still in negotiations over the possible purchase.

Although Cato could not be immediately reached for comment, Farris said the company is interested in building a distribution center on the site.

With the Knights, a minor-league baseball team, scheduled to play their last game in Fort Mill in 2013 and relocate to a ballpark that is under construction in uptown Charlotte, York County officials have been keeping a close eye on what happens to the 260 acres as they also try to figure out how to reuse the soon-to-be-abandoned 32-acre ballpark.

Although the ballpark and the acreage that Cato is interested in are just off Interstate 77, seemingly making it prime real estate for a developer, York County officials have expressed concerns that the condition of the 260 acres might make the land unattractive. Specifically, the land is riddled with low-lying areas, York County officials say.

On Friday, Farris said the 260 acres would be a prime spot for a distribution center.

“It’s a natural fit there,” he said, adding that York County officials desperately want more industrial space in the county.

“We’re zealously trying to protect any industrial space we have in the county,” he said. “We’re excited to work with the purchaser to create jobs and encourage growth in the county.”

While there appears to be less uncertainty about the future of the 260 acres — Cato might finally do something with the land — there’s less clarity about what will happen to the ballpark property, which the county owns and leases to the Knights.

Farris said a representative from Cato has enquired about the county’s plans for the ballpark site. But, Farris said, the county is still determining a reuse for that land.

To that end, a meeting to gather public input on what should happen with the ballpark has been scheduled for 5:30 Nov. 29 at Nations Ford High School, 1400 A O Jones Blvd., in Fort Mill.

Payton Guion can be reached at payton.guion@mecktimes.com.

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