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Charlotte City Council backs $8M for Knights stadium construction

It’s official. The city of Charlotte has agreed to give nearly $8 million to fund construction of an Uptown stadium for the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team.

In a 7-4 vote Monday night, a majority of the council endorsed the spending, with Councilman Michael Barnes and Councilwomen Claire Fallon, Patsy Kinsey and Beth Pickering casting the dissenting votes.

“It is a great great investment for travel and tourism,” Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Retail Association, said. “It’s not 72 minor league baseball games: It is the ability to have a stadium that we can use to attract baseball tournaments to town that will have a big economic impact on the city.”

With the passing of the proposal, the team has until June 30 to secure whatever remaining funding it needs. The full cost of stadium construction is expected to be $54 million. A total of $750,000 from the tax district that funds Charlotte Center City Partners, a nonprofit that promotes Uptown, will also go toward stadium construction.

Assuming that the team can line up the rest of the funding, the stadium is expected to be under construction by Oct. 1 and open in April 2014. It is planned for the block created by Mint, Martin Luther King, Graham and Mint streets in the 3rd Ward.

In front of the Government Center, where the vote took place, a crowd gathered Monday night. They were joined by a disk jockey and a giant Knights baseball.

But opponents to the project showed up, too, and some voiced their opposition to the City Council. Members of the public who are against the stadium have said that, with the ongoing economic uncertainty, now is not the time for such an investment of public dollars. Critics also say the proposed site would be better used for another purpose and that building a minor league stadium in Charlotte would be saying, basically, that it’s not a top-tier city.

“Tonight, by raising your hand in support of this measure, you tell the baseball fans in Charlotte and the Carolinas that they are not capable of supporting a team in the same manor as Cleveland, Detroit or Baltimore,” said Jerry Reese, a real estate lawyer who has failed repeatedly to derail the stadium project through lawsuits.

According to projections from the team, the stadium will be home to not only at least 72 minor league baseball games but also other baseball tournaments and city events.

“It’s time that Charlotte had an affordable form of entertainment for all families to enjoy,” Councilman Patrick Cannon said.

GUION can be reached at payton.guion@mecktimes.com.

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