The Charlotte Knights are getting ready to move on up. In 2014, the AAA minor league team of the Chicago White Sox will be pulling up the bases and moving to a brand new stadium in downtown Charlotte. Once the peanuts and Cracker Jack are cleaned up from the final home game of the season in 2013, the town of Fort Mill will be faced with a dilemma: What to do with the 23 year old stadium, conveniently located just off of Interstate 77? There have been many ideas bandied about, but none of them seem to be very practical in lieu of the environment surrounding the stadium.
It has been suggested that the facility could be used as a strip mall or an outlet mall. There is plenty of shopping already located just five miles south on 77 and five miles to the northeast in the Carolina Place Mall area. An outlet mall is already in the works in the Ballantyne area and has been rumored to be coming to the Mint Hill area, so the market is already going to be saturated with outlet opportunities.
There have also been rumors of the stadium, along with the surrounding acreage, being turned into a truck stop or freight handling area. There have been truck stops within a dozen miles of the location that have closed down in recent years. In the freight handling arena, there are several empty freight terminals in the southwestern and western sections of Charlotte that are already developed and would be better suited to a turn-key option to start up a terminal, rather than building one from scratch.
There is a very viable option that not only would require a minimal amount of change to the existing structure, but would also carry on the heritage of the stadium that has seen hundreds of future major league players, three division titles and two championships. A group has been working toward putting a plan in place to bring affordable, asphalt stock car racing to the area. With a few modifications, the existing stadium can be changed over to a racing facility and the citizens of Fort Mill and the greater Charlotte area, will be able to continue being entertained for a reasonable price, close to home.
The County Council in York County is entertaining an offer from a unidentified company to purchase a few hundred acres of land in the area surrounding the existing stadium. The only thing currently available in the public record is that the company, knows as Project VIC, is that it is an apparel company that is interested in developing the land into a distribution center. The possibility exists that they’ll also develop some of the land into an office park along with some shopping. Unfortunately, the belief is that the stadium will be thrown into the deal and eventually razed to make room for parking or buildings. The history and heritage of the home of the Knights will be wiped away by a piece of construction equipment.
One other option, which could rear its head relatively easily in a situation where the true identity of a player isn’t know, is the specter of a gambling facility. The Catawba Indians have made it known that they have every intention of opening a casino on their reservation in York County. While a casino may be profitable on their reservation, it will be more profitable and more accessible, if the land abuts Interstate 77. The tribe has a large bank roll that could easily be utilized to acquire the land around the stadium, along with a strip of land to connect the land to their reservation, making it all part of their land. If the land is part of their reservation, they could utilize it to build a casino and associated entertainment facilities.
Some citizens of the Fort Mill area might like to see a casino built in their neighborhood, but others might not. It should be up to the people of the region to hear the plans for the land around the stadium.
Unfortunately for the people of the Fort Mill area, the plan to bring racing to the Castle may never have the chance to get off of the ground thanks to a behind the scenes agreement that is in the works between a shell corporation and the York County Council. Apparently the Council is working on an undisclosed deal to sell the acreage surrounding the baseball stadium without any public input. For citizens who are interested in voicing their opinion on how this land is utilized, feel free to participate in the democratic process and attend a York County Council meeting or contact the representatives on the board. You can find their information at http://www.yorkcountygov.com/CountyCouncil/CouncilMembers.
If you are interested in checking out the vision of the people trying to bring racing to Knight’s Castle, check out http://www.facebook.com/thecastlespeedway or http://www.castlespeedway.com/
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