The Charlotte Knights broke ground Friday on what will likely be one of the last new minor league baseball stadiums built in the next few decades. The Knights began trying to get an Uptown stadium seven years ago, but were delayed by lawsuits, a recession and the reluctance of local government leaders to spend tax dollars on the project.
The City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County ultimately agreed to contribute $8 million each and free use of the eight-acre site. That's less public support than teams have typically received during a twenty-year boom in stadium construction.
"We're in challenging times," says Minor League Baseball President Pat O'Conner.
"So I think public funds are under stress probably as much - if not more - than any time in our professional lifetime. I think Charlotte's going to be an example of how you're going to have to get things done in the future."
The Charlotte Knights had to privately raise 70 percent of the stadium's construction cost - which is far more than owners originally hoped. And none of the local government money will flow to the team until after the stadium is open for play in 2014.
O'Conner suspects it'll take a return to pre-recession boom times before communities are once again eager to foot most of the bill for new minor league stadiums.