The Charlotte Knights are gearing up for their last season of baseball in Fort Mill, South Carolina---their home since 1990. Construction is underway Uptown on the new BB&T Field. That will leave York County with an empty stadium that could become a liability to taxpayers. So the county is looking at what to do with it, come 2014. Duncan McFadyen spoke to Mark Farris, Director of Economic Development for York county. He says a Charlotte company is interested in buying the stadium property, but the county is considering all of its options.
FARRIS: One of those may be the destruction of the facility and adaptive reuse of the land as opposed to the actual building.
MCFADYEN: How much would demolition of the stadium cost?
FARRIS: That’s a good question. We actually don’t know. There’s significant salvage value associated with it, and we actually haven’t had bids on the demolition.
MCFADYEN: Now, The Charlotte Business Journal has reported that a race track group was interested in taking over the facility…
FARRIS: Yeah, we don’t know much about them. There has been very little contact that we’ve had with this group. It’s obviously premature for them to list any potential use of that facility for a racetrack. In fact, I would imagine there would be very little appetite in either the neighborhood surrounding that or in York county in general for a speedway or a short track.
MCFADYEN: So how many proposals are you reviewing and considering for this property?
FARRIS: We actually only have one proposal in front of us now. It’s from the Cato Corporation, for the actual purpose of the 32 acre facility.
MCFADYEN: What kind of a company is Cato?
FARRIS: Cato is a women’s fashion retailer actually headquartered in Charlotte. They have purchased the surrounding 260 acres, formerly known as Gold Hill, the property that surrounds the baseball stadium. And, they’re interested in purchasing these 32 acres and having a redevelopment plan that would encompass a larger type of mixed-use opportunity. We are actually developing an RFQ for interested parties in terms of potential uses for the facility. We actually had a public hearing in November where we invited the community to come out and give us ideas about the potential adaptive reuse of the facility.
MCFADYEN: Because York County does not want to be stuck with the upkeep of a baseball stadium?
FARRIS: Well, you know, the question of value of the facility is a particularly acute one for us, because we’re not sure that it has a---not sure there IS an asset without a team. It could potentially be a debt-ridden liability for us, so we’re obviously interested in getting the best deal possible for the taxpayer.
MCFADYEN: How much is the county willing to spend—if anything—in dealing with this property?
FARRIS: Well, to date, I don’t think a lot of people understand that the county actually did not build the facility. The facility was built by George Shinn. When he moved the team from Charlotte to York County, he actually built and paid for the entire stadium, although he gave it to the county, obviously to avoid paying property taxes. And so our expenditures to this point to support that only included public infrastructure, which is to say we extended road, we built water and sewer lines, that sort of thing, as opposed to any physical improvements on the facility itself. It was all done with public infrastructure. So our relative fiscal involvement in this is limited, and we’re obviously interested in keeping it that way.