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Kannapolis baseball moving downtown?

April 1st 2014

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Kannapolis City Council members will look into possibly moving the Intimidators stadium downtown during their annual planning retreat on Thursday.
The move could increase downtown foot traffic by the hundreds of thousands and provide Kannapolis with a cultural and entertainment district on the property, city manager Mike Legg said. He emphasized the discussion Thursday mostly will be a brainstorming session, and a new stadium likely would be at least two years down the road if the council decided on that course.
“There’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “It’s probably a multi-year planning period, and then we have to find other sources of revenue, which will take time and other partners.”
The minor league baseball stadium is located off I-85 north of Lane Street on the Rowan County side of the city. Kannapolis bought the stadium’s equity in 2011, but Legg said the time has come to consider future needs.
He has three options to present to the council at the retreat -- leaving the stadium alone, renovating it or moving it to a downtown location.
City staff has looked into building a new complex on the site of the old post office building at the corner of Vance Avenue and Loop Road in the heart of downtown Kannapolis.
Legg said staff will look into the stadium’s impact on downtown revitalization, which could be significant. They will conduct feasibility and economic impact studies as part of the initial steps.
“We’ve got to understand what that looks like before we go much further,” he said. “That will be one of the first steps if the council endorses proceeding with that route.”
That location also will require input from adjacent property owners.
But Legg said he’s seen analysis that shows building a downtown stadium can increase ticket sales by 50 percent or more.
That means “240,000 people downtown every year,” he said. “That’s pretty substantive. That’s the kind of thing that can really make a difference.”
The stadium would be part of creating the “critical mass” the city needs for downtown revitalization, and Legg said the council also will discuss multiple uses for the complex, including possibly hosting the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame there and opening a Discovery Place Kids museum.
“I think that will be a critical point,” he said. “I think multiple partners and multiple uses is always a good thing to explore.”
The goal would be to “make this thing as community-oriented as we can, that it’s not just about baseball,” he added.
That might include retail and restaurants, but Legg said they must not take business away from existing downtown businesses.
The city’s current agreement with the Intimidators franchise requires a yearly payment from the team and will require them to cover maintenance costs after this year.
“You can use the stadium, but you also have to maintain the stadium,” Legg said. “That’s kind of the arrangement that we have with them now.”
Building a new stadium would likely include a long-term contract with the team and a different financing structure to require more input from the baseball club.
Renovating in the current stadium would involve a similar proposal.


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