by Jeff Taylor
Seriously, some sort of Center City Partners gremlin must have crept in and added this paragraph on the Uptown baseball scheme, an experienced Charlotte hand like Levine would know better:
But much of the buzz around the deal has centered on bringing baseball back to the center city. The Charlotte Knights now play in Fort Mill, S.C., and have suffered lackluster attendance. The county won’t contribute public money to the stadium costs but has promised to spend roughly $11 million on infrastructure — such as roadwork — necessary for the stadium and Brooklyn Village projects.
Baseball has never been in center city Charlotte. Baseball has been in Dilworth, off of Magnolia Ave. Actually not even close-in Dilworth Dilworth, as Crockett Park was on the other side of East Blvd. The old Charlotte O’s absolutely, positively did not play inside the 277 belt, which has always marked the boundary of Uptown, of center city Charlotte.
Michael Smith and gang can say over and over that the Knights deal will “bring baseball back” but that does not make it so. It is not true geographically nor is it true in terms of what left and what is coming back. George Shinn took a AA team to Fort Mill; Don Beaver wants to bring a AAA team back. Those are two very different animals.
AAA is more expensive to operate as teams are more spread out and need to take flights to games. AA is often a bus ride league. And as we’ve pointed out repeatedly as this Uptown baseball saga has unfolded, Shinn jumped his franchise up to the AAA level in hopes of making a run a Major League Franchise. That didn’t happen.
So AAA it is, then. Except that Charlotte’s baseball fans might quite reasonably not be big fans of AAA ball. It is the A/AA level that you typically get a peek at the young phenoms, AAA not so much. Often AAA squads are full of hard-working, not quite ready for MLB guys. It is a value judgment as to which you prefer.
Yet here’s the Uptown crowd jumping up to assume its value judgment should carry the day. (Gee, that never happens.) In just purely baseball terms, Charlotte might be better off with Beaver and the Knights setting up shop in some other city where a AAA team will be top dog while some A/AA franchise moves into Char-Meck fill the void, perhaps somewhere in county besides Uptown Charlotte.
But that possible future is off the table in present-day Charlotte, where even the past is just another deal to close, another project to market.
PS — And the “county won’t contribute public money to the stadium” — what is a $1 a year lease on land valued at $28 million?