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Q and A with Bill Blackwell

by Mark Peres

July 3,2004

Tell us about the proposed new ballpark and financing plan.

For many years, we have sought to return to our namesake city. The reasons are many, including the desire to be more centrally located. A recent UNCC study projected that if we moved to Uptown, our attendance would increase 55% to 70%. Our consultants have suggested that we increase our participation from $5 million to $17 million, out of a $33 million cost for a new stadium, and we’re willing to do it. The remainder could come from several sources, including a real estate transfer tax, or the “Project Development Financing Act,” which is on the ballot this November.

Why do you think Third Ward is the best possible location for the ballpark?

Of all the sites we studied, the location in Third Ward, bounded between Mint and Graham streets and 2nd and 4th streets, stood out as the best location for many reasons, including (1) proximity to the large Uptown workforce, (2) proximity to the abundance of existing parking facilities, (3) potential access to public transportation, including light rail and the trolley, (4) the incentive for surrounding economic development, (5) the likelihood of related private sector support, and (6) the dramatic view of the Uptown skyline.

Why is it in the City’s best interest to participate in financing a venue for a privately owned minor league baseball team?

Traditionally, public assembly facilities in Charlotte have been totally public funded.  The community is currently building its third arena with public monies. The cost of a Triple-A baseball stadium is about 1/10th the cost of the new arena and would attract close to a million people to Third Ward and the Center City during the course of the year. These people would visit restaurants, bars and other businesses while attending 72 minor league games. In addition, the stadium could host auxiliary events such as high school and college baseball, craft shows and farmers’ markets when games are not being held. Minor league baseball has a special family-friendly atmosphere. A public investment in the proposed facility would benefit the City and neighborhood for decades to come.

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