Their slogan is “Charlotte’s got a lot,” and the MLB announced earlier Wednesday morning that they are considering expansion, with Charlotte being on the list of possible cities.
But does Charlotte need an MLB team? Absolutely not.
Charlotte is home to the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, the Hurricanes AHL affiliate Charlotte Checkers, and the Charlotte Hounds and Independence. Along with that, they have one of the most beautiful new minor league ballparks for the Charlotte Knights.
In just their second year in the new stadium, the Knights have made BB&T Ballpark their home, and the people have come out. Some would say that the growth of the team shows that Charlotte can have a Major League Baseball team, and I agree with them. However, it is not a city that is in a position right now to add an MLB team.
Look at any professional sports team, and tell me if their minor league affiliate plays in the same city or in the same arena. You won’t find one. To build an MLB stadium in Charlotte would take taxpayer’s money and would likely bury the Charlotte Knights’ future.
In a city so saturated with sports, why would there be a need for two baseball teams? Also, look at the Charlotte Checkers. For a couple of seasons, they played at the Time Warner Cable Arena. That meant that fans likely had to pay the Uptown prices just to get to the game. Now, they’re moving back to the Bojangles Coliseum where the ECHL team had its glory days, and I personally guarantee that they’ll be successful in their first season back there, and hopefully for many years to come. They already had a decent crowd, because for people in the area to see NHL hockey, they had to drive north to Raleigh, or northwest to Nashville.
If an MLB stadium is built in Charlotte, the Knights will not be so lucky. Direct competition from higher quality baseball, with the Major League stars would drive away sales from a growing franchise. The money that would have to be spent would be high as well for an MLB-caliber stadium. I see no chance for an MLB and minor league team to thrive in the same city.
If the MLB does come to Charlotte, I think they should settle with the Knights in some capacity to move maybe out in Statesville, Lexington, Mount Airy, or maybe back to the old Knights Stadium in Fort Mill, and find a way to make BB&T Ballpark an MLB stadium. This would require a larger seating capacity, and potentially a Green Monster style wall if the streets can’t be realigned. The field itself would have to be larger, which is tough.
The stadium I would compare a MLB-style BB&T Ballpark to the most is Fenway Park. Fenway is well known for its Green Monster, and for how well it fits in the city streets. BB&T Ballpark could do something like that if it wants an MLB team, but Charlotte shouldn’t spend money on an MLB team without finding a way to protect its investment on a brand-new minor league stadium.
Ryan DeCosta is sports reporter for The Tribune and The Yadkin Ripple. He can be reached at [email protected], 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.