Jerry Reese: why an Uptown Knights stadium is a bad idea | CLT Blog
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Jerry Reese: why an Uptown Knights stadium is a bad idea

Posted on 17 Sep 2009 by Rob Cummings

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On Tuesday, September 15th, the Business Leaders of Charlotte – BLOC and First United Methodist Church Uptown  had Jerry Reese, a self proclaimed “villain”, tell his side of the Uptown baseball story as part of their Tuesday Topics monthly speaking series.   The meeting was well attended with a number of people with pent-up anxiety about the legal hurdles that Mr. Reese continues to throw up to derail minor league baseball Uptown.  But most of those people, including myself, have only heard one side of the baseball story.  That is the side of the story that says that Charlotte could not support major league baseball and that the land swap deal is good for Charlotte.  So Mr. Reese had the podium for 45 minutes to explain why he is fighting tooth and nail to block minor league baseball and the land swap, a wildly popular proposal conceived several years ago by Charlotte Center City Partners.

Mr. Reese gave 10 points as to why he believes the land swap is a bad deal for Charlotte and why we are a major league city.  Here is a summary of his points, sans any commentary about the validity of each.

  1. If we bring minor league baseball Uptown, we are telling the country, along with prospective residents and relocating businesses, that we are not the big-time city we continually tout that we are.
  2. The County Commissioners voted an 8.5 acre public park to be built on the proposed site of the stadium.  According to Reese, the voters passed a bond referendum for $1million in land improvements for the site back in 2004.
  3. It was also stipulated that that same land could be sold, but not leased, for economic development.  The proposed deal with the Knights is a $1 annual lease for 49 years.
  4. Mr. Reese contends that the land swap deal represents poor urban planning by Uptown’s leaders because it does not address the need for family friendly parks Uptown to continue to attract families to live in the center city.  He cited other urban parks in rival cities that had athletic fields, etc.
  5. The Knights would be a $15 million business leasing a facility for $1/year on a $35 million piece of land.  Mr. Reese reiterated that this would be a sweetheart deal for the Knights or any other business with those types of lease terms.
  6. The Knights do not control their own destiny.  If major league baseball (MLB) was courted to the Charlotte area, the Knights would have to relocate.  For example, if a group convinced a MLB team to move to Iredell County, any type of baseball in Charlotte-Mecklenburg would immediately be dead.
  7. The current proposed Second Ward Brooklyn Village project is not a true urban project.  According to Reese, it is a suburban plan for an urban environment.
  8. If a MLB stadium is not put in Second Ward under Mr. Reese’s proposed Brooklyn Renaissance Project, then Charlotte loses the opportunity to locate a MLB stadium inside the 277 loop.  Reese’s contention is that there is no other available land Uptown where the stadium could be situated to the east with the skyline in the background and sun behind the batters.  And the proposed Third Ward site for the minor league stadium is not large enough for a MLB stadium.
  9. The Knights cannot afford to build the stadium.
  10. There is not a corporate draw to minor league baseball.  Minor league baseball would only pull fans from a radius of 20 miles (lots of single A to AAA baseball competition in surrounding counties) whereas major league baseball would draw fans from at least 100 miles along with businesses and tourists.

Mr. Reese also contends that Charlotte is ready for the major leagues because of our population density within 100 miles ($7.1million people) and the Neilson television market estimates for the region.  Reese provided handouts showing how the Charlotte Designated Market Area compares favorably to other major league cities. 

Finally, Mr. Reese insinuated that he had inside information about “certain benchmarks being achieved” to realize his goal of bringing major league baseball to Charlotte.  He also went as far as saying that he has privately spoken to an existing team that has interest in relocating to Charlotte.  But he was tight-lipped about the benchmarks and team, and adamant that he will continue to fight the land swap even if it means brining more lawsuits against the city.

I thought Mr. Reese had some salient points and a well rehearsed argument (he has been at it for 8 years).  However, he wasn’t able to defend his points well when tough questions were raised by the audience, and was standoffish when questioned about his insider knowledge.

As a huge sports fan and Uptown resident, I would love to bypass minor league baseball and bring a major league team to the city.  However, I believe that under the current structure of major league baseball (no salary cap and competition against huge media markets), it would be next to impossible to put a winning team on the field.  And we all know that a losing team is not supported in Charlotte, particularly with the competition for the public’s entertainment dollar.  In fact, I am not convinced that baseball will survive in cities like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee under the current MLB structure.  So how could we expect it to be successful in Charlotte.  What are your thoughts?  Is there anybody out there that believes in Jerry Reese’s views?

Comments

  1. Shane Stone 17 Sep 2009 at 5:08 PM

    I am a PSL owner and season ticket holder for both the Panthers and the Bobcats and I live in Greenville, SC — about 1.5 hours away.

    I would purchase season tickets for an MLB team, especially if they had the same type of ticketexchange program the Bobcats have…I think if a Minor League stadium is built, it needs to be built where in 5 or 10 years it can be upfitted and enlarged to handle Major League ball.

  2. David W. 17 Sep 2009 at 6:02 PM

    I’m a huge sports fan and would LOVE to see Charlotte one day get an MLB team. However, I still don’t see how we are in any position to support a team. I have season tix to the Bobcats and go to 3 or 4 Panthers games a year (will get PSLs one day) which takes a lot of my entertainment dollars already. From a sponsorship standpoint, I think it would be hard to get more corporate sponsorship dollars for a team when we already have the Panthers, Bobcats, 3 NASCAR races, a PGA tournament, Checkers and the Knights (though they would become obsolete with MLB) now. Baseball is an expensive sport in the grand scheme of things. You have 81 home games a year… Does anyone think Charlotte can put 25-30k fans a night in the stadium? I would like to think so, but its doubtful. Maybe we’ll be ready in another 10 years for a team, but not right now. And besides, who could Reese actually be talking to about moving here? The only team that comes to mind is the Tampa Bay Rays… If that is the team, I will at least give him credit because that would make sense given the struggles they have in drawing fans and a new stadium.

  3. Uptowner 17 Sep 2009 at 7:00 PM

    I would love to have a MLB team uptown but I don’t see it happening in the next ten years. If it does there’s no way I would support if Jerry Reese is attached to it in any form. I will vote down and petition against any government aid to any of his projects. He is a scumbag worthy of nothing but our contempt for the malicious way he’s attacked the city government and wasted our tax dollar with his frivolous litigation. As far as I’m concerned it’s simple. He wants to be attached to the baseball project on his own land so he can make a huge profit. His interests in derailing the Knights are simply for his own personal game. He is a opportunist who doesn’t really care about Charlotte. Over my dead body Jerry Reese.

  4. Tribe Fan 17 Sep 2009 at 11:44 PM

    Simply put: there is no way Charlotte will get an MLB team in the next 1015 years. It’s just not going to happen. The Marlins were the only slight possibility and they now have a stadium deal. We can down the list of other teams and either the city will bend over backwards to keep them, or they have a relatively new stadium.

    Look at Columbus and Indianapolis for extremely successful examples of good-sized cities with top-level teams in other sports that are doing AAA baseball well. It’s what Charlotte needs to do and do it right. If the city can do that, then it’ll be a success for years and years.

  5. Mark 18 Sep 2009 at 6:03 AM

    I think both City Center Partners and Jerry Reese have it wrong.

    - Why does a stadium (minor or major) have to be built in uptown at all? Why not somewhere along the proposed Blue Lynx extension?

    Has anyone who has been in Uptown on a Panthers Game day really think that game traffic equates a lively Uptown? Event crowds alone do not mean sustained urbanity.

    Look at all space around the proposed BLE between the 277 loop and UNC Charlotte that could use an entertainment/sports anchor. Actually I would love to see three sports venues built in Charlotte but outside the 277 loop: MLB stadium, Charlotte Knights Stadium, and a professional soccer stadium.

    It is small town thinking to assume if it is not inside city center that it isn’t urban or going to work or it isn’t desirable.

    Everything Mr. Reese says has to be taken with a bottle of salt as his intentions are not altruistic no matter how correct some of his points. He has wasted much of the taxpayers money with his lawsuits and he is hoping to gain personally and financially from bringing an MLB team here. Frankly I don’t trust him or his plans.

    As for City Center Partners, they should be focusing on bringing density and self sustaining year-round attractions to Uptown such as a major urban park, significant and street facing retail, nightlife options for those not in or just out of college (cabarets, small jazz venues, comedy clubs, wine bars — which on a related note we need an ABC store in Uptown already) and finally they need to fill in many of the parking lots areas in the 277 loops with mid-rise residential and commercial whose scale and affordability will attract more residents, start-up companies, and organizations who currently avoid Uptown for its perception as disconnected from the rest of Charlotte.

    I’m in favor of both an MLB team and the Knights moving into Charlotte, but I also think if we thinking big means getting rid of the small town mindset that Charlotte is only made up of the four wards.

  6. David W. 18 Sep 2009 at 9:23 AM

    I agree with your points about the urban park, Mark… That’s what SHOULD go in the lot where the baseball stadium was planned. That was also the original intent. A smaller park has been planned next to the proposed stadium, but I believe that’s on hold. Street facing retail and affordable (not $500k per unit) residential mid-rises would work well in this area and rid uptown of those awful surface lots. I also like the idea of putting the baseball stadium along the Blue Line extension. Maybe near the UNCC campus… I like where we have our current NFL and NBA venues, however not all sports venues need to be in uptown.

  7. Vera 18 Sep 2009 at 10:32 AM

    Leave the minor league teams to smaller communities in the area (like Hickory), and keep working toward a major league team. Charlotte has to stay committed to bigger thinking and working toward becoming a major city in the south.

    • TC Morrison 5 Oct 2009 at 8:53 PM

      I think that a MLB in Charlotte is a great idea. Charlotte is growing and growing w/ almost 730,00 ppl living in the city. Charlotte is a big city, and need to think big. Bringing a MLB Team to Charlotte is a great idea. I’ll say give it at least 3 to 5 years to bring a MLB Team to Charlotte as soon as the Metropolitan Area continues to grow as well as the city. That way you have more chance of ppl attending the MLB Games filling the stadiums and not a low attendance rate. Yes bringing a MLB Team is expensive, but I believe that Charlotte can do it. Charlotte just have to think big, and do better things for the city to become a major destination point. MLB Team will definitely bring more businesses and growth to DT Charlotte as well as attraction. Leave the Minor Teams to the Regional Cities like Fayetteville, Concord, Durham. Charlotte is not a Regional City

  8. Traffic Ticket Defense 26 Apr 2010 at 2:00 PM

    Nice. You have a couple of great points The problem with law is that it sometimes doesn’t work for you. It is a system failure and needs to be revised.

  9. Dan 3 Jan 2011 at 8:40 PM

    I think there should be something said for an affordable sports experience in uptown Charlotte. Currently, the Checkers are a great bargain with tickets near the glass for around 25 or 30 dollars especially since it is in such a nice facility like Time Warner Arena. Imagine a brand new uptown minor league ballpark that could offer $10 tickets, dollar beer nights, and AFFORDABLE concessions. I don’t think Charlotte has any business with an MLB team, we can’t support that much ticket sales for 81 home games plus the cap rule would make us perennial losers. Many of NC’s cities have uptown minor league ballparks that are extremely successful, Charlotte needs to join their ranks. An uptown with pro football and basketball and minor league baseball is plenty for me.

  10. John Myers 17 Feb 2011 at 3:52 PM

    Charlotte is a first class city with a third rate baseball situation. MLB isn’t going to expand and no team is moving any time soon if ever so that argument is foolish. That leaves Charlotte with an opportunity to make watching AAA baseball a first class experience and one that people would embrace. A lot of folks have moved to Charlotte from the large east coast and midwest cities and would be lining up to buy tickets (beer, hot dogs, merch) if a nice ballpark in a good location were built. Louisville, Indy, Buffalo, Durham and on and on have great ballparks and draw well so why does Charlotte’s team have to play in marginal stadium in another state? I’m sure the real estate issues etc are complex but we are not talking about the reinvention of the wheel here. Minor league baseball, if done right, can feel major league and I don’t think people here expect a MLB team to arrive. Why not make what we currently have have worth watching?

  11. TWC 5 Apr 2011 at 12:54 AM

    Charlotte is close to 750,000 people in the city, the metropolitan area has about 2,000,000 people it’s about 2,600,000 in the CSA at least 7,100,000 in a 100 mile radius and over 14,000,000 people in the Carolinas of which Charlotte is right in the middle and by far the biggest the biggest Metro. The Carolinas need its own Major League Baseball Team and to quit calling Atlanta it team, Atlanta is Georgia team not our team the (Carolinas). Charlotte is a Major League City. We are not Greensboro, Durham, Raliegh, Winston-Salem, Columbia or any of those minor league cities,. Charlotte NC is a Major League City and we need and can support Major League Teams. The DNC do not go to minor league cities, if you people want to see minor league or AAA baseball they need to go to one of the cities I mention above or Buffalo or Indy to see minor league baseball downtown. I want to see the MLB team Charlotte or Carolina Cougars (keep the cat theme) play in downtown Charlotte NC.

  12. Roy 11 Apr 2011 at 6:14 PM

    No Knights allowed in Charlotte uptown!!!

  13. Jeanne M. 18 Apr 2011 at 10:50 AM

    Hey all,

    I’m a student in a class called “Foundations in Policy Studies” at Dickinson College in PA. We’ve been given a hypothetical situation in which the MLB is creating a new expansion team and Charlotte and Norfolk are potential hosts for the team. My consulting group and I have been “hired” by Mayor Foxx to advise him as to whether and how to secure the team.

    Your posts have been really interesting and informative to read — any thoughts on my project? I was thinking that it will be really hard to stop the current project to build the Knights stadium because it’s tied to a bunch of other city development projects, right?. I also came across a study by the Charlotte Business Journal (?) that suggested that Charlotte couldn’t financially support an MLB team.

    Any thoughts/info would be incredibly helpful.

    Thanks,

    Jeanne M.

    • Bobby 22 Apr 2011 at 8:15 PM

      Jeanne, you’re right — Charlotte cannot support a Major League Baseball team. We already can’t support an NBA franchise after having one of the most successful franchises in the league (the Hornets) ten years ago, only to see them move out of town. The new franchise (the Bobcats) made the playoffs in 2010, and hardly made a drop in the attendance bucket for that year or the ensuing year.

      We’re going to have considerable trouble supporting a BAD NFL franchise (the Panthers) who went 115 last season, and are looking to finish poorly again for the foreseeable future. Charlotte is a front-runners town, who can support a winner but not a loser. That’s not saying anything negative about the fans, either; it’s simply an observation based on the demographics of the city:

      1) Folks are moving here in droves from the northeast, the midwest, and the west. The running joke around here is that almost no one knows a “native” Charlottean; rather, we’ve all been here for 515 years (at most).

      2) These same folks have allegiances to the sports teams they lived with, grew up with, and supported in childhood and beyond.

      3) It’s cool to support a Charlotte team when you’re in town, and go to a game occasionally or become a casual fan, but when it comes down to it, you’ll always revert back to your hometown team with whom you have built strong and long-lasting allegiance. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a great example; seeing their recent success proves how quickly new Charlotte residents are to adopt their “old,” “hometown” teams rather than supporting the local product.

      4) For truly local fans, or folks who have been here for 10, 15, 20 years or more, you have to remember who RUNS the south in Major League Baseball: the Atlanta Braves. Not only will the Braves vehemently protest and rail agains the MLB moving to Charlotte (much like the Orioles did when the Expos relocated to become the Washington Nationals), you’ve got a large segment of southerners who are die hard Braves fans and unlikely to switch teams in what would become an immediate rivalry.

      Remember, too, on this note, that about 155 Braves games every year are shown on SportSouth TV here in Charlotte — and multiple other markets around the Carolinas and throughout the Southeast. This would be a HUGE point of contention for Braves ownership, losing fans, ticket sales, and TV rights. I am also familiar with Braves fans from the Charlotte area driving down to Atlanta ~ 57 weekends per season and catching two or three games at a time; while it doesn’t happen in the thousands, that’s a pretty noteworthy portion of the population that’s tied very strongly to the Braves.

      Reese is beyond crazy for thinking Charlotte has the ability to support an MLB team. I LOVE this city, and there’s a ton of potential here, but being a Major League Baseball city is NOT part of that potential.

      Also, after Reese came out and revealed he wanted the Marlins to move here, didn’t both the Marlins and MLB released statements saying they didn’t even know who the guy was, had no discussions with him, and weren’t interested in relocating to Charlotte? (Can somebody help me find this link?).

  14. Kevin 21 Apr 2011 at 10:39 PM

    I think it would be embarrassing to have a non-convertable minor league stadium uptown. Might as well make the city slogan ‘Charlotte — this is as good as it’s going to get here’.

    I think we should build a MLB stadium and let the Knights play there until we can get a MLB team.

  15. Robert 22 Apr 2011 at 10:03 PM

    Moving the Charlotte Knights out of Fort Mill and into Charlotte…yeah that isn’t too crazy of an idea. Considering the name of the team of course. But to consider a land swap for such a valuable piece of property in the downtown area for a minor league team?? And does anyone know what the Knights’ revenue was last year? I’ve been to a few games over the years and let’s just say that people aren’t coming out in droves to support the team. It’s hard to believe they could be able to support the new stadium and its expenses (utilities, staff, etc.) without raising prices.

    Forget an MLB team in 5 years, 10 years, or any time this century. We have a medicore football team and laughable basketball team. And let’s not forget that Charlotte leaders asked the citizens if they wanted a downtown arena, to which the received an almost unanimous NO THANK YOU. People would get excited about it for a week then go back to their routine (case in point — Bobcats attendence).

    I have an idea that might work well for this city…sell that plot to someone who has the pockets for it and use that money to start funding your rapidly crumbling school system. The problem with Charlotte leaders is their so interested in attracting temporary attention, they lose sight of the long term implications. Hey folks! Move to Charlotte! We have poor infrastructure, one major industry (which in a recent report compares poorly to the rest of the US) and a failing education system! Oh, but we have sports!

    A word of advise Charlotte, stick with what you know…the middle of the road.

  16. Jeanne M. 1 May 2011 at 11:36 PM

    Hi again,

    Bobby, thank you for the response! The overwhelming message I’m hearing from you and many others is that they’d like to see MLB in Charlotte but it’s simply not realistic or feasible, for a number of reasons. This is going to be the main message of my report.

    Thanks for helping with my project!

    Happy trails,

    Jeanne M.

  17. Raymond S. 4 May 2011 at 10:21 PM

    I think those who think Charlotte is ready for a MLB team are absolutely crazy. First and foremost the city barely attends two already failing franchises(bobcats/panthers). Granted, there will be a spike in attendance to NFL games due to the appeal of watching the next great Hype not Hope star in Cameron Newton. After he unsuccessfully attempts to transition into a legitimate NFL quarterback people will again stop going to Panther games. Charlotte at its best is no better than Indianapolis or Columbus. In fact it is no longer even the fastest growing city in NC. Raleigh has taken that over. Raleigh, due to the University and Medical investments of the surrounding area will have the opportunity to grab commitments from other sectors of corporate America.
    Yes, Charlotte is still largely considered a top 5 Banking city within the US, however, it has become apparent that their is no longer expansion within that realm. The Duke Energy building next to panther stadium was to be another banking bldg that instead had to be renamed and taken over by our energy supplier albeit due to the collapse of Wachovia and its subsequent acquisition by Wells Fargo. Even our flagship bank, BOA had to be bailed out by the Gov’t due to poor institutional control within its various departments during the real estate boom which contributed to the growth of Charlotte which has cooled recently as mentioned before.

    Let’s be real. Someone said it right earlier. Who knows real Charlotteans these days? I sure don’t. I live uptown and work in a sports related field. The panthers are nothing more, to most people i know, anything more than something to hope does well because this is a transplant city from midwestern and northeastern cities that have strong sports allegiances.

    Moving forward and back to my previous statement. At least the people in Indianapolis and Columbus support the teams they have regardless of statistical standing. We can’t even do that in Charlotte. How the hell can you expect to surpass the expectations of those cities in attracting an MLB team? Charlotte would be wise developing some real adult oriented cultural establishments: Aquarium, museums(art, history, etc). Something that isn’t just for the kids(imagineon and discovery place) but can be utilized by kids as well.

    America is in the midst of reurbanization of cities as a result of a myriad of reasons. Charlotte has seen some of this around center city but the city doesn’t compare to some of these other cities more ready for MLB in terms of development around the city. Charlotte’s development is linear. It goes from center city to southpark to ballantyne. Drive down providence rd and thats charlotte in a nutshell. It takes 20 minutes. Hardly the kind of city able to sustain a MLB franchise.
    Pray for a AAA team uptown and maybe that will help charlotte develop its “Uptown” downtown.

    • Bobby 19 May 2011 at 7:36 PM

      Raymond — you’re right on point!

  18. Jonathan S. 14 Jul 2011 at 6:23 PM

    If Charlotte were to abtain an MLB team, I would go to about 10 games a year, regardless of success.

    I am in a very small minority.

    Although many Charlotteans, Mecklenburgers, and Metrolinians appreciate baseball, it is this area’s 4th (at best) love. Basketball, football, and stock car racing are obviously much more dear to our region, and we’re having trouble getting those 41 + 8 + let’s call it 3 events consistently attended. Realistically, we do not need to further dilute our top level professional dollars with 81 more. Furthermore, the minor league baseball schedule of April-Labor Day fits very well with our current outlay of uptown professional sports. As I have said before, when our central business district welcomes home the Knights we will all say, “why didn’t we do this sooner?” So why not do it sooner?…

  19. David 2 Aug 2011 at 8:00 PM

    At last! …someone who will stand up to the special interest politics of Charlotte. I hope your the real thing, Mr. Reese. As Goethe said “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

  20. Bud 3 Aug 2011 at 8:07 AM

    I am on Mr. Reese’s side. No Knights in uptown.

  21. wesley ishee 6 Jun 2012 at 10:14 AM

    jerry reese is a delusional fucktard