Jerry Reese: why an Uptown Knights stadium is a bad idea
Posted on 17 Sep 2009 by Rob Cummings
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Knights cannot afford to build the stadium.
- 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?