York County has a buyer for Knights Stadium

dworthington@heraldonline.com April 19, 2013 

— York County has a buyer for Knights Stadium.

The Cato Corp. wants to purchase the 32-acre site off Gold Hill Road for $844,160, or $26,380 per acre, according to York County officials.

The York County Council will consider a proposal Monday to sell the land to Cato. It is the first step in the possible sale. Council members must approve the sale three times and hold a public hearing before the deal is final.

Britt Blackwell, chairman of the York County Council, said Cato’s proposal was “an attractive offer. I haven’t seen better.”

Blackwell said he would support any offer that brings the “best return on our investment.”

This is the last season for the Charlotte Knights at the stadium. In 2014, the AAA affiliate of the Chicago White Sox will move to a new $54 million stadium in downtown Charlotte.

The Knights have played in Fort Mill for 25 years, including 24 at the stadium built by then-owner George Shinn for $14 million. The team has leased the land, which was donated to the county, for $1 a year.

Cato Corp. of Charlotte and York County have discussed a development plan for the 265 acres adjacent to the ball park. The company recently purchased the adjacent land for about $7 million.

A portion of the land will be used for a $36 million distribution center that will be about one-half mile east of the ball park. The distribution center is expected to create 130 jobs. A fee-in-lieu of tax agreement between York County and the women’s fashion retailer is also on Monday’s agenda.

The county and Cato have discussed development of the remaining land. Plans call for mixed-use development with top-of-the-line office space, retail shops, multifamily housing and a hotel.

Cato officials could not be reached for comment Friday.

The price for the stadium land is based on what Cato paid for the adjacent acreage, said Mark Farris, York County’s economic developer.

Farris said the proposed deal is attractive to York County for several reasons.

The proposed mixed-use development would be a “Ballantyne-like concept,” referring to an area southeast of Charlotte. Recently, insurance giant MetLife announced that it was relocating to Ballantyne with a workforce of 1,380 employees. Ballantyne is one the fastest-growing areas in Mecklenburg County.

Cato’s proposed development plan is attractive to York County officials because of the proposed office space and hotel and the possibility of a convention center.

“I’ve not seen anything that would be better,” Blackwell said.

Farris said development of the property would add it to the county tax rolls.

The proposed purchase agreement includes plans for Cato to demolish the stadium, Farris said. Tearing down the stadium removes the liability that comes with an empty facility, Farris said. The Knights lease on the stadium expires Dec. 31, 2013.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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