Editorial – Stadium

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 28, 2008

Rowan County residents don’t know what ultimately will happen with Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, but they and county officials know more than they did a few months ago, thanks to a comprehensive appraisal of the 55-acre property in Kannapolis.
For one thing, they now know that Kannapolis isn’t the only other entity that has a stake in the stadium. Concord does, too, by virtue of owning property that includes the Lane Street access to the site. As appraiser Scott Robinson advised, Rowan now needs to court Concord to make sure that access isn’t restricted at some point in the future. Rather than simply make Concord a new “best friend,” however, the county needs to obtain a formal agreement regarding access. As the city’s longrunning and contentious negotiations with Kannapolis over stadium maintenance costs and ownership issues have shown, being friends doesn’t mean much when there’s a dispute over revenue, expenses and ownership share. Get everything in writing.
The Lane Street access question isn’t just a technicality. It can significantly affect the value of the 55-acre site, which the appraiser estimated to be between $5.7 million and $10.6 million. Obviously, that’s a real ballpark figure, with a wide differential between the high and low numbers to account for variables in the property’s future use, including whether the stadium itself is part of the deal and adjacent property is developed. In previous discussions, county officials have indicated the most important number to them is what the stadium property might be worth in the near future. A rapid rise in property values, accelerated by David Murdock’s biotech project, would make the stadium much more appealing as an investment. Otherwise, there’s little justification for holding onto a project that generates taxpayer disgruntlement but scant revenue from a $75,000 lease with Smith Family Baseball.
How all this will play out in the future will largely rest on how Rowan and Kannapolis resolve ownership issues. Before Rowan can decide what to do with the stadium, it needs to know how much of the property it can legally lay claim to, 75 percent (as it maintains) or 50 percent (as Kannapolis contends). This dispute has dragged on now for years. At times, it has threatened to erupt into a full-blown court battle, and Kannapolis last year raised the possibility of building an entirely new stadium complex for its hometown Intimidators.
The longer the stadium issue hangs around, the more complicated ó and costlier ó it gets, with Concord now throwing a curve ball into the proceedings. By undertaking a formal appraisal of the stadium and adjacent property and assigning two commissioners (Jon Barber and Jim Sides) to meet with Kannapolis officials, Rowan has moved steps closer to resolve the stadium issue. For better or worse, Kannapolis and Rowan are partners in this enterprise. Let’s hope both sides are equally determined to avoid a protracted battle and find a mutually acceptable way to cut bait ó or play ball.