Commissioners vote to revert to original lease for Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium
By Jessie Burchette
The chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners says it’s time lease and ownership issues regarding Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium are settled.
“It’s time. It’s past time,” Arnold Chamberlain said Monday night, reflecting on the history of the stadium jointly owned by the county and the city of Kannapolis.
Chamberlain said Smith Family Baseball will continue to have games at the stadium in Kannapolis this year.
But Chamberlain said what happens next year is up to the Smith Family and the Board of Commissioners.
Several weeks ago, Chamberlain appointed Commissioners Jim Sides and Tina Hall to work with the Smith Family on the lease.
Chamberlain and Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell are serving as a committee to work with the City of Kannapolis in resolving ownership.
Paperwork on file with the Clerk of Court’s office shows Kannapolis and the county have equal 50-50 shares. But the county continues to push for an agreement that ties ownership to the investment in the stadium. The county paid 75 percent, and Kannapolis paid 25 percent of the stadium project.
Chamberlain’s call to settle the stadium issues came as the board voted 4-to-1 to revert to the original lease that calls for payments based on attendance, concessions and parking, in addition to a base fee of $45,000.
For the past three years, Smith Family has paid a flat $75,000, with the county picking up the total tab for utilities.
Sides said the owners of the Intimidators franchise had rejected three offers from him that would have set a flat rental fee.
But the offers by Sides also called for the owners to pay more of the utility costs and continue mowing at the stadium between Lane Street and Moose Road in Kannapolis.
Commissioners agreed with a recommendation from Sides to have the county’s finance department determine what Smith Family Baseball owes the county starting March 1, and also determine how much the county owes the Smiths for reimbursement on mowing.
Sides noted that the county and the owners have different views about responsibilities for utilities and mowing.
County Attorney Jay Dees distributed copies of an e-mailed letter received Monday from Lyman G. Bullard Jr., the Boston attorney who represents Brad Smith and his father, Dale Smith, who make up Smith Family Baseball.
The letter raised issues related to utilities, which the county has paid for the last three years.
He called for an audit of the utility bills, noting that the bills show the utilities are higher in the off-season when the team uses two or three offices, than when the stadium is in full operation.
Sides said earlier the off-season electrical and gas costs are $6,000 to $7,000 a month. He has suggested closing the stadium and providing minimum utilities in the off-season.
The attorney also said the Smiths are willing to split the cost of mowing and upkeep of the Lane Street entrance with the city of Kannapolis and the county, each paying $10,000.
Commissioners made no response to the letter.
Sides said he hopes negotiations between the county attorney and the Smiths’ attorney can resolve the disputes.
Commissioner Jon Barber, who cast the vote against reverting to the original 1994-95 contract, briefly recapped the history of the stadium and expressed concern that the baseball team might leave. He noted that having the team contributes to the quality of life for area residents.
He suggested the county utilize the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority and the Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce to help bring more events to the stadium.
And Barber suggested the county use money from the $400,000 enterprise fund to pay utilities and other stadium costs.
The fund is the money accumulated from lease payments over the past 10 years. With the exception of a draw down of $100,000, the county hasn’t tapped those funds, which technically are under control of the Kannapolis-Rowan Sports Authority, which exists only on paper.