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Intimidators: Great opportunity

By Joanie Morris

Kannapolis Citizen

For Tim Mueller, vice president of the Kannapolis Intimidators, what’s being discussed now is a vision in the first stages of becoming a reality.

When Mueller began working for the Intimidators six years ago as general manager, he was cleaning out the office that would be his and discovered some drawings and plans. Those plans, he said, had been discussed prior to Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium ever opening its gates.

Ever since then, Mueller has thought about those plans a lot — a promise to a community that was never fulfilled, he said.

“I think there’s still some folks out there in the community that weren’t given what they were promised,” Mueller said. The blame got laid at the feet of the Intimidators because they are the face of the stadium, Mueller said, even though they just pay rent to the Rowan-Kannapolis Sports Authority.

Now, Mueller has started the process of breathing life back into the project. He’s dusted off those old renderings and put together figures to support the project.

“We’re trying to see some of those original dreams and visions of the project through,” Mueller said Monday from his office overlooking a dry baseball field. Come April, that field will be green, and Mueller will know a little more of the fate of the Kannapolis Intimidators Recreation Complex.

Brad Smith and his father bought the team in 2005 from Carolina Baseball, and Smith Family Baseball began making a few changes around the stadium. In addition to a new scoreboard and renovations all over the park, Smith Family Baseball has also taken over all the landscaping of the area around the facility, from Moose Road to Lane Street.

“When Brad and his father came in, I sensed and learned that this was an ownership group that was not only committed to the team, but the stadium and surrounding communities,” Mueller said. “They have invested a half million dollars of money into the stadium which we don’t own.”

Now, instead of ownership that was never active in the facility and running of the operation, Mueller said “we have that active, visible, involved ownership with the team that we’ve never had.” Brad Smith moved to the area when Smith Family Baseball acquired the team and works from the offices in the stadium.

Mueller said it was during one of his visits to Smith’s office that he got to talking about the complex and the possibility of revitalizing the project.

“As we were going through (the details), our ownership said they would be inclined to contribute a considerable amount” to help build the new complex, which would include nine new ball fields, three soccer fields, additional parking, concession stands, shelters, playground, fishing pier, a paddle boat dock and gazebo. There will also be a walking trail and plenty of green space and wooded area.

Mueller wouldn’t name a price, but said the Smith family has mentioned numbers “into seven figures” as their contribution to the project. The entire project is estimated to cost all parties a total of $12 million to $14 million, sources have said, and Mueller confirmed that as being pretty close to accurate. The Kannapolis Intimidators would maintain, manage and operate the facility for the city and county for public use.

“This is something to me … that makes so much sense,” Mueller said. “We do want this to be for public use.”

Mueller said there would be dates blocked out for tournaments of amateur softball and baseball leagues, but a majority of the dates would be scheduled for local and regional tournaments and teams to use the facilities.

“Amateur sports is truly one of the unsung heroes of this region as far as tourism dollars are concerned,” Mueller said. While he doesn’t discount the value of Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Cabarrus County, he said a study done for him shows that amateur sports alone would bring approximately $10 million to the local economy in one year through restaurants, hotels, sales tax and other sources of revenue. Those numbers are based on 12 baseball tournaments, four softball tournaments and some cross country events, a “very conservative estimate,” Mueller pointed out.

“Youth sports is a very considerable number this region is enjoying right now,” Mueller said. “Those (numbers) are based on industry standard projections.”

Kannapolis Assistant City Manager Eddie Smith said the Kannapolis board will talk about the complex at their February retreat.

“It’s going to be a topic of discussion during our council retreat along with other quality of life issues,” Smith said. “It’s certainly an exciting project we’re going to consider as part of the future growth of Kannapolis.”

After a recent study commissioned by Kannapolis, citizens learned that quality of life — including adding more parks — would be needed to help Kannapolis grow with the North Carolina Research Campus. Smith said this sports complex would certainly qualify to help fulfill that need.

“Tim has put a tremendous amount of work and effort into the plans out there,” said Smith. “It will certainly accentuate the ball stadium and make Rowan, Cabarrus and Kannapolis a destination for hundreds of athletic tournaments.

If approved by all parties involved, the complex would be the only park on the eastern side of Kannapolis.

“This is not a Kannapolis Intimidators thing,” Mueller added. “This is quality of life. This is green space. …

“What an incredible gateway this can be into our community,” Mueller said. “This is truly the last big gateway into Kannapolis. What a tremendous welcome into the community.”

Mueller said the project would take about two years to complete, from groundbreaking to finish, once approved.

“It is one of those projects that just makes sense,” Mueller said. “It is the perfect example of public/private partnerships. If we are able to put it together, not one of these individual groups is going to have to foot the bill.”

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@kannapoliscitizen.com.

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