By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS – The closing date for Kannapolis’ acquisition of Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium is getting nearer.
Monday, the process got one step closer to completion as the Kannapolis City Council unanimously approved a joint resolution with the Rowan County Commissioners, formally dissolving the Rowan County-Kannapolis Regional Sports Authority.
That agency was created in 1994 to negotiate leases and conduct stadium-related business.
City Attorney Wally Safrit presented the formal documents to the council.
Dissolving the Sports Authority was a necessary step toward finalizing the sale, which Safrit should happen imminently.
“The closing documents have been prepared and have been sent to (Rowan) county attorney (Jay Dees), and they are in his office now for review,” Safrit said.
Safrit said that, at this point, the Sports Authority has no purpose.
There’s no money associated with the group itself, although there is $350,000 in a Rowan County-maintained fund set aside for the stadium.
Kannapolis will receive those funds when the stadium purchase deal closes.
Councilman Roger Haas asked if Cabarrus County had ever been a party to the sports authority.
Safrit said Cabarrus had formerly appointed one member to the Sports Authority board, but Cabarrus County had never been a partner in stadium-related business.
Councilman Ken Geathers asked if the dissolution of the Sports Authority affected the lease with Smith Family Baseball, owner of the Kannapolis Intimidators.
That lease was negotiated by Rowan County and Kannapolis under the auspices of the Sports Authority.
Safrit said that the agreement simply transfers the lease to the city.
Smith Family Baseball does not have to approve the sale of the stadium, Safrit said.
But, he added, they will sign a document acknowledging that the city has taken over the previously-negotiated lease.
Councilman Tom Kincaid asked if a new lease would be forthcoming.
The lease negotiated while Rowan County still had a stake in the stadium is set to be in place for four more years.
City Manager Mike Legg said it would be a policy decision, but there is a consensus that a new lease will be negotiated once Kannapolis officially owns the stadium.
Rowan County is financing the city’s $3 million purchase of the stadium for 50 years, interest-free.
Council members agree that there are definitely improvements needed at the 15-year-old stadium.
“It sounds like there are more repairs than money,” Councilman Darrell Hinnant said.
The $350,000 in the stadium fund won’t cover all of those needs, which council members said include leaks in the roof, improvements to stadium lighting and team-requested field house and dugout improvements.
“I think we’ve been told that there are some significant repairs that will be coming,” Hinnant said. “I think we need to save that money, spend it judiciously.”
Legg said that part of the negotiations with Smith Family Baseball would include “sitting down with the team and trying to get a handle on what the needs are.”
“I hope that we can work cooperatively with Smith family Baseball to bring the citizens an affordable means of recreation,” Councilman Randy Cauthen said, “and make it an even better bargain than it has been in the past.”
In addition to repairs, Cauthen said, land around the stadium could offer opportunities for recreation.
One plan presented by Kannapolis Parks and Recreation in recent years showed land around the minor league stadium filled with smaller ballfields for Little League play.
“We’re short on fields for youth sports, and maybe this would be an opportunity to open this area up for that type of recreation,” Cauthen said.
Geathers also said he hopes to see a spirit of cooperation between the city and others to create recreation opportunities around the stadium.
“I would hope that Smith Family Baseball would be willing to work with the city on some of those expenses, especially lighting, so that we can improve the facility,” Geathers said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.
In other action
In other business before the Kannapolis City Council:
• Mayor Bob Misenheimer read a proclamation in honor of Firefighter Appreciation Month.
• Council members unanimously approved an installment financing plan to refinance the remaining five years of the loan for the Fisher Street sewer line.
The plan refinances the remaining $434,000 at 2.2 percent interest for the next five years.
The city will save about $25,000 in interest, according to Finance Director Eric Davis.
• The council approved a budget amendment for a grading study on one of the remaining tracts of land at the Kannapolis Gateway Business Park.
The approximately $15,000 for the study will be drawn from contingency funds.
City Manager Mike Legg said having a grading study, and possibly grading the site, may make the tract more attractive to potential buyers.
Funds spent on the study would be recouped when the land is sold.
Currently, the 7.5-acre tract is being offered for sale at $1.5 million.
Legg said that price might need to be reconsidered in the current real estate market, but that it would be the City Council’s decision whether or not to do so.
• Legg presented updated usage numbers for the city’s curbside recycling program for the month of July.
For the month of July, 229 tons of recyclables were collected from 23,511 households.
On average, 66 percent of Kannapolis households are participating in the biweekly recycling collection.
But participation varies around the city.
In the southwestern part of the city, in the direction of the Mecklenburg County line, the participation rate is close to 96 percent.
North of center city, by the Rowan County line, only 44 percent of households are participating.
“Participation,” Legg said, means the recycling bin was rolled to the curb.
“It might have three newspapers in it or it might be busting at the seams,” Legg said.
On average, based on this data, Kannapolis is collecting more than the North Carolina average for cities with curbside recycling, Legg said.
“So far, so good,” Legg said. “We’re very pleased.”