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Kannapolis approves new Intimidators baseball stadium design

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — Rocking chair seating, an outdoor bar, a party deck, grassy seating areas and restaurants overlooking the outfield are all parts of the newly approved design for a baseball stadium downtown.

The stadium would be adjacent to downtown and face the N.C. Research Campus. It would be the new home of the minor league team Kannapolis Intimidators, which currently plays at a stadium adjacent to Interstate 85. When games aren’t being played at the proposed new stadium, it would be open to the public.

On Monday, the Kannapolis City Council approved a design for the new stadium presented by architecture firm Populous. City Manager Mike Legg said Kannapolis aims to open the stadium in time for the 2020 season.

During discussion, council members and city staff stressed the importance a baseball stadium would play in downtown revitalization plans. Councilman Roger Haas said it would be “the economic driver for downtown.”

“This is much more than just a baseball stadium,” Haas said. “This is the driver that is going to make it happen. … If we want our downtown to thrive, it’s absolutely critical.”

Legg likened the stadium and a “downtown demonstration project” — a development including apartments, retail space and, potentially, a hotel — to anchor stores in a mall. Smaller stores and restaurants move to locations near stores that attract significant foot traffic, he said.

On stadium plans, a number of stores or restaurants would have a rear entrance that would face the outfield. The restaurants would be on the same level as a the stadium’s concourse.

Zach Lee, a senior associate at Populous, said the stadium would contain a variety of seating options. Rocking chairs are one example. Another is “loge boxes,” which Lee described as “inexpensive outdoor suites.” Designs presented Monday also show grassy hills on the edge of the stadium that fans could sit on.

On the stadium’s concourse, plans include an outdoor bar.

Above the concourse, plans show eight suites and one party suite. A party deck is adjacent to  the party suite. An 8,500-square-foot, multiuse club would sit above the concourse.

The stadium would have 3,800 “fixed seats” and a total capacity of 5,800 people.

Council members said repeatedly the stadium would be open to the public when baseball games aren’t being played.

At its next meeting, the council will pick a construction contractor. Legg said city staff will recommend Barton Malow, which has an office in Charlotte and a headquarters in Michigan.

Street redesign and utility replacement in downtown will start this summer, Legg said.

The exact start date for construction is unclear. To open by the 2020 minor league baseball season, Legg said, construction needs to start within 18 months.

Finances were also a topic.

Mayor Darrell Hinnant said the city will not need to raise taxes to build the stadium. The city is growing at a rapid rate that will cover expenses, he said.

Legg said that so far, the city is committed only to pay for architecture fees.

Legg said the city will know “in a few weeks” the exact construction costs. Deputy City Manager Eddie Smith said private investment will be critical. In some cases, the design of the stadium may change because of what private investors want, Smith said.

To date, stadium proponents have focused on downtown redevelopment. On Monday, council members added another reason for the project.

“In this case, we kind of glanced over the fact that this is as much about keeping a team and keeping a baseball presence in Kannapolis as it is about anything else,” said Councilman Ryan Dayvault.

Legg said the Intimidators have never told the city that the team would leave without a new stadium. Legg said city officials “have made the assumption” that the team can’t survive financially in the current stadium.

“It was never designed to create the revenues they need to be healthy,” he said during a break in the meeting.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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