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Knights ready to return to Charlotte in new home

The Charlotte Knights will christen BB&T Ballpark on Friday night with the first of three consecutive sellouts at the $54 million stadium.

The team’s move back to Charlotte’s downtown has generated excitement in town. The Knights played the past 24 years in Fort Mill, S.C., where they of late had drawn meager crowds at Knights Stadium and finished last in International League attendance for the 2013 season.

BB&T Ballpark has dramatically changed the team’s situation. The stadium has 8,800 fixed seats, and with standing room and outfield lawn space, it can fit 10,200 fans. One week before Opening Day, season-ticket sales represent 45 percent of the stadium’s fixed seats, said Knights Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkowski, the manager of ballpark development for team owner Don Beaver. Those figures include the stadium’s two clubs, the Budweiser Home Plate Club and the Diamonds Direct Luxury Lounge on the upper level, which have both sold out.

Most of the 18 suites are sold for the season, some divided as “time shares” among multiple companies, he said. Suite prices run $15,000 to $50,000 a season depending on location tied to seven- and 10-year leases. They all have 12 fixed seats and can accommodate 20 people.

Two dugout suites sit at field level behind home plate, a design similar to Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pa., home to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. At BB&T Ballpark, those suites are reserved exclusively for single games. The $1,975 cost per game covers 25 tickets and food and drink, but no alcohol.

The Carolinas HealthCare System Home Run Porch in right field on the ballpark’s second level was converted to a standing-room-only space after the Knights could not agree to terms with a potential restaurant partner. Standing-room-only tickets cost $10, and the team has capped sales at about 300 for each of the first three home games. The Knights anticipate a nearby bar will become a hangout for the singles crowd over the summer months, Rajkowski said.

Underneath that space on the first floor are concession stands tied to local and national restaurant brands such as Queen City Q, Salsarita’s Fresh Cantina, Fuzzy Peach and Just Fresh. Ovations Food Service is the Knights’ official concessionaire.

Toshiba produced the left-field video board at BB&T Ballpark, which at 82 feet long is the widest screen in Minor League Baseball. The ballpark’s tight footprint on less than nine acres has led to Knights players hitting the video board in batting practice, which has forced the club to attach a protective surface, Rajkowski said.

Chick-fil-A sponsors both “fowl” poles, among the park’s branded spaces.

Future development plans beyond the outfield walls includes a hotel and office space, Rajkowski said. For now, fans can sit in those grass areas.

Click on any photo below to see full-screen images. All photos by Tiffin Warnock / Staff

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