Update on the new BB&T Ballpark
Once the 2014 season rolls around, BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem will not be the only such stadium in North Carolina. A new BB&T Ballpark is nearing completion in Charlotte, and it will officially open on April 11 of next year.
The similarities between the two BB&T Ballparks do not end with the name. Both the Dash and the Knights regarded these stadiums as the centerpiece of a move to downtown. Winston-Salem and Charlotte are both associated with the White Sox minor league system, too.
Scott Brown, the Knights’ General Manager of Baseball Operations, took some time to chat about the ballpark and much more. His thoughts are below.
Brian Boesch: How is BB&T Ballpark progressing?
Scott Brown: Great. It’s about 80 percent done and still on target to be significantly completed by the end of the calendar year. It might bleed into January a little bit, but we should be in our offices by February 1.
Brian: Sometimes, minor league stadiums are not ready when its debut season begins. How important was a completed stadium to you and the Knights for your Opening Day?
Scott: It’s a mammoth leap heading from Fort Mill, S.C., 15 miles north to Uptown, and we certainly didn’t want to handicap ourselves. We had the luxury of time so that the building could start while we were still occupying Knights Stadium.
It was the goal to get it done early, and I think it’s going to bode well for us and for our fans, and that’s also helped us on the marketing and sales side. People can see this structure coming out of the ground and see the grass in now and realize that this project that had been talked about for a decade-plus is coming to fruition.
Brian: The Dash’s move downtown was instrumental to the organization, and you saw how that happened when you worked in the Carolina League with Myrtle Beach. Have you been able to gauge how positively this move will affect the Knights?
Scott: It gets us to the center of the Charlotte metropolis region, so it puts us back in the middle so we can attract people from all over. Uptown Charlotte is a vibrant, growing area. A lot of people are choosing to live in the uptown area within walking distance of the ballpark. Those two things are really going to help our cause.
People are used to coming to Uptown for Panthers games, for Bobcats and soon-to-be Hornets games, for Checkers games. This completes the year-round sports cycle and makes Uptown an even bigger destination point for everybody in the region.
Brian: How much have you learned from watching other organizations build a new ballpark?
Scott: I think sometimes in this business we are “glass half full” most of the time, but I think when it comes to ballpark construction, the conversations with the people who have built ballparks recently are more about, “What went wrong?” and “What mistakes can we avoid?” So, I think we all become better as things evolve. You know there’s going to be something you missed, something that isn’t exactly the way you want it, but I think with each opening of each ballpark, they become better and better. We’ve benefitted from the knowledge and experience of others.
Brian: What are some of the neat features for fans to look for in 2014 and beyond?
Scott: It’s kind of similar to the Winston-Salem BB&T Ballpark with the skyline view. I really enjoyed that city feel to that ballpark, but also the view. In Charlotte, we’re even closer to the skyscrapers in Uptown, so it’s a tremendous view. Even when the lights are off, it’s almost like a starry sky you’re looking out to, so I think that’s one of the real benefits.
Just like BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, we’ll have the walk-around concourse, which is more of the fad with designs now where you can stroll around the ballpark and get every vantage point. I’m really excited about our video package. We’ll have the widest screen in Minor League Baseball, along with a ribbon board.
We will also have some great club areas. We will have an upper club and a lower club, and one of the more unique features are the two dugout suites. Those are all real cool things. All of the ingredients are coming together to make a great buzz, and people are really excited about the opening.
Scott: It has been overwhelmingly positive. We wanted to keep the Knights because Charlotte is called the Queen City, and the Knights tie into the whole royalty, medieval times type of feel that we’re trying to get. We felt like it was a perfect time to freshen up our brand.
We liked our old logo, but we wanted, as we moved Uptown and started to get exposed to even more of our fans, to get it so that when you walk down the streets and saw one of our hats, you said immediately, “That’s the Charlotte Knights.” That will take some time to get to that point, but we’re real pleased we changed our color scheme.
There’s not another affiliated Minor League Baseball team that has that color scheme. We love to copy off each other and steal ideas, and, not by design, but by end result, we ended up with a unique look and something that we are really proud of.
Brian: The White Sox have to be giddy that their top three affiliates (Charlotte, Birmingham and Winston-Salem) have brand new ballparks, don’t they?
Scott: There’s no doubt. They’re so excited. Knights Stadium treated us well for 24 years. It was an adequate baseball facility, but as designs and construction have evolved, it really kind of fell behind the times. The White Sox had stuck with us and worked with us in an older ballpark, which we didn’t have a lot of the amenities that you’re looking for in professional baseball. Their patience has paid off. They’re going to be a part of this, and we expect a full contingent of White Sox folks to be on hand for Opening Night.
Brian: You probably can’t tell me what these things are, but do you have any other big announcements on the horizon?
Scott: Nothing earth-shattering, at least for the next week or two. Then, maybe after that, we might have another big announcement. We’re constantly working on it, wearing our media guys out. You know those media guys. We don’t feel like they work hard enough in the offseason, so we want to keep them occupied.
That final sarcastic jab aside, I always enjoy catching up with Scott, who is one of the hardest workers in baseball. I can assure you that the final product will be great come April 11 in Charlotte.
Good luck to our White Sox brethren in Charlotte as another BB&T Ballpark is only a few months away from completion.