Spirit of Rowan: Cannon Ballers stadium anchors downtown Kannapolis
By Liz Moomey
COVID-19 has only postponed what’s sure to be a new day in Kannapolis, when the newly renamed Cannon Ballers team throws out the first pitch of the season at the team’s new ballpark. That date was originally scheduled to be April 16.
The stadium boosts a 360-degree concourse, three times the number of concessions compared to the former Moose Road stadium, a video board and public Wi-Fi. The park will be open year round for public access.
“It’s designed with the fan in mind,” said Scott Brown, operating partner of Temerity Baseball, which owns the team.
For fans, the experience is going to be unparalleled, Brown said.
The first day of the season will be a celebration, similar to the last game at the former stadium. But it will be a different celebration, said general manager Matt Millward.
It’s a chance for the Cannon Ballers and Kannapolis to prove themselves. The city will need to prove the investment they’ve made and the risk they have taken. The Cannon Ballers will need to show the work they’ve done paying off.
Atrium Health Ballpark is an anchor for Kannapolis, said City Manager Mike Legg. City leaders knew when they started downtown revitalization project that they needed to have at lease one, but preferably multiple, anchors.
Legg said they saw other cities realize the benefits of moving their baseball stadiums to downtown, including Durham and Greenville, South Carolina.
“This was the biggest investment clearly, but we knew if we didn’t, we’re pretty confident that none of the things happening downtown and some of it hasn’t even started yet,” Legg said.
Brown said the ballpark’s opening will be the “crescendo” of downtown Kannapolis development. He pictures April 16 with fans lining up at the gates, anxious to get in.
“I see people beaming with pride and this is going to be the place to be,” Brown said. “Everybody is going to want a piece of it.”
The Cannon Ballers new home will return downtown Kannapolis to its glory days, Brown said.
Brown completely credits the city for having the vision to reinvent itself. It is now attracting private development, including Old Armor Beer Company, which opened in late 2019. Construction also continues on an apartment complex and other plans are being formulated, too.
That vision from the city of Kannapolis also reflects a change in the trends of baseball stadiums. When the Moose Road stadium opened in 1995 off Interstate 85, Brown said it was a good because the going theory at the time was to build a ballpark on ample, inexpensive land.
The ballpark became the only stop, though.
“The ballpark is still a destination, but it’s not as much of a solo destination anymore,” Millward said.
For the previous 25 years, Legg said, fans would go to the Moose Road ballpark, park, sit for several innings or maybe the whole game and then get in their car and go home. The downtown ballpark will be a whole different environment, he said. It will spur more economic growth.
The former stadium struggled financially when it was built. Attendees had to use portable bathrooms. Concession stands, locker rooms and staff offices weren’t completed until well into the season.
Brown said the city of Kannapolis this time has ensured the team is on track to be ready for the first pitch.
“The baseball season waits for nobody,” Brown said. “Whether you’re ready or not, you’re going to have to play the game. The city’s forethought in starting the process early and even moving some dirt and doing some of the soft stuff before getting full financing really puts us in a position to be all cylinders firing on opening day.”
Legg said the city also was concerned it might lose the minor league team if they didn’t put money into the old stadium or do something new.
“It’s a no-brainer for us in professional baseball to go from an aging facility to a state of the art facility,” Brown said. “It’s better from player development standpoint, team, financial, player standpoint.”