by: Phil Orban Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's been years in the making, and Friday night the Knights will play their first game in their new uptown ball park.
Charlotte is buzzing with excitement as uptown gets set to host its first professional baseball game in 25 years.
The celebration started just before noon and will go all afternoon.
A drum line kicked things off Friday afternoon and that was followed by a party Romare Beardon Park, just across the street from BB&T Ballpark.
Channel 9 has learned that Governor McCrory is supposed to attend the inaugural celebration, as well as other dignitaries.
All 10,000 seats at BB&T Ballpark have been sold out for the home opener.
As tickets became scarcer, folks were paying as much as $150 for a seat.
To put that into perspective, tickets will normally sell for between $8 and $18. Fans are so excited about baseball returning to center city that some are paying 10 times as much for a seat.
“I think that tells you how many people want to see the opening of this. That's a memory you'll never forget when you say. ‘I was there on opening day.’ So we're looking forward to entertaining 10,000 of our closest friends today,” said Charlotte Knights COO, Dan Rajkowski.
If you're not one of the lucky ones, there is an external video board facing nearby Romare Beardon Park that will show the game live.
Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and first pitch is at 7:05 p.m. but roads are closing hours in advance.
Starting at 9 a.m., several streets around BB&T Ballpark will close in preparation for the celebration.
South Mint Street will close between Martin Luther King Boulevard and Third Street from 9 a.m. until midnight.
A lane on Third Street near Church Street will also be closed until midnight.
Drivers are urged to use Graham or Trade streets as alternate routes.
Knights hope new stadium brings better attendance, economic development
A year ago, the Charlotte Knights were last in attendance and losing money in a stadium 20 miles away from uptown.
Friday, they opened the gates for the first time at BB&T Stadium, where they hope to draw 600,000 fans this season.
It was 19 months ago the Knights broke ground after a five-year legal battle and a $54 million investment from taxpayers, but what can the city expect as a return on its investment?
There may not be a better comparison than to see what happened in Columbus, Ohio.
The city has seen a revitalization in its downtown since the 2009 opening of Huntington Park, a AAA ballpark that anchors Columbus' arena district..
According to the greater Columbus Sports Commission, in the past five years, new office buildings, apartments and restaurants have been built. The city has hosted the Big 10 baseball tournament four times and has sold out the high school baseball tournament each year.
As for how many fans the team itself draws -- The Clippers have led minor league baseball in attendance every year since 2009.
While the Bobcats and Checkers draw big crowds mostly on the weekends, the Knights will bring fans uptown seven days a week during the six-month season.