The Knights put the final seal on the baseball team’s move back to Charlotte Monday.
Before ceremonially locking the doors to the Fort Mill stadium the team called home for 24 seasons, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Dan Rajkowski wanted local fans to know that although the Knights are moving out of the neighborhood, they still want to be friends. The team’s new $54 million ballpark in Uptown Charlotte is just a few exits up I-77, Rajkowski, a Fort Mill resident himself, emphasized.
“It’s just going to be down the street,” he said.
The Knights, which rose from AA to AAA baseball in the International League, have been the farm club for the Chicago White Sox since 1999. Prior to that, they were affiliated with the Orioles, Marlins, Twins and Indians. The team never achieved the level of attendance it hoped for in Fort Mill and when the pieces fell into place for the team’s move back to Charlotte about two years ago, its days here were numbered.
According to final attendance reports from the International League website, the Knights , who won two team titles in the 1990s and made it to the championship game in 2012, finished either second to last or last in attendance in the 14-team International League every year since 2002. Their average attendance in 2013 was 3,587 people per game.
Despite the lack of fans in the stands, Rajkowski said he has many fond memories of the Knights’ stay in Fort Mill. among them, “one would be the White Sox exhibition game in 2010 and the most enjoyable day was in 2008 on July 4th when we put the largest crowd into this facility – 14,000 people. It was a special day for us,” he said.
Speaking at an informal press conference – after answering questions, Rajkowski let the media wander through the ball park to record images – the Knights’ top executive said the team plans to market aggressively in the Fort Mill area to keep local fans interested in attending games.
“I think it’s important we retain out fan base from Fort Mill and York County,” Rajkowski said.
“We’re looking forward to continue to reach out to them and welcome them to our new home in Charlotte. First and foremost, we’ll be 15 minutes away.”
York County sold most of the Knights Stadium property to the Cato Corp., which said it plans to develop a distribution center there.