CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mecklenburg County is poised to impose new deadlines on the Charlotte Knights that will mean a stadium is built in uptown by 2014.
With a 7-1 vote Tuesday, the county commission supported the basic structure of an agreement that will extend the Charlotte Knights' lease on county property in the Third Ward.
That lease extension will be linked to new deadlines designed to make sure the Knights build their much-talked about stadium. The most controversial rule requires that the Knights submit a financial plan to explain how they'll pay for the $56 million stadium by June 30, 2012.
The land parcel at West Martin Luther King Jr. and South Graham Street was leased by the Triple-A team for a new baseball stadium years ago, but the Knights will not meet deadlines already set for building on the land.
The new deal will require that construction starts by October 2012. The team would be required to play in the new stadium by the 2014 season.
The deal also specifies earlier deadlines for a payment of $100,000 for the county's legal fees, and a commitment of two major sponsors for the project. Any breach of the contract would give the pricey parcel back to the county.
Knights General Manager Dan Rajkowski admitted the deadlines are tough ones, but said the commission's preliminary support of the agreement will allow him to move forward in discussions with lenders.
The uptown stadium project was delayed for years, in part, because of a series of lawsuits filed by attorney and enthusiast Jerry Reese, who argues that Charlotte should be aiming to attract a major league team to Center City.
Tuesday, Reese again threatened to sue. "This Board, the Knights, and anyone else who might consider being part of this ill-advised project is hereby forewarned and put on notice," he said from the podium.
Rajkowski seemed unconcerned about any impact on negotiations.
"That certainly was a factor last time - a major factor - but I don't think it's going to be a problem," he said.