GASTONIA, N.C. — Gastonia city leaders are exploring a potential partnership with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball to field a team in the city's soon-to-be-built downtown baseball stadium.

A city council committee met with league representatives on July 29, and the full council could vote to have city staff begin negotiations on an agreement with the league at its August 20 meeting.

The stadium will be the centerpiece in the city's long-awaited sports and entertainment district, dubbed the FUSE District, which will be located off West Franklin Blvd.

The Atlantic League Professional Baseball is an independent league that plays a 140-game schedule. Major League Baseball partners with the Atlantic League to test future MLB rules and equipment.

Wyatt Davis loves baseball, and he's excited his hometown could soon have a professional team.

"That would be a very surprising thing to me," he said.

His father, Caleb Davis, is intrigued by the potential economic development.

"That's going to just stimulate a lot of economy in this area that has been down for the last ... my lifetime, basically," Davis said. "It would be really nice to see all that boom at the same time."

Developers have already bought surrounding buildings, including the old Coca-Cola building, in anticipation of the project.

Plans for those buildings include new restaurants, retail and apartments.

The city said it'll break ground on the FUSE District in the fall with completion scheduled before the 2021 baseball season.