Posts Tagged ‘Florida Marlins’

Knights Stadium – Charlotte, North Carolina’s Former South Carolina Home

April 14th, 2015

Knights Stadium was located at 2280 Deerfield Drive in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The ballpark was the home of the Southern League Charlotte Knights from 1990 to 1992, and the International League Charlotte Knights from 1993 to 2013. During those years, the Knights were an affiliate of the Chicago Cubs (1990 to 1992), the Cleveland Indians (1993 to 1994), the Florida Marlins (1995 to 1998), and the Chicago White Sox (1999 to 2013).

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina, Former Home of the Charlotte Knights

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina, Former Home of the Charlotte Knights

Just as the NFL Washington Redskins play their home games in Maryland and the NFL New York Giants play their home games in New Jersey, the Charlotte Knights played their home games not in North Carolina, but across the state line in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Entrance to Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Entrance to Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Originally known as Knights Castle, the ballpark was constructed in 1989 by then-Charlotte Knights owner George Shinn. Shinn at that time also was owner of the NBA Charlotte Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans).

Exterior of First Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Exterior of First Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

At the time the ballpark opened, Shinn, and others, had hopes of luring a Major League Baseball franchise to Charlotte. As such, the stadium was designed to MLB specifications. Although the ballpark held only 10,000 when it first opened, the plan was to expand seating to 40,000 should Charlotte land a major league team.

Ticket Windows, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Ticket Windows, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The need for an adequate area in which to expand is one reason the ballpark was located along I-77 in Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Entrance to Administrative Offices, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The ballpark opened just two years before the advent of the retro ballpark boom ushered in by Orioles Park at Camden Yards in 1992. The ballpark’s exterior reflected this fact, with a rather uninspired facade constructed largely of gray concrete bricks.

Gate B, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Gate B, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Welcome Sign, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Welcome Sign, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Because the ballpark was constructed in hopes of expanding to 40,000 seats, the stadium concourse was considerably larger than typical minor league ballparks of that era.

Concourse Signage, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Concourse Signage, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Concourse, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Concourse, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The concourse along the left field line included a large picnic pavilion which could be converted to additional grandstand seating in the event Charlotte was awarded a major league team.

View of Grandstand from Left Field Party Deck, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

View of Grandstand from Left Field Party Deck, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The grandstand seating along first and third base included rows of multi colored plastic seats, perhaps a nod to the textile mills that once were a large part of the local economy.

Third Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Third Base Grandstand, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The press box behind home plate included the Home Run Cafe on the second level.

View from Right Field Corner, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

View from Right Field Corner, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Because of the ballpark’s location along I-77, and the hopes of expansion, Knights Stadium was surrounded by open fields and an overabundance of parking.

Outfield Wall, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Outfield Wall, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Storage Shed Located Beyond Outfield Fence, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Storage Shed Located Beyond Outfield Fence, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

After many years of debate, and once it became clear that Major League Baseball was not moving to Charlotte, a decision was made to construct a new ballpark in Charlotte Center City (sometimes referred to as Uptown Charlotte).

Scoreboard, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Scoreboard, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The Knights played their last game at Knight Stadium in 2013, and in 2014 moved to brand new BB&T Ballpark, located 15 miles northeast of their former home.

Knight Stadium Offices Have Moved, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Knight Stadium Offices Have Moved, Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

The contrast between Knights Stadium and BB&T Ballpark is remarkable, both in design and location.

Entrance to BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

Entrance to BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

There can be little debate that BB&T Ballpark, located in the heart of Charlotte, is one of the finest minor league ballparks in the country. In 2014, the team averaged 9,000 fans a game.

BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

BB&T Ballpark, Home of the Charlotte Knights, Charlotte, North Carolina

In 2014, York County, which owned the ballpark, sold Knights Stadium and the 32 acres that made up the stadium property, to a Charlotte-based Cato Corporation.  In 2015, Knight Stadium was demolished. Although it is unknown whether Cato Corporation’s planned distribution center will include any tribute to the lost ballpark, one reminder of Knights Stadium still stands. Along I-77, near the exit to Knights Stadium’s former site, is a water tower in the shape of a baseball.

Water Tower Near Former Site of Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

Water Tower Near Former Site of Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, South Carolina

After only 24 seasons in existence, Knights stadium is now just another lost ballpark.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Knights Stadium/Knights Castle, South Carolina ballparks | Comments (2)

Miami’s Joe Robbie, Pro Player, Dolphin, Land Shark, and Sun Life Stadium

January 1st, 2014

The ballpark currently known as Sun Life Stadium was home to the National League Florida Marlins (currently known as the Miami Marlins) from 1993 to 2011. It is located just north of Miami, Florida, at 2269 N.W. 199th Street, in the suburb of Miami Gardens.

Arial View of Pro Player Stadium (Sun Life) Configured for Baseball

Opened in 1987, and financed by former Miami Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, the ballpark is primarily a football stadium that was adapted for use by Major League Baseball.

Pro Player Stadium Circa 2002

In its 25 plus seasons in existence, the ballpark has undergone several name changes, from Joe Robbie Stadium, to Pro Player Park, to Pro Player Stadium, to Dolphins Stadium, to Dolphin Stadium, to Land Shark Stadium, to Sun Life Stadium.

Entrance to Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida

The Miami Dolphins have called the stadium home since 1987. Talks between team owners and city officials may lead to significant renovations of the stadium in the next few years, including the addition of a roof.

Pro Player Stadium at Night, Miami, Florida

The Florida Marlins began as an expansion team, playing their first season at what was then Joe Robbie Stadium in 1993. Within four years, in 1997, the team brought a World Series championship to Miami, and a second one in 2003. Thus, in the less than 20 years that the expansion Florida Marlins called Sun Life Stadium their home, the team won two more World Series at their home ballpark than the Chicago Cubs have won in their 100 seasons at Wrigley Field.

Exterior of Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Florida

Sun Life Stadium is primarily a concrete structure, architecturally lacking a certain je ne sais quoi.

Pro Player Stadium Ticket Booth, Miami, Florida

However, inside the ballpark, the bright orange seats and expansive green field give the ballpark a somewhat festive look.

Sun Life Stadium, Former Home of Florida Marlins

Entrance to the seating bowl offers fans a vivid color display of aqua blue, leading to bright orange.

Entrance to Sections 101 and 156

Attendance at Marlins home games often was so abysmal that the team closed off to fans the upper deck seating.

Pro Player Stadium Circa 2002

Because the ballpark was adapted for baseball, the batters eye at Sun Life Stadium was made up of blue vinyl covering the seating directly behind dead-center field.

Center Field Batters Eye Miami Style - Blue Vinyl

One other quirk of staging baseball in a football arena was the lack of a center field scoreboard. Two main video scoreboards were placed at opposite ends of the stadium along the third base side and right field (the two end zones for football games).

Scoreboard, Sun Life Stadium

The rectangular configuration of the stadium did allow fans the opportunity to walk entirely around the field and take in the game from every vantage point, including center field.

View From Center Field Seats, Pro Player Stadium, Miami, Florida

The Dolphin’s orange seating throughout the stadium is adorned at the end of each row with the Dolphin’s logo.

Detail of Seats, Pro Player Stadium

The home team and away team bullpens were located out of play along the first base and third base foul lines.

Home Team Bullpen, Dontrelle Willis Warming Up

The souvenir store’s fish motif gave it the look of a seafood restaurant.

Seatrader Store, Florida Marlins

File under the moniker “truly out of place” – in no major league ballpark other than Miami, Florida, would you see cheerleaders.

Cheerleaders at a Baseball Game? And One Lucky Fish - Only in Miami

The team offices, located in the bowels of the ballpark included a Marlins Hall of Fame display and one really big taxidermy fish.

Marlins Hall of Fame

A Big Fish in the Marlins' Executive Offices

As a daily reminder that things could only get better, the administrative offices’ reception room included a clock counting down the number of days until the Marlins moved to a new, retractable-roof ballpark.

Stadium Countdown Clock - Marlins' Executive Office

The new ballpark, which opened in 2012 (and which I have yet to visit and photograph), is built on the site of the Orange Bowl, an 80,000 seat stadium that once was home to the National Football League Miami Dolphins, the Orange Bowl Classic, and the University of Miami Football Team.

Orange Bowl Postcard, Gulfstream Card Co, Miami, Florida

Sun Life Stadium is not a lost ballpark, and with plans to renovate the stadium apparently in the works, the good news is it appears the ballpark will be around for years to come. It currently is one of only seven former major league baseball stadiums still in existence (L.A. Coliseum, Qualcomm Stadium, RFK Stadium, Metrodome (slated for demolition), Candlestick Park (slated for demolition), Astrodome (slated for demolition). Before too long, it will be one of only four.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Florida ballparks, Pro Player Stadium/Sun Life Stadium | Comments (1)