Kannapolis gets a new team owner on downtown redevelopment team


March 15. There’s a new owner at the Kannapolis Intimidators. A Nashville-based builder—and a member of the executive committee of the Southern League of Professional Baseball—Reese L. Smith III and co-investors have paid an undisclosed amount for the team.



Average per game attendance in 2015 was 2,056, with a total season attendance of 135,727 – a 10 percent increase from 2014. Meanwhile, as the Intimidators begin their 22nd season in April, the City of Kannapolis is working on a new downtown development plan that would a baseball stadium.

In Smith, the City has an accomplished redevelopment team mate.

Smith has purchased other minor league franchises and breathed new life into them. Over the years, he has held ownership positions in around 10 minor league clubs including the Huntsville Stars, Daytona Beach Cubs, Greensboro Hornets and Salt Lake City Gulls. He is currently president and part owner of Jackson, Tenn. AA Baseball Club.

A native Tennessean, Smith is president of Haury & Smith Contractors. He is senior life director of the National Association of Home Builders and is a member of the Home Builders Association of Tennessee Hall of Fame.

Smith is not related to the sellers of the Intimidators, Smith Family Baseball.

The team plays in a 4,700 seat stadium that was built in 1995 by the Rowan County-Kannapolis Regional Sports Authority. Kannapolis acquired full ownership of the stadium in 2012. The team leases the aging stadium from the City. Transferring the lease from Smith Family to Reese Smith is considered an easy home run.

Indeed, the City is in the process of analyzing the possibility for a sports and entertainment venue in downtown Kannapolis. Because the current facility is located within a protected watershed zone that limits development growth, the stadium property cannot be expanded nor can new restaurants and shops be built on the remaining property.

“We have had the pleasure to speak with the new owners and are excited about their enthusiasm for minor league baseball and the Intimidators,” said Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg.

“We look forward to working with them as we consider a sports and entertainment venue as an anchor in the soon-to-be-completed downtown plan,” Legg said.
The team is a Class A affiliate in the Chicago White Sox minor league system. There are 167 minor league baseball teams in the U.S. but only 30 are Single A. Players are generally one year out of high school or college.

With the purchase of approximately 50 acres in downtown Kannapolis city officials are exploring the option of a new sports and entertainment venue in downtown which would be an anchor – a venue that would bring a significant number of people to downtown to not only attend cultural and athletic events but to shop, eat, work and live.

The initial step in this effort was to commission a minor league baseball stadium feasibility study.

The first phase of the baseball study concluded that with marketing and an appropriate venue, Kannapolis has the potential to double game attendance.

With the expected population growth in the City and the surrounding area over the next several years, the market for professional baseball will continue to be strong. Attending a baseball game has become family oriented and a social entertainment option for people. Factors such as household size, household income, attendee ages and disposable income impact the potential market size for minor league baseball.

The second phase of the study will show the recommended size of a venue, other types of uses for the facility, number and type of seats and seating arrangements and the cost of building the venue.


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