Group wants to pitch race track for Fort Mill’s Knights Stadium

Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013

If you think “Castle Speedway” has a nice ring to it, you’re not alone.

That’s the name of a new group and the vision it has for the future of Knights Stadium.

While county officials consider several proposals for the ballpark after the Knights move into their new home in uptown Charlotte after this coming season, Castle Speedway’s backers are hoping to create some buzz.

“We would like the residents of York County to know that there are other options available for Knights Stadium than the wrecking ball,” wrote Charles Flay, who identifies himself as director of marketing and promotion for Castle Speedway, in an email to the Fort Mill Times.

The group has a website and a Facebook page. Both show images depicting the ballpark, which has been leased to the Knights, the Triple-A farm club of the Chicago White Sox, for a $1 a year, as a multi-use facility with both stock car and go-cart racing and a fair with a midway and rides. It envisions re-painting the stadium’s iconic water tank, which now looks like a giant baseball, with Castle Speedway’s edgy racing-themed logo.

Flay, who traded voicemails and emails with the Times, but could not be reached for an interview, said in one phone message that he “can’t say much right now because we’re in negotiations,” but didn’t provide any details.

“I don’t know who they would be in negotiations with, but if they’re negotiating with anybody, it’s not the county,” said York County Councilman Michael Johnson, whose district includes Knights Stadium off Gold Hill Road near I-77.

Without knowing details of the proposal – including whether the group wants to buy the 32-acre property or lease it from the county – Johnson said it’s difficult to say whether or not he would support it. Johnson did, however, encourage Castle Speedway representatives to attend meetings hosted by a citizens committee appointed by the county council to consider and recommend a stadium plan. The committee started meeting late last year.

“They didn’t come to the forum,” Johnson said.

“The pitch would be to the committee set up to hear uses for Knights stadium. We’ve received a number of different ideas of things to do with the stadium, but certainly anybody who’s interested can come to the table and discuss their ideas. Ultimately the county council makes the decision, but we set up this committee to make the recommendation.”

There is one thing Johnson is certain of, though.

“We want to get the county of the business of leasing land,” he said.

So far, the committee has heard suggestions that include using the site for an equestrian center, creating a multi-field sports complex similar to Rock Hill’s Manchester Meadows and selling it for industrial development. Fashion retailer Cato already submitted a $5.7 million bid in federal bankruptcy court to buy 260 acres adjacent to the county’s land and indicated it may build a distribution center on the site. The company could also be interested in buying the Knights property.

Other development near the stadium includes a new fireworks retailer and an office complex the Fort Mill School District moved into last year.

“It sounds interesting, but all of a sudden we have a whole lot of interest in the stadium and that’s what I’m excited about,” said York County Councilman Chad Williams, who represents part of Fort Mill.

Both Williams and Johnson said the county would prefer to sell the land as a whole to a single buyer rather than divest one chunk at a time.

“We’re in negotiations with several interested parties who want the whole thing,” Williams said. “It will be interesting to see how things shake out.”

Neither councilman was ready to reject the idea of seeing someone turn the ballpark into a racetrack.

“Maybe they have something we’re interested in,” Johnson said.

To learn more about Castle Speedway, find them on Facebook, or go to