The last man standing locked the Knights stadium put the keys in his pocket and walked away.
Dan Rajkowski is the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Charlotte Knights minor league baseball team. Monday afternoon was the last day the stadium was opened at the Fort Mill location before the move to uptown.
“I’m the last person to leave,” he said. “I’m locking it up today.”
The Knights stadium opened 24 years ago in Fort Mill, SC. The land was donated by baseball fan Doyle Jennings after his passing and the tradition of baseball in the region continued.
But the team hasn’t drawn the crowds it desired. The stadium cannot be seen from Interstate 77, where it sits tucked in under a blanket of pine trees; those looking for something to do on a weekend may not even know it’s there.
Rajkowski said he believes moving uptown will not only help draw in the crowds, but also ignite a fire in the players.
“I think the players are going to be surprised at how nice the stadium is,” he said. “But also how much energy it’s going to bring to the ballpark. Our ticket sales are going well and I think we’re going to have a full house every night. And that’s different than what we experienced out here. It just motivates players when there’s fans out there that are active.”
But the Knights stadium won’t be forgotten. Like a pair of shoes a child wore for years, the stadium has a meaning that can’t just be tossed aside. The team intends to bring memorabilia to the new BB&T Ballpark to honor their history.
“There’s a lot of things we’ve accumulated over the years and we want to integrate them into this new park so that when you walk down the concourse people will say ‘I remember that from the Knights stadium,” said Rajkowski. “We’ll integrate into the ballpark and I think it’ll be kinda neat.”
He also said that for the team, moving to Charlotte will be like coming home.
“We’re going back, in some respects, going back home,” said Rajkowski. “Baseball has been in Charlotte since 1901, and so you’re taking the team back to Charlotte and the memories of when Cal Ripken played there; when all the greats that came through and played at Crockett Park and now, we’re getting an opportunity to come back.”