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Play ball! Fayetteville gets ready

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Play ball! Fayetteville gets ready

By Eddie Southards

The city of Fayetteville hopes to hit a home run by buildi

ng a baseball stadium downtown

on Hay Street that will house a minor league affiliate of t

he World Series champion Houston

Astros.

Construction of the $37.8 million project is well underway and o

n schedule to be ready

for the 2019 season opener in April.

But there is much more than a baseball stadium in play

in this high-stakes investment.

City and Astros officials believe it could be the cataly

st to create a dramatic change in downtown

Fayetteville by making it an entertainment and business dest

ination.

One company, Prince Charles Holding, already has announced pl

ans for a $65 million

investment that will include a hotel with rooms looking down int

o the stadium, a parking garage

and a transformation of the historic Prince Charles Hot

el that will convert it into apartments by

March of next year.

Fayetteville team president Mark Zarthar is excited about

the prospects.

I thought I was coming here to run a baseball team but that's

not necessarily the case,

he said.

It's more of an entire city developmental project in

conjunction with the real estate

developers and the city of Fayetteville. It's much bigger th

an baseball. No matter how many

tickets we sell or how well we do as a team, we won't be con

sidered a success unless the

downtown revitalization is considered a success as well.

Zarthar grew up in a suburb of Boston and moved to Fayetteville

from New York City

where he worked for Anheuser-Busch in sports marketing. It

is quite a lifestyle change for the

30-year-old but he didn't see just a sleepy Southern town wh

en he arrived in Fayetteville in

March.

I think what may go underappreciated is the character of down

town Fayetteville,

he

said.

When I first walked Hay Street, what stood out to me were the

tree-lined streets, the

cobblestoned sidewalks, the 1800s architecture and the colorful

storefronts. It reminded me of

places like River Street in Savannah (Georgia) and King St

reet in Charleston (South Carolina).

Those are places that tourists flock to because of their c

haracter. We just need a bit more of a

shot in the arm to reach our potential and this project ca

n help us take the next step.

The Class A Carolina League franchise has been playing game

s for the past two seasons

at Campbell University in Buies Creek while the stadium

is being built. Not much has yet been

revealed about the team once it moves to Fayetteville, oth

er than the team colors will be red,

gray and black. The stadium will be trimmed in those colo

rs, too.

But all will be revealed in August at a planned celebration

open to the public. Zarthar

said the team uniforms and logo will be displayed and T-shirts

and caps will be available for

purchase. There will be live music, food and beverages an

d the World Series trophy may even be

here so fans can take pictures with it.

Most importantly, the team name will be revealed. Zartha

r would neither confirm nor

deny the choices were down to Woodpeckers or Fatbacks. Fans also

had voted for Fly Traps,

Jumpers or Wood Dogs in a contest held last year.

We understand the name is a hot topic in Fayetteville,

he said.

It's great to hear

everyone ask about the team name. To me, it just shows

that people are highly interested in this

team and the stadium. The anticipation is certainly the

re.

Zarthar and his small staff, for now, are working out of an

office on Hay Street about

three blocks from the stadium site. Once the stadium is

ready, the team offices will move there.

The stadium will seat about 4,900 and will include a team merc

handise store, a ticket office,

a

clubhouse and batting cages.

Six suites will be available for businesses to lease for

their employees or clients' use.

There will be covered seating behind home plate. Concessio

n stands will offer what Zarthar calls

high quality, highly creative food.

A large video scoreboard in left center field will have

the capability of in-game replays

and offer advertising opportunities for local businesses.

The field will be covered in real grass and the dimensions

to the fence from home plate

will be 345 feet down the left field line, 375 to left center, 400

to center field, 370 to right center

and 325 down the right field line.

Season tickets will go on sale at the brand launch part

y in August. Single-game tickets

will go on sale early next year after the team gets it

s schedule. Zarthar said those tickets will

range from $9-$16.

Fans also can join the Founders Club. For $250, they can

have their name etched in

bricks that will be located at the stadium entrance.

The stadium will not sit idle in the baseball offseas

on. Zarthar already is making plans to

host collegiate and high school baseball tournaments, hig

h school football games and concerts.

Zarthar said he has no concerns about the stadium being r

eady on time for the season opener in

April.

He said the construction firm, the Barton-Malow Company,

has a track record of never

being late for any stadium and they've built stadiums all

over the United States. I'm very

confident the stadium will be beautiful, it will be stat

e of the art and it will be ready for opening

day.

Zarthar plans to have a full-time staff of about 20 people i

n place by the end of the year.

He also will be hiring about 50 part-time workers for the baseb

all season.

Finding local and diverse talent is something we will be focus

ed on,

he said.

The arrival of the team also should boost employment i

n downtown businesses.

They

will be required to hire hundreds of part-time staff to support an

influx of 5,000 fans for a

baseball game,

Zarthar said.

We expect bars, restaurants and shops to thrive based on t

he

added foot traffic.

Will there be enough parking available for all the fans? Ye

s, according to Zarthar.

It's not going to be an issue at all,

he said.

There might be limited parking on Hay

Street but if you go one block south to Franklin Street, there

is an abundant amount of parking

including a parking garage. Go another block south to Russell Stree

t and there's even more

parking. The Dogwood Festival had 120,000 people on Saturday and there

were no parking

issues. I think downtown can accommodate our 4,900 fans.

Once inside the stadium, Zarthar feels any perceived proble

ms will melt away.

This is not about minor league baseball or the stadium,

he said.

It's an entertainment

venue and an anchor for downtown businesses. We'll have firewo

rks shows, an area for kids to

hang out and a bar for adults.

Fayetteville has not been kind to professional sports teams

in the past. Two basketball

teams and two minor-league baseball teams have failed to la

st. The last such baseball team left

town in 2000. But Zarthar remains confident despite that history.


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