Commentary: One architect says build a public park; one says stadium is best choice

Pro / Con: Build uptown ballpark – no, don't!

Does uptown Charlotte need a baseball stadium, or a large public park dedicated to showcase energy technology and local food? Two well-known Charlotte architects – Marley Carroll and Murray Whisnant – take different stands.

Spectacular amenity / Marley Carroll

Don’t squander chance / Murray Whisnant

The Charlotte City Council is expected to vote Monday, June 11, on using $7.25 million in city money to help the Charlotte Knights build a ballpark in uptown Charlotte. It’s a controversial proposal.

In 2004, Mecklenburg County voters approved a $69 million bond issue for county parks and other items. The package included money for an urban park on about eight acres in Third Ward. The bond specified that none of the money could be used to build a professional baseball stadium. Shortly after, the Charlotte Knights proposed a ballpark on part of the site in Third Ward. A few months later, Mecklenburg County commissioners in an 8-1 vote assured voters a park, not a baseball stadium, would be built.

Today, after a complicated land swap engineered by Charlotte Center City Partners, Romare Bearden Park is under way, but on a fraction of the original site. Mecklenburg County is leasing 8.6 acres, estimated value $20 million, to the Charlotte Knights for $1 a year so they can build a ballpark for the minor league team. The county is also chipping in $8 million over 20 years.

The Knights, playing in a Fort Mill, S.C., stadium, say they need public money to bring minor league ball back to Charlotte, and they want to be uptown. CCCP as well as many other Charlotteans support an uptown baseball park. At the same time, others question the use of public money and the location  between Mint, Graham and Fourth streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

We asked two Charlotte architects who disagree about the ballpark proposal to write their views.

Stadium could be spectacular city amenity / Marley Carroll

Marley Carroll, when he was a principal with Odell Associates, designed the Knights’ Fort Mill project and led the site analysis, site selection, master planning and urban design of the current proposed location. He’s now a vice president with Clark Nexsen and has no economic interest in whether the ballpark is built. His remarks are his opinions, not those of Clark Nexsen.

Don't squander chance for a great public park  / Murray Whisnant

Murray Whisnant for years has promoted the idea that the land proposed for the baseball stadium would be better used as a public park. He would re-use the sturdy old Virginia Paper Co. building on the site, which would be demolished for a stadium.  He and supporters created an online petition campaign at to urge that the property be used for a public park.

Whisnant grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Central High. His architecture degree is from N.C. State. In 1990 he won the prestigious Kamphoefner Prize for Modern architecture in North Carolina. He was nominated for the prize by a fellow NCSU architecture graduate, Marley Carroll.

– Mary Newsom

Marley Carroll is the vice president of design at Clark Nexsen. He can be reached at or 704-650-2805.