Gastonia will make baseball history in two ways next spring when its new downtown multi-purpose stadium in the FUSE District opens.
For one, the city will have a professional team again, nearly 30 years after losing its South Atlantic League franchise to Hickory.
And two, the majority owner of the as yet unnamed franchise in the Atlantic Baseball League, Brandon Bellamy, will be the only Black majority owner of any professional baseball team in the country.
The agreement with the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball and with Bellamy was announced in a news conference held Tuesday morning at the Gastonia Conference Center.
Who is Bellamy?
A North Carolina native, Bellamy is CEO of the Velocity Companies, a real estate and development firm working primarily in the Washington, D.C. area.
Velocity will also serve as the managing firm for the stadium.
In introducing himself to the Gastonia area, Bellamy said, “I am a Christian first and a businessman second. I thank God for the opportunity we have today.”
Bellamy said he has always loved the “feeling of community” that goes along with professional baseball and he looks forward to bringing a baseball team to Gastonia that will capture that feeling.
Saying that committing to building the new stadium showed a great deal of courage on the part of Gastonia’s leadership, Bellamy added, “We want to be a part of this community. We want to be a good neighbor.”
Asked if he and Velocity will also be involved in developing other properties in the FUSE District, Bellamy replied, “We will be looking at other opportunities in that area as well as elsewhere in Gastonia.”
What is the Atlantic League?
The Atlantic League is a professional baseball league whose teams are not affiliated with any Major League Baseball organization.
Players in the league, which each team signs independently, are mainly former big leaguers hoping to make it back to “The Show,” players released by other minor league organization, or undrafted free agents.
The league currently has eight teams with the nearest franchise being the High Point Rockers. Each team in the league plays a 140-game schedule, split evenly between home and away.
The league typically begins its season in May, with the playoffs running through the end of September.
Does the new team have a name?
Bellamy said a contest to select the new franchise’s name and its mascot will be conducted later this year.
“The name will be what the people of Gastonia want it to be,” he said.
Is the stadium on track to open on time?
Yes. City officials said construction on the 5,000-seat stadium is running slightly ahead of schedule and the facility will be ready to open next spring.
Will the stadium have other purposes?
Both Bellamy and city officials said the goal is for the stadium to not only serve as a venue for other sports, including football and soccer, but also to host other entertainment, including concerts, as well.
“We want that place humming throughout the year,” Bellamy said. “We want it to be a place that people want to come to.”
Mayor Walker Reid: “This is a milestone event. This stadium is the ultimate public-private partnership. It demonstrates that we have shared values and shared goals.
City Manager Michael Peoples: “This is what we have been working toward. This is an area of our city that needed investment. The primary focus is economic development. This is the future of the west side of our downtown.”
Rick White, president of the Atlantic League, who spoke via Zoom: “This will be a catalyst for future growth. We are confident that in 2021 we will be playing baseball in downtown Gastonia.”
Pete Fisch, president of the High Point Rockers: “Welcome to the family. We’re the older sibling and it’s hard to beat your older sibling. But I look forward to a great natural rivalry. We’re just 90 miles up I-85.”
Gov. Roy Cooper, who spoke in a pre-recorded message: “This is a historic milestone for Gastonia. A sign of both the city’s growth and its welcoming atmosphere.”
Bill Poteat, who hopes to be in the stand for opening night next May, may be reached at 704-869-1855 or firstname.lastname@example.org.