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Editorial: Downtown moments await for Kannapolis, Salisbury

Tuesday is the moment for Kannapolis. This summer could bring a similar-type event for Salisbury.

When the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers take the field Tuesday for their first game in a new downtown ballpark, it will be the culmination of hard work by public and private parties, comfort for COVID-induced worries and the product of a significant chunk of change spent by Kannapolis to redevelop its downtown — a dream that began years ago when the city bought itself.

College and high school games hosted by the new Atrium Health Ballpark have been appetizers for the main course on Tuesday. Capacity is capped at 50%, but that still means thousands of game attendees will be making their way into the stadium in time for the 7 p.m. start and also stopping in some of the local businesses that have set up shop nearby.

With any luck, fans will come back for more, particularly once gathering restrictions are lifted completely, but good signs include the relative success of ticket packages and merchandise (Cannon Ballers gear has been some of the fastest-selling in the minor leagues). City officials might already call downtown redevelopment a success, but the start of the minor league baseball season brings with it the potential for new heights.

On Tuesday, Mayor Darrell Hinnant may find himself looking back at a comment he made in June 2015. That’s when the city of Kannapolis purchased downtown property being redeveloped.

“It has been a long process but well worth the wait,” Hinnant said.

A 17-mile drive away, Salisbury is still hoping for its moment — the opening of Bell Tower Green Park and the first large events on the property. There won’t be baseball games or thousands of cheering sports fans, but there will be plenty of space for much-loved celebrations such as Pops at the Post and the Cheerwine Festival.

In the last update, the park’s developers said things could be complete by July, but the moment of truth could come in September. That’s when back-to-back weekends will feature Pops at the Post (Sept. 11) and the Cheerwine Fest (Sept. 18) two celebrations.

After that, the sky is the limit. As Bell Tower Green President Dyke Messinger told the Post in February, “Everybody knows bands, weddings and gatherings, but wait until people start to get creative.”

Just as the first Cannon Ballers game could prove downtown redevelopment to be worthwhile, a proof of concept, the first events at Bell Tower Green Park could be the spark for more investment.

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