Executive Director of Forward High Point Ray Gibbs talks about revitalizing downtown

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- It’s the most aggressive non-furniture industry initiative to revitalize High Point’s downtown. And Thursday evening, May 2, will mark a milestone.

It will be the home opener for the High Point Rockers independent baseball team in the city’s new stadium, BB&T Point.

“It’s kind of a relief. But it’s also the excitement of getting it started,” Ray Gibbs told me recently.

Gibbs is the executive director of Forward High Point, a public-private partnership the city set up three years ago with one goal in mind: start and continue the process to build a stadium to bring life to downtown High Point outside the twice-a-year furniture market.

“There’s still a lot ahead of us,” Gibbs said. “This is just the start of what will hopefully be multiple projects to come online over the next couple of years.”

But BB&T Point, the $36-plus million, 5,000-seat, multi-purpose stadium is what Gibbs likes to call “the catalyst.” And he’s got history to back himself up.

For eight years in the late 1990s/early 2000s, he ran Downtown Greensboro Incorporated, the nonprofit development organization credited with spurring new life in that city’s downtown with the focal point or “catalyst” being -- a new ballpark.

Now, with BB&T Point opening, he’s often hit with the question based on the famous line from the movie, “Field of Dreams:” “Now that you’ve built it, will they come?”

“I’m also a developer at heart,” Gibbs said when I asked him that question. “I have always wanted to see the market studies first. And I’ve seen those. So we’re confident they will come.”

In terms of downtown ballparks, BB&T Point is smaller than its counterparts in Winston-Salem and Greensboro. But it’s still impressive in its own way.

The artificial turf baseball fans will see opening night can easily be converted to soccer or football-playing surfaces. And given its durability, Gibbs believes the turf will pay for itself in a few years given the fact there’s little maintenance compared to live grass.

The many blue-colored seats are general admission seats. The black seats are part of the stadium’s “Catalyst Club.”

“The Catalyst Club in the center is kind of the club area where folks can either buy in an annual membership or they can buy special game packages,” Gibbs said.

The club also has an interior area where people can congregate and consume food and beverages.

There are also bricked-in “loge boxes,” separate seating areas people can rent for small groups to congregate and watch games.

There’s also a beer tap room with a baseball-lined ceiling called “The High Pint,” a salute to the city’s name.

A 360-degree concourse will allow people to walk around the entire complex. And a covered deck area above the right field buildings will be able to be rented for parties and corporate events in the future.

Speaking of the future, Gibbs has plans for that as well.

“We’re going to have $100 million in development in the next four or five years connecting to the stadium,” he said.

A collection of buildings behind the outfield will be called “The Outfields.”

The city’s already signed an agreement with Elliott Sidewalk Communities, a development firm out of Baltimore, to build several buildings which will include a hotel, retail stores, restaurants as well as condo and apartment buildings.”

“No longer is High Point just a location where the furniture market is held twice a year,” Gibbs said. “But a portion of our downtown (will be) active 365 days a year.”

And the stadium will continue to the focal “point,” as the name suggests.

We also can’t forget to mention the stadium’s also the catalyst for yet another downtown development campaign headed by High Point University and its president, Dr. Nido Quebein.

Quebein spearheaded efforts to raise at least $100 million for other amenities close to the stadium. They include a park, playground, children’s museum, educational theater and an events center. Each would be donated to the city for public use.

For more information of Forward High Point and its future plans, click here.

For more information on the High Point Rockers Baseball team, including schedules and ticket information, click here.

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