The Charlotte Knights of Triple-A baseball’s International League – one rung on the hardball ladder beneath the big leagues – have huge plans for 2014.
The team will open the season in BB&T Park, a brand-new stadium in the heart of uptown Charlotte. The state-of-the-art venue will boast a 30-by-82-foot HD videoboard, the widest in minor league baseball. The Knights will take the field sporting uniforms that bear a newly designed team logo. Charlotte will also play host to the 2014 Gildan Triple-A National Championship Game on Sept. 16.
Perhaps most exciting for connoisseurs of ballpark fare, however, is the team’s selection of Sahlen’s as the official hot dog of the Charlotte Knights.
Sahlen’s is a Western New York staple, well-known for its signature Smokehouse Hot Dogs and deli meats with carved-off-the-bone flavor and texture. The company – founded in Buffalo in 1869 – is working to build a presence south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and has identified great market potential in North Carolina.
“We are making strides every day,” said Chris Cauley, Sahlen’s regional manager. “Our partnership with the Knights will kick our growth into a higher gear as we work to develop a sizable base of loyal Sahlen’s fanatics.”
Roughly 20,000 pounds – 10 tons! – of Sahlen’s Hot Dogs are expected to be consumed at BB&T Park in 2014, according to Erik Hassy of Ovation Foods. That works out to roughly 140,000 hot dogs, or over 1,800 hot dogs per Knights’ home game.
The team at Sahlen’s won the official sponsorship with, as one would expect in baseball, a solid pitching effort. This past summer, Sahlen’s brought its mobile vending unit to the Knights’ old stadium in Fort Mill, S.C., a suburb of Charlotte, and served a hot dog lunch to 30 key players within the organization.
“You can tell someone there is such a thing as a great hot dog,” Cauley noted, “but grill one up to perfection and you really don’t have to say a thing.”
Sahlen’s will provide Western New York-style flame grill training for BB&T Park staff, and will have a Sahlen’s grill master in the dugout at the new ballpark during the first few games of the 2014 season to assist as needed.
“Our focus is to teach people a better way to enjoy a hot dog,” Cauley explained. “That includes grill technique as well as a Sahlen’s hot dog.”
Over 2,000 Western New Yorkers have moved to the city of Charlotte and surrounding Mecklenburg County since 2004, according to The Buffalo News. Perhaps these homegrown hot dog lovers will help show their new Southern friends a better way to enjoy a baseball game.
“The general population in Charlotte is familiar with all-beef hot dogs,” Cauley said. “We constantly get asked if our product is all-beef. While we do have a Sahlen’s jumbo all-beef hot dog available, we always encourage them to try our Smokehouse Hot Dog, and they usually do. After the first bite, they are thrilled that we talked them into trying a Sahlen’s Smokehouse Hot Dog and say, ‘That’s the best hot dog I’ve ever had!’”
The Knights’ first home stand of the 2014 season begins on Friday, April 11. The team will serve Sahlen’s Hot Dogs at BB&T Ballpark for just $1 on three occasions this season: Monday, May 5; Monday, June 9; and Monday, August 25.
If you are starving for Sahlen’s outside of the ballpark, stop by Charlotte-area hot dog favorite JJ’s Red Hots at either the Dilworth (1514 East Blvd.) or Ballantyne (15105 N. John Delaney Drive) locations.
JJ’s Red Hots Ballantyne and Dilworth locations