Mythical feline spotted in downtown Albemarle

Tuesday morning saw reported sightings of a mythical cat prowling downtown Albemarle.

The origins of the wampus cat, similar to tales of Bigfoot, date back to Cherokee legends, along with sightings in newspaper reports from as recently as the 1960s in the Appalachian Mountains.

Recent history has locals claiming they have seen the wampus cat in the Uwharrie Forest.

This cat, unlike its predecessors, is a mischievous trickster who endears himself to children with his enormous eyes and stubbly beard.

Now, the wampus cat has resurfaced, and will soon live off U.S. Highway 52 in Albemarle.

Officials from the city of Albemarle along with members of the media were briefed Tuesday morning at Tiffany’s at the Boardroom about the Uwharrie Wampus Cats, the new name and logo for the collegiate wood-bat baseball team coming to town.

According to the lease signed by the City of Albemarle and Sullimak Entertainment LLC, the new team will have exclusive use of Don Montgomery Park (DMP) from May through August for an independent wood-bat baseball team. Sullimak is based in North Carolina and owns another independent baseball team, the Carolina Disco Turkeys of Winston-Salem.

The lease states the city will spend $10,700 to improve the park, including $4,000 for bathroom fixtures and partitions, $2,000 for 10 picnic tables and $1,000 for new trash cans. The field will get a new sound system along with a new refrigerator and freezer for the concession stand.

Sullimak will spend $4,000 to replace fencing in right field near the bullpen, along with new VIP seating near the press box. According to the lease, the team will get 50 cents of credit for each dollar spent on improving the field, with an upper limit of $2,000.

Greg Sullivan, the owner of the Wampus Cats, spoke to the media Tuesday as the new team name and logo were revealed.

Sullivan graduated from the University of Georgia journalism school and worked for several newspapers, including having covered the Nashville Predators of the NHL, Vanderbilt University and the AAA baseball team Nashville Sounds. He also taught journalism for four years at two colleges in the Philadelphia area.

The company also owns the Carolina Disco Turkeys, another independent team who will compete with the Wampus Cats in what Sullivan called the Highway 52 Rivalry Cup, for the road connecting the two cities.

“In the weeks and months before Opening Day, things will continue to be in motion,” Sullivan said about the changes to DMP. ”I think we’re going to have some fun this summer.”

Regarding the new team name, Sullivan said Wampus Cats “may not have been what everyone was predicting…maybe it was.”

The team is named Uwharrie, the owner said, because the group feels “like Albemarle is a regional hub and capital for the Uwharrie region, a place where people from counties that border Stanly come to spend their summertime.”

“We want to be something the community rallies behind in Albemarle and Stanly County, but we want to draw people from as far as Monroe, Denton, Mount Pleasant. Even people from Charlotte that spend a weekend at the lake stop on a Friday night and watch the game with us,” Sullivan said.

The color scheme of yellow, brown and an orange color, Sullivan said, harkens back to the throwback days of the San Diego Padres from the 1970s.

“We want something that works within the tradition of baseball that isn’t too foreign to the sport and its traditions, but it really stands out,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also mentioned the community will have the opportunity in the coming months to give the new mascot a name.

Jerry Min, who works for Sullimak, said the partnership between the new team and city “can make a big difference.”

“We’re not doing anything just for us,” Min said. “We’re doing it for the community, whether it’s adding some new bleachers, improving the concessions stand, improving the lighting, those are things that benefit everybody.

“It’s a long-term thing — it’s not just about this season, it’s about the seasons to come,” Min said.

The team has scheduled games against other collegiate wood-bat teams, including the Boone Bigfoots and Wilmington Sharks of the Coastal Plains League and the Queen City Corn Dogs of the Southern Collegiate Baseball League.

“We’re going to have a blast this summer,” Sullivan said.