In North Carolina, there are a bevy of ballpark options for the distinguished fan. It can also be a paradise for the ballpark hunter to enjoy during the baseball season. However, the real fans are those living in the area trying to decide what to do on a summer night. Two newer facilities are making that choice a little easier. The Winston-Salem Dash and Greensboro Grasshoppers are separated by 33 miles featuring modern, comfortable downtown ballparks that have everything one would want when attending a ballgame.
BB&T Ballpark, home of the Single-A Carolina League Dash, is one of those ballparks that should peak the interest of the most skeptical baseball fan. The stadium incorporates a grass berm, outfield seating, a bridge and an outdoor bar that encourages fans to drink local beer. It is a downtown ballpark that does not necessarily feel like a downtown ballpark, despite its propinquity to downtown bars and shops.
There are a variety of other ballparks in the vicinity, and the Dash make every attempt to cater to the populace in the surrounding cities. Team Director of Media Relations/Radio Brian Boesch explains:
“Almost every fan who takes in a Dash home game enjoys their experience. The ballpark tends to have something for everyone. Those who may not love baseball love the between-inning entertainment and the concourse’s offerings. I’m sure there are some who liked the old school style of Ernie Shore Field [the teams erstwhile home], but the overwhelming majority of fans prefer BB&T Ballpark.”
There are a few who enjoy the older facilities, but they are among the minority in today’s baseball world. Gone are the simple ballparks with the simple seats, serving simple food to a simple crowd enjoying the simple game of baseball. The modern ballpark is a force to be reckoned with, and newer facilities stand as symbols of their communities where there’s an assortment of reasons why fans enter a ballpark.
Another symbol of its community is NewBridge Bank Park in Greensboro, a facility that attracts a similar fanbase, is situated with a view of the downtown skyline and offers a splash fountain at its entrance. The home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the Single-A South Atlantic League also offers many comforts as grass seating, an assortment of food and other conveniences.
On the night of my visit, the grass area was for dogs and their owners. For a Tuesday, the stadium was in a celebratory mood. I am not sure if team owners count the number of canines in the stadium for the official attendance, but perhaps it is something to ponder for future seasons. This scene is mimicked in other minor league stadiums across the country.
The facility also offers a place for the family to bring their children – an entertainment option that satisfies both parent and child. Kim Adolph, a mother of three who frequents the ballpark to watch baseball with her husband and have her kids play at the same time, explains:
“The kids could care less about the game. Hopefully that will change now that they’re older, so we let them play at the playground and we can still watch the game. You can see the field and watch the kids at the same time. There is no way the kids would ever sit still in their seats and let us watch.”
In the end, both ballparks should suffice the tastes of their local communities. And, with other venues in nearby Burlington, Durham, Zebulon, and even more around the state of North Carolina, it is vital to have that certain je ne sais quoi. When your ballpark is less than ten-years-old, you may just have that advantage to attract a larger crowd. As for this ballpark hunter, these are two ballparks I can cross off the bucket list as the journey continues.
Marc Viquez is a contributing author for Ballpark Business (www.ballparkbiz.com). A fan of baseball for most of his life, Marc has been traveling around the country writing about minor league baseball since 2001 for various websites and print publications. When he is not searching down a ballpark, he can be found teaching middle school in Indianapolis, Indiana.