Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At the Ballpark – Knights Stadium, Fort Mill, SC
April 14, 2008, 8:35 am
Filed under: 2008, Reviews

Knights Stadium

Knights Stadium – Fort Mill, SC

The baseball history in Charlotte, North Carolina runs deeper than most. Names from Tony Oliva to Harmon Killebrew to Cal Ripken to Manny Ramirez have roamed various pastures in the Queen City and surrounding suburbs. The legendary Griffith Park (later renamed Crockett Park) was the victim of arson in 1985, and the franchise relocated to Fort Mill, South Carolina in 1989, playing in a temporary facility until the current Knights Stadium was completed.

Charlotte’s baseball history book is currently awaiting the addition of another page, as an attempt is underway to bring a new ballpark to the 3rd Ward area of Charlotte. This would return baseball to North Carolina and would continue the revitalization of the center city. A number of attempts have been made through the legal system to stop the facility; all of the attempts have thus far failed.

We know that a movement is afoot for a new facility in North Carolina’s largest market, but is there anything wrong with the current one? Let’s find out.

Concessions: B

If it’s food variety you crave, Knights Stadium is a good place. All the typical ballpark favorites are here (nachos, popcorn, hot dogs, et al), along with some unusual offerings. There is a Papa John’s Pizza location (not recommended, as the pizza was chewy and not very hot, especially at a $5 price point), as well as a Subway location and several other standalone eateries throughout the concourse. The cheeseburger basket is a nice value, as $4.50 gets you a decent-sized and passable cheeseburger, as well as a bag of Lay’s chips. Buy your sodas in the souvenir size, as they are $3.50 in the souvenir cup versus a somewhat high $3 in 20 ounce bottles.

Knights Stadium also features the Home Run Cafe on the general admission level of the stadium, which is more of a full-service dining experience. This establishment offers great views of the game through the huge windows, as well as everything from salads to cheesesteak sandwiches to quesadillas. The cafe also offers three different all-you-can-eat theme days on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Prices are on par with most facilities at this level, and the food selection is quite good – just steer clear of the pizza and the bottled sodas.

Atmosphere: B

(Ed. note:  This is a new category as of the final review of 2007  This replaces “Between-Innings Entertainment” and “Promotions”.)

I commented in my previous review of L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, NC that the public address system was really hard to hear in certain sections of the seating bowl, and Knights Stadium has the same issue. I spent the first few innings of the game sitting at one of the picnic tables on top of the berm section down the right field line, and I had to strain to hear the announcement of the players. Of course, when I moved to the upper deck general admission section, it was considerably louder – almost too much so. If the sound could be evened out a bit, this would be a nice touch.

Promotions-wise, there were quite a few nice touches at Knights Stadium. The first 2000 fans received Charlotte Knights wall calendars, which were decent enough giveaways. The better giveaway, however, is the free program I received upon entering the stadium. The program is an actual magazine-like book, and features coupons to several local establishments, rosters for both teams, some bios on Knights players and much more. Considering how most teams love to gouge fans for programs in their parks, this was a pleasant surprise. The other promotion on the evening was the typical Saturday night fireworks display. Anyone who reads my reviews knows my love of fireworks displays, and this one was very well put together.

The between-innings entertainment was, for the most part, fairly pedestrian. This is not such a bad thing, as the Charlotte market focuses mainly on the on-field action. Charlotte’s racing history came into play here, as there was the dizzy bat race, the mascot race and a race of two children on customized bicycles made to look like choppers. There was also a very lame effort at a contest that featured two children trying to do push-ups, and the one that completed the most won a prize.

One final note – the on-field emcee needs to avoid giving play-by-play of every single thing that happens in a contest. I was so happy for the end of the contests for the obvious reason of the return of baseball, but also because the emcee would finally be quiet.

Sight lines: A

The park does not look like anything special as you approach the entrance, but once inside, the view is rather beautiful. The game action is visible from just about everywhere in the park except for the concourses in the general admission upper deck area. There are berm areas down each line, and a series of picnic tables at the top of the right-field berm that provide a comfortable seat and a great view. The general admission seats, while rather high, still provide a great view of the action on the field. The advantage to the upper deck is that you can see a play develop from above, which is handy if a runner is trying to score from second on a ball hit to the outfield. There is no wraparound concourse in the park, but the concourse areas that do exist are nice and wide and provide good views of the game action.

Parking: B

Parking will never be a problem at Knights Stadium. There is a figurative sea of open parking places surrounding the stadium, and there are two lanes for entering the parking area and the same two lanes for exiting after the game. There are two methods of entrance and exit, as well, which is very helpful in terms of traffic control.

The one downfall of the parking area is the cost. The Knights charge $3 to park in their vast lots, and with no public transit serving the stadium, this is disappointing. There is no excuse to charge patrons to park when there are as many spaces as there are here.

Quality of baseball: B

Charlotte defeated Columbus 9-4 on the night I attended, and with both clubs in the Triple-A International League (affiliated with the White Sox and Nationals, respectively), the overall play was about what one would expect. Most of the Columbus players are former big leaguers, as well as quite a few players on the Knights’ squad. Columbus starter Jason Stanford pitched four innings, giving up eight hits and six earned runs, while walking out three and striking out three. Amazingly enough, this actually lowered his ERA from 16.62 to 15.12. The offenses were on full display here, as both teams combined for 13 runs and 23 hits.

Overall grade: B+

A lot of people who have visited this park have less nice things to say about it, as the drive to South Carolina (though short) and lack of ambiance behind the outfield wall turn some people off. The key thing about this park is that it is truly a comfortable baseball viewing experience. There are some annoyances (lose the “Cotton Eyed Joe” and other typical corny ballpark music, guys, especially when you had a great soundtrack of music playing before the game), but overall, it just really felt good to be at this park. There are also quite a few really nice souvenir choices, but avoid the team store unless you are not prone to claustrophobia.

How to get there:

Knights Stadium is just off Interstate 77 (look for the water tower painted like a baseball) at exit 88, Gold Hill Road. The exit is the second exit into (or second-to-last leaving, depending on the direction from which you are approaching) South Carolina. Follow the signs and lights, as the stadium is just off the interstate.

How I got there:

The trip

Total trip time (one-way): 17 miles (20 minutes).

You may also want to see:

  • Columbia, SC. Columbia is about an hour or so (approximately 70 miles) south of the park via Interstate 77, and is known mainly for being the home of the University of South Carolina. The Riverbanks Zoo can also be located in Columbia, and is a great place to take kids of any age for a short day trip.
  • Charlotte. The center city area of Charlotte is about 13 miles or 15 minutes north of Fort Mill, and is one of the business and entertainment meccas of both North Carolina and the south. The Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Bobcats and Charlotte Checkers hockey team all call the city home, and the city itself is divided into a number of diverse “neighborhoods” that offer fine dining and quality entertainment. The historic Lowe’s Motor Speedway NASCAR facility is also north of the city in Concord, and is reachable via Interstate 85.

 

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