Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – Burlington Athletic Stadium, Burlington, NC
August 6, 2009, 2:53 am
Filed under: 2009, Reviews

Click photo for more pictures from this visit

At the Ballpark – Burlington Athletic Stadium, Burlington, NC

Burlington Athletic Stadium holds a pretty interesting distinction. The park itself was actually constructed in Danville, VA in the mid-1950s before being transported 55 miles or so south to Burlington and rebuilt. Burlington, despite being a rather small market, has a pretty strong baseball history. This history is at least partially on display upon arrival at the park, as an “all-time” Burlington team’s photos adorn one of the walls along the stadium walkway. Many impressive names, including Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, have called Burlington home.

The affiliation in Burlington has now changed to that of the Kansas City Royals. Do the Royals have the same kind of magic as the Indians before them? Let’s find out.

Concessions: D

This was disappointing. I’ve been to a number of small ballparks (Burlington only seats 3500), and the effort was still made to have some sort of presentation. Unfortunately, there’s not much of one here.

I ordered the nachos and was given a tray, a bag of chips and a canister of cheese. The price wasn’t horrible (I guess), but how hard is it to heat up some cheese and put it on tortilla chips? There are very few heated options at the park, as cheeseburgers and hamburgers are not even on the menu at the main concession stand, the pizza is taken from a stand-up warming unit and very few other choices exist.

One positive is that you can get Cheerwine from the fountain at the park, so the Diet Cheerwine I ordered was a nice touch. My best recommendation is to eat before you get to the park, but save room for a Cheerwine or an RC cola.

Atmosphere: A

If you like baseball, baseball and nothing but baseball, this is your place. There are very few between-innings promotions, and the ones they do offer are over quickly. There is the requisite mascot race, and a few other small items got tossed in as well. The people are tremendously friendly (and most seem to know each other), the music selection is good and Burlington is just a comfortable place to watch a game. The feeling is tough to quantify, but you’ll know if you ever get a chance to visit.

One other touch that I loved – and I first saw this in Dunedin, which led to a great email exchange between one of their team employees and myself – was that a team employee personally thanked patrons as they left the ballpark. In a time where people all over are having to watch expenses due to poor economic conditions, this is a gesture that costs a team absolutely nothing and can earn them so much more. Fans love giveaways, but they also love to be shown appreciation. Great move by the Royals.

Sight lines: B

This grade may go up a bit on a night with less fans in attendance, but for the night I was there, there were a few times where I had problems seeing things. The only seats available were at the picnic tables down the left field line, which may or may not be open when the ballpark is not at capacity. Most of the action is still visible from this area, but be warned that you will be looking through a chain link fence if you are sitting down.

One of the bigger positives of the ballpark is also a negative at times. There is a standing room area down the left field line where you can stand literally feet from the Royals’ bullpen, and watch pitchers warm up and talk to them. I love this feature in ballparks, and have since I first saw it in Myrtle Beach’s ballpark in the late 1980s, but when relievers are standing up, your view of the plate can sometimes be a bit obstructed.

Parking: B

Burlington Athletic Stadium offers what should be plenty of parking for a normal night at the park. The night I attended, however, several fans mentioned this was the biggest crowd they had ever witnessed there, and the parking lot reflected this. There is a gravel lot behind the third base side, which is free (as it should be), but it quickly became full. There is street parking along the surface streets on either side of the park, which is probably a better play than trying to fumble with finding a parking space in the lot. The route leaving the park is a bit tough (more on this later), but not slow.

Quality of baseball: D

I will again insert my standard disclaimer here. I realize that players at this level have host families, and that they are all just out of high school and college. A lot of them are still learning the game. I get that. That said…

The Elizabethton Twins defeated the homestanding Royals 4-3. The game was not really as close as the score would indicate, as the Royals were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base. The home team had two batters in the lineup with averages over .250 as the game ended. Most of the players on the Royals club were younger guys who were still learning fundamentals, while the Twins club had more college players and more “advanced” talent. I will be interested to watch how both sets of players develop as they advance through their respective systems.

Overall grade: B

Burlington Athletic Stadium is old, and that is evident in a visit here, but old can be good. There is nothing really outstanding about this park, but it is quite enjoyable in its own way. The good (nice people, intimate feel, parking – for the most part) far outweighs the bad (concessions, weird seating area and horrendous post-game fireworks show). This was definitely a park that earned another visit if I’m ever in the area.

How to get there:

There is not really an easy way to get to Burlington Athletic Stadium. The stadium is in a city park setting, and is thus not near a major thoroughfare. The closest road into and out of Burlington is US 70. The easiest way to get to the stadium is to follow the directions on the team’s website, which are as follows:

From I40/85: Take exit 145. Head North on Maple Ave. and go approx. 2 miles. Take a right onto Mebane St.. Continue on Mebane St. for 2 miles. Take a right onto Beaumont Ave. Follow Beaumont Ave. until it ends; the stadium is on the left.