Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives


At the Ballpark – BB&T Ballpark – Winston-Salem, NC
April 26, 2010, 1:12 am
Filed under: 2010, Reviews, Uncategorized

BB&T Ballpark - Click photo for more images of this visit

As you likely saw in my review of the former home of professional baseball in the city (Ernie Shore Field), Winston-Salem, NC is a city with a long baseball history. That history was to have yielded a new chapter in 2009 with the opening of a new downtown ballpark. The time came and passed for the move, however, and the same economy that hurt so many of the fans that regularly attend the home team’s games also hurt the home team. The freshly-renamed Dash played the 2009 season in Ernie Shore Field instead of their new digs, thanks to issues with financing and construction.

2010 brought with it a restructuring of the available finances and the completion of the Dash’s new downtown home. The 5500-seat BB&T Ballpark opened for business earlier this month, and has already played to multiple sellout crowds. Was the move to downtown Winston-Salem worth it? Let’s find out.

Concessions: B+

All ballparks will have their own growing pains as they get settled, and BB&T Ballpark is no exception. There are a lot of choices for food in the ballpark, as all of your traditional favorites are available, along with hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Domino’s Pizza and other choices. Prices are about average ($5 for a hamburger, for instance), and the value for the money is, for the most part, rather good.

The very good – but also very fattening – treat Southerners know as frozen custard is also available at the park, and comes in single or double scoop servings and in vanilla and chocolate flavors. The single scoop is inexpensive at $3, but the size of the scoop is really small. Though the custard is quite rich and refreshing, be careful to set your expectations a little lower. While speaking of desserts, the funnel cakes were cold and did not have much of a taste to them, so be cautious when ordering a funnel cake. Pepsi has pouring rights for the ballpark, so expect the Pepsi line of sodas to quench your thirst.

Atmosphere: A

The difference in atmosphere between this downtown park and the one in Greensboro (a half-hour east) is night and day. This may seem like an insult – please do not read it as such – but Winston-Salem is rather understated in its in-game experience. The park is really comfortable and fun without being corny and over-the-top.

There is a group of team employees called the “Dash Pack”, which includes the on-field emcee for the between-innings events. Most of the events are reasonably standard, including “Oh Snap”, a tug-of-war type game with two combatants attached to a bungee cord; “Air Guitar Hero”, which is exactly as it sounds – and equally as stupid; a kids’ joke contest and the Dash Pack performing the Thriller dance with the Dash mascot (a red creature named Bolt). The dance routine could be permanently removed and never missed.

The music soundtrack, however, is quite good, and – what a novel idea! — the team uses its video board to play music videos during pitching changes and inning breaks. The video board has a tremendous picture, and provides updates on each batter. I am unsure as to whether more “historical” data could be added (what the hitter had done in each previous at-bat), but that may be in the works. There is also a rotating LED ad board along the left field wall, and this replaces the usual signage along the outfield wall. This is a great use of space.

Sight lines: A-

I hate saying this, because I really feel as though I overuse it, but there are really very few bad seats in BB&T Ballpark. The box office and main entrance to the park are directly behind the center field fence, and after walking through the turnstiles, the entire field opens up before you. There is standing room virtually everywhere in the park, including a foot bridge over the entrance to both clubhouses in the right field corner. There is also a large berm area beyond the left field fence (which, as noted by our friends over at Ballpark Digest, serves as the general admission seating) that was rather popular on the night I attended – at least, before the rains started and those fans were invited into the seating bowl. The concourse also provides reasonably good views of the action, and there are televisions mounted on the walls in the concourse areas in the few areas where the game cannot be seen.

The lone bad areas are near the camera wells (there is on-field and off-field footage occasionally shown on the video board) and dugouts, and there are only three rows or so that are affected. It is also a bit tough to see into the left field corner from the third base seats, as the berm area blocks the extreme portion of the corner. All in all, though, this is a park that is truly designed with the fan in mind, as you have a great view of all the action on the field from just about all of the seats, and can even see the Winston Tower and a lot of the downtown area off in the distance.

Parking: B

The best recommendation I can give you is to get to the park early enough to park in the purple lot. This lot is actually on the property at the park, and though it costs you $5 to park, you are literally steps from the park, and, perhaps even better, just feet from the business loop of I-40 (co-signed as US 421). The $5 charge is a bit steep, but the convenience is a big help. There are also very helpful Winston-Salem police officers and Dash employees (more on this in a bit) to guide you into and out of the lots.

If you choose not to park in the purple lot (or the lot is full), there are plenty of places in the general vicinity of the ballpark, both free and paid. The Dash’s team website has a very helpful parking map, and it is strongly recommended to review that map before heading to the park, particularly if a large crowd is expected.

Quality of baseball: A

Anyone who knows me knows my history with the Carolina League. I grew up in a Carolina League city, and I have spent years going to see Carolina League games. This history has colored my “bias” toward the circuit in terms of the quality of baseball it sees.

That said, the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals high-A) featured the Royals’ top prospect, left-hander Mike Montgomery, and another top prospect in first baseman Eric Hosmer, while the homestanding Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox high-A) had won nine straight before the Blue Rocks defeated them in game one of the series. Hosmer (3-for-4, .456 average) and Montgomery (6 2/3 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 6 K) were as advertised, as the Blue Rocks defeated the Dash 7-3. The quality of play got a little more sloppy as the night advanced, primarily due to the wet conditions. One interesting note – and I cannot be sure whether this was due to the conditions – the ball did not seem to carry very well. There were several hard-hit balls, but only one (by Wilmington’s Eddie Prasch) left the park. I will be watching this park to see how the ball carries as the summer heat approaches.

Overall grade: A-

I talked to former Lynchburg Hillcats Director of Broadcasting Jon Schaeffer for a piece on life in the minor leagues in 2005, and he told me at the time that BB&T Coastal Field in Myrtle Beach was the “crown jewel of the Carolina League”. I love Myrtle Beach’s park – let that not be confused – but this park is great competition for that facility on South Carolina’s Grand Strand. The wide concourses, wide seats and open sight lines make for a really comfortable experience.

The other thing that truly struck me was how nice everyone was. I have seen a lot of parks in my travels, and I have met a ton of people who really like their job and appreciate those of us who patronize their facilities. Everyone I encountered at BB&T Ballpark, from ushers to ticket-takers to team store workers, was extremely friendly, and that made a great impression on me. I really enjoyed my visit, and I plan to return soon.

One other really cool feature (which I forgot to mention in the first draft of this piece) of the ballpark resides on the walls of the concourse.  There are plaques commemorating some of the great stars of years past in the Carolina League, including names such as Albert Pujols and Chipper Jones.  I love seeing ballparks that remember their history, and Winston-Salem certainly does this.  This is a great touch, and I wish more parks would implement ideas such as this.

How to get there:

The park is just off the business loop of I-40 and US 421, and is visible from the freeway. Exits 5A (NC 150/Peters Creek Parkway) or 5B (Broad) will get you to the park, and the facility is easily visible from either exit. If traveling on the conventional loop of I-40, exit 193 is signed for the stadium. More detailed directions are available on the team’s website.

Concessions: B+

All ballparks will have their own growing pains as they get settled, and BB&T Ballpark is no exception. There are a lot of choices for food in the ballpark, as all of your traditional favorites are available, along with hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Domino’s Pizza and other choices. Prices are about average ($5 for a hamburger, for instance), and the value for the money is, for the most part, rather good.

The very good – but also very fattening – treat Southerners know as frozen custard is also available at the park, and comes in single or double scoop servings and in vanilla and chocolate flavors. The single scoop is inexpensive at $3, but the size of the scoop is really small. Though the custard is quite rich and refreshing, be careful to set your expectations a little lower. While speaking of desserts, the funnel cakes were cold and did not have much of a taste to them, so be cautious when ordering a funnel cake. Pepsi has pouring rights for the ballpark, so expect the Pepsi line of sodas to quench your thirst.

Atmosphere: A

The difference in atmosphere between this downtown park and the one in Greensboro (a half-hour east) is night and day. This may seem like an insult – please do not read it as such – but Winston-Salem is rather understated in its in-game experience. The park is really comfortable and fun without being corny and over-the-top.

There is a group of team employees called the “Dash Pack”, which includes the on-field emcee for the between-innings events. Most of the events are reasonably standard, including “Oh Snap”, a tug-of-war type game with two combatants attached to a bungee cord; “Air Guitar Hero”, which is exactly as it sounds – and equally as stupid; a kids’ joke contest and the Dash Pack performing the Thriller dance with the Dash mascot (a red creature named Bolt). The dance routine could be permanently removed and never missed.

The music soundtrack, however, is quite good, and – what a novel idea! — the team uses its video board to play music videos during pitching changes and inning breaks. The video board has a tremendous picture, and provides updates on each batter. I am unsure as to whether more “historical” data could be added (what the hitter had done in each previous at-bat), but that may be in the works. There is also a rotating LED ad board along the left field wall, and this replaces the usual signage along the outfield wall. This is a great use of space.

Sight lines: A-

I hate saying this, because I really feel as though I overuse it, but there are really very few bad seats in BB&T Ballpark. The box office and main entrance to the park are directly behind the center field fence, and after walking through the turnstiles, the entire field opens up before you. There is standing room virtually everywhere in the park, including a foot bridge over the entrance to both clubhouses in the right field corner. There is also a large berm area beyond the left field fence (which, as noted by our friends over at Ballpark Digest, serves as the general admission seating) that was rather popular on the night I attended – at least, before the rains started and those fans were invited into the seating bowl. The concourse also provides reasonably good views of the action, and there are televisions mounted on the walls in the concourse areas in the few areas where the game cannot be seen.

The lone bad areas are near the camera wells (there is on-field and off-field footage occasionally shown on the video board) and dugouts, and there are only three rows or so that are affected. It is also a bit tough to see into the left field corner from the third base seats, as the berm area blocks the extreme portion of the corner. All in all, though, this is a park that is truly designed with the fan in mind, as you have a great view of all the action on the field from just about all of the seats, and can even see the Winston Tower and a lot of the downtown area off in the distance.

Parking: B

The best recommendation I can give you is to get to the park early enough to park in the purple lot. This lot is actually on the property at the park, and though it costs you $5 to park, you are literally steps from the park, and, perhaps even better, just feet from the business loop of I-40 (co-signed as US 421). The $5 charge is a bit steep, but the convenience is a big help. There are also very helpful Winston-Salem police officers and Dash employees (more on this in a bit) to guide you into and out of the lots.

If you choose not to park in the purple lot (or the lot is full), there are plenty of places in the general vicinity of the ballpark, both free and paid. The Dash’s team website has a very helpful parking map, and it is strongly recommended to review that map before heading to the park, particularly if a large crowd is expected.

Quality of baseball: A

Anyone who knows me knows my history with the Carolina League. I grew up in a Carolina League city, and I have spent years going to see Carolina League games. This history has colored my “bias” toward the circuit in terms of the quality of baseball it sees.

That said, the visiting Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals high-A) featured the Royals’ top prospect, left-hander Mike Montgomery, and another top prospect in first baseman Eric Hosmer, while the homestanding Winston-Salem Dash (White Sox high-A) had won nine straight before the Blue Rocks defeated them in game one of the series. Hosmer (3-for-4, .456 average) and Montgomery (6 2/3 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 6 K) were as advertised, as the Blue Rocks defeated the Dash 7-3. The quality of play got a little more sloppy as the night advanced, primarily due to the wet conditions. One interesting note – and I cannot be sure whether this was due to the conditions – the ball did not seem to carry very well. There were several hard-hit balls, but only one (by Wilmington’s Eddie Prasch) left the park. I will be watching this park to see how the ball carries as the summer heat approaches.

Overall grade: A-

I talked to former Lynchburg Hillcats Director of Broadcasting Jon Schaeffer for a piece on life in the minor leagues in 2005, and he told me at the time that BB&T Coastal Field in Myrtle Beach was the “crown jewel of the Carolina League”. I love Myrtle Beach’s park – let that not be confused – but this park is great competition for that facility on South Carolina’s Grand Strand. The wide concourses, wide seats and open sight lines make for a really comfortable experience.

The other thing that truly struck me was how nice everyone was. I have seen a lot of parks in my travels, and I have met a ton of people who really like their job and appreciate those of us who patronize their facilities. Everyone I encountered at BB&T Ballpark, from ushers to ticket-takers to team store workers, was extremely friendly, and that made a great impression on me. I really enjoyed my visit, and I plan to return soon.

How to get there:

The park is just off the business loop of I-40 and US 421, and is visible from the freeway. Exits 5A (NC 150/Peters Creek Parkway) or 5B (Broad) will get you to the park, and the facility is easily visible from either exit. If traveling on the conventional loop of I-40, exit 193 is signed for the stadium. More detailed directions are available on the team’s website.

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Most interesting review.While I haven’t been there,this makes me want to go.This sounds like a very friendly and intimate place to see good baseball.The park looks very nice and the quality of baseball sounds good.While major league games are becoming more and more costly,it is good to know that good baseball is almost right in our backyard,and we could be seeing the next Pro player for a small price in a hometown atmosphere.

Comment by jerry wilmer

Good review, wouldn’t mind seeing this one. Is it just me, or does the outfield seem kinda bland? Of course, with just that picture as my experience, I could be way off base.

Kinda reminds me of Haymarket Park a little. Looks like the field is somewhat sunken with the towns skyline in the background.

Comment by Ryan McDonald




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