Ballpark Review: BB&T Ballpark - Winston-Salem, NC

BBT Ballpark - Ticket to the Game

BB&T Ballpark logo

BB&T Ballpark logo

This morning, when I woke up, I realized I saw the wrong game in Winston-Salem yesterday.  I caught the 12:00 noon game of a day/night doubleheader. While we had a great time even though the home team lost 5-0 in just over 2 hours, the second game was a contest for the ages. The Dash won game 2 in 20 innings over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.  I hate to think I missed a game by “that much” where the second baseman spent 7 innings in left field before he came in to pitch in the 20th and ended up with the win after 5 hours and 30 minutes. (Box Score / Recap)

The morning action was uneventful, as Myrtle Beach jumped on top in the first, and held the Dash to just 3 singles. As expected for a weekday afternoon game, the crowd was sparse as well.  However, that really gave us more freedom to explore the park and take it all in.

BBT Ballpark - view from beyond LF

BBT Ballpark - view from beyond LF

This is a GREAT new park. It’s a retro-style park – brickwork and girders, wide open concourses, and great sightlines from most seats. The seating is very vertical, in that the 20th row still remains very close to the field, as opposed to being pitched way back.  However, in such a small park (capacity is around 7,100, including lawn seating) it doesn’t give you any sense of vertigo.

We purchased field box seats for $11 a ticket, the second tier of price points, but our location was ideal.  in Section 106, we were at the end of the home dugout and right on top of the action at 1st base. Had we pulled a kid out of school, we would have ended up with a couple of baseballs without much effort from this vantage.

Section 106 also gave us another great vantage point… the bullpens are right there in foul territory, and there’s really not enough foul ground to do this in.  The two plates for the bullpen catchers are probably no more than 10 feet from the stands and 15 feet from foul territory.  We saw an errant throw end up in fair territory after it glanced off the catcher’s glove.  Fortunately they were between pitches.  I’m not sure if these are temporary bullpens or not (there’s an empty concrete area in left center that might be the eventual bullpen), but I like where they are, it really adds to the intimacy of the park, as you’re that much more on top of the players.

The field was in gorgeous condition. I have to claim a mea culpa here.  I was very skeptical that the grass wouldn’t hold up as I thought it was installed way too close to the beginning of the season to take root.  However, despite of the heavy rains NC has seen over the last few days, the grass was immaculate.  My bad.  Great job Dash Grounds Crew.

BB&T Ballpark - RF

BB&T Ballpark - RF anomaly and pedestrian bridge

Park dimensions are fair, if not a little short down the lines (315 to the left field corner).  The most interesting artifact is a “nook” in dead right field  an area where the fence just juts back into a grotto that reminded me of center field in the Polo Grounds. It didn’t come in to play in our game, but a ball where the right-fielder is beaten deep could create some very interesting bounces.  Also note the cool pedestrian bridge above the area that helps bring people around the park. (Park entrance was in right center field, so everyone has to cross this bridge to reach the main concourse.

The way the park is built into the hill also adds to the intimacy of the setting, again without feeling claustrophobic.  Despite all the struggles to build this place, their efforts paid off.  This is a great place to see the game. For the most part, this is a model of what a Carolina League game should feel like. Beautiful park, nice people, weird (really weird) between innings promotions… the works.

Where this park is lacking right now is in a concession identity.  The temporary Team store is sparse, and built into the back half of the Press Box, as an example. Where identity really lacked was in the ballpark fare.  Food options were really basic and didn’t have any local flavor.  As luck would have it, the best stand in the park was right behind our section.  They had a carving station with a BBQ sandwich and a nice brisket hoagie.  It’s also the only stand that sells a premium hotdog, including a Carolina Dog with chili and slaw, and a very nice representation of a Chicago dog with all the fixings… the peppers and celery salt really stood out, but all in all a very solid dog. I’m not a big drinker, but the Natty Greene’s Amber Ale was a nice local compliment as well.

But the place needs identity in this area.  You’re in Winston-Salem NC – the heart of barbecue country and all you offer is a little generic sandwich?  You need a Boog’s of Baltimore level barbecue pit, and maybe a Krispy Kreme stand (Krispy Kreme founded not all that far away).  The only local vendor we saw was Kernel Kustard… a popcorn and ice cream vendor, where the popcorn was reasonably priced but somewhat unremarkable.

For now, this is nitpicking.  Due to delays and snafus, getting the doors open was a bit rushed, so to that extent, I’ll give them a pass on some details.  The bones are here for a fantastic ballpark, and the window dressing will come with time. Sprinkle in a few more unforgettable moments like last night’s 20 inning marathon, and you’ve got the makings of an instant classic.

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