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Grainger Stadium regains pro ball, sorry Sam Lynn loses it

Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC will once again host pro baseball in 2017. The Texas Rangers announced that they have purchased controlling interest in a Carolina League franchise that will begin play in Kinston in 2017. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram‘s story is here.

Grainger Stadium is no stranger to pro baseball, as it hosted a Carolina League franchise from 1986 through 2011. In 2012, the franchise moved to the stadium in Zebulon, NC, which had lost its double-A tenant when it moved to Pensacola, FL.

The move to Kinston is part of a two-step process, where the high-A California League will shrink from ten teams to eight and the Carolina League, also high-A, will increase by two teams, to a total of ten. The two franchises to be contracted from the Cal League are the Bakersfield Blaze and the High Desert Mavericks, who play in Adelanto, CA.

The park in Bakersfield in particular has been substandard for years.  Sam Lynn Ballpark is routinely rated at the bottom of the Cal League, and has often been referred to as the worst in affiliated Minor League Baseball. The city’s failure to provide its baseball team with a facility as nice as its minor-league hockey franchise has certainly led to the loss of the Blaze. This is truly a shame, not only because the city is a charter member of the Cal League, but also because the market would support pro baseball in an adequate facility. Read More

Turner Field to be bought by Georgia State

Turner Field, hosting its final season of Braves baseball, will be sold to Georgia State University for $30 million. The Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, with buy-off from the Atlanta City Council, announced the deal on August 18. Here’s the story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

The baseball stadium itself will be converted into a football stadium for Georgia State’s gridiron program. The University’s baseball program will also receive a new home, as a ballpark will be constructed near the site of the Braves’ former venue, Atlanta Fulton Country Stadium, which is part of the 67-acre site.

The University also plans to build student housing and commercial space on the property.

Not only will we be covering the final weekend of Braves games at Turner Field at the end of the season, we will also give you a preview of the Braves’ new stadium, currently under construction in Cobb County, north of Atlanta.

Fort Bragg Field is Ballpark of the Year

This is the 17th straight year that we’ve named a Ballpark of the Year, but it’s most definitely the first time the award has gone to a park where only one game was played.

Used for only one game, Fort Bragg Field is the 2016 Ballpark of the Year.  It was announced in an article in USA TODAY Sports Weekly (see photo). Pick up a copy on a newsstand near you to see our article on the three finalists: Jimmy John’s Field in Utica, Michigan; Spirit Communications Park in Columbia, South Carolina and the winner, Fort Bragg Field in North Carolina.

You can also read all about the award — with reaction from MLB headquarters, the architect, the man behind the playing field itself and even the commanding general at Fort Bragg — in our press release.

Here’s what the plaque looks like. Copies of this will go to Fort Bragg, Populous and MLB headquarters:


Feel free to add your comments about the park and/or the award below.

Dunked: Dunkin’ Donuts Park won’t open in 2016

The Eastern League has made formal what was widely expected:  the Hartford Yard Goats will play no games in Hartford this year. Dunkin’ Donuts Park, the $63-million ballpark that sits nearly finished in downtown Hartford, will not open in 2016.  The Hartford Courant‘s report can be found here.

The former New Britain Rock Cats had originally planned to move into the facility on April 7 of this year. However, last winter it became apparent that the facility wouldn’t be completed by then, so the home opener was pushed back to May 31.  The revised plan called for the park to finished by May 17 so the team could get the park ready for baseball by the end of the month. When that failed to occur, the Eastern League decided to push back the opener indefinitely.

A series of charges and countercharges then began to fly between the developer of the park and Hartford’s mayor. A lawsuit was filed by the developer to force the city to permit them to complete the work. With the situation now embroiled in a court battle, the official announcement came Friday that there would be no baseball at the facility in 2016.

Not since the Winston-Salem Warthogs failed to open their new park (originally scheduled to debut in April 2009) for a whole year has there been a ballpark story of this magnitude. However, the Warthogs had the ability to return to their old park in Winston-Salem for the 2009 season because they weren’t changing markets. The Yard Goats, though, can’t do that. Even though their previous home is only nine miles away in New Britain, that ballpark recruited a new tenant, leaving the Yard Goats with nowhere to return to. Their games have largely been played at the visiting team’s home or in Norwich, CT. That makes Hartford’s situation even worse than Winston-Salem’s.

Of course, the Winston-Salem franchise (which cleverly changed its nickname to the Dash) opened BB&T Ballpark the next year, and it was named our 2010 Ballpark of the Year. To this day, they are always among the league leaders in attendance … so there can be happy endings to these sagas.

In-depth review of Fort Bragg Field

My in-depth review of Fort Bragg Field is now available. It features 25 photos and all of my behind-the-scenes observations of the impressive ballpark that was built for only one game, then was dismantled. Click here to read it.

You’ll learn what Major League Baseball had to go through to get approval, and then to pull off this herculean undertaking at the world’s largest military base. You’ll read what soldiers at the installation thought, and what the game-day experience was for them. And you’ll learn why a chair was left empty.

And perhaps most importantly, you’ll come to understand why MLB did this (short answer: to show appreciation to our military). After all, they sunk millions of dollars into building a temporary ballpark and then uprooting a game that was supposed to be played in Atlanta, all so our servicemen and women and their families could attend a Major League game for free.

It’s a great story, one that I’m honored to be able to share with you, since I got to see it all myself.

After reading both pages, please leave a comment at the bottom of the second page with your thoughts on the event, the park or the review.

A peek at Petco

San Diego, one of America’s prettiest cities (and the one with arguably the best weather), is hosting the MLB All Star Game for the first time since 1992. This time, though, it’s at Petco Park, which opened in 2004. Let’s take a look at this gorgeous ballpark.

The current home of the Padres is in downtown San Diego. Their previous home, called Jack Murphy Stadium until 1997 when it adopted its current name, Qualcomm Stadium, is located in Mission Valley, about nine miles northeast of Petco. Qualcomm is still the home of the NFL Chargers, at least through the 2016 season. The team can opt to join the Rams in Los Angeles after this year if they choose, which would leave the future of Qualcomm Stadium in doubt.

The future of baseball in San Diego is not in doubt, though. The Padres’ lease at Petco lasts until 2030 (or earlier if the original bonds are retired sooner). The team then has two options to extend their stay by five years.

HOK (now called Populous) was the architect for Petco, based on a design by Antoine Predock. Including the acquisition of land, it cost $453 million to build, of which $146 million came from the team and the rest from various city taxes and the selling of bonds.

And it’s significant to note that it was our Ballpark of the Year for 2004, even though Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia opened that same season.

The completion of the ballpark was delayed several times during its construction. One delay was over a court decision that invalidated a ballot initiative (that had already been approved by voters) and another was over the planned demolition of a building.  That structure was the Western Metal Supply Company building, which had been designated a historic landmark. The solution? Keep the building, and incorporate it into the design of the ballpark. Today, its southern corner acts as the left-field foul pole, and its interior has been converted to bars and group areas. Porches were added to its front to provide a wonderful view of the field, and its roof is a great party area. The photo below was taken from it.


That building isn’t the only special feature of Petco. Its Park At The Park is a 2.7-acre grassy patch beyond the park’s outfield. It’s perfect for families with kids who’d rather play whiffle ball or run to and fro than watch the game. The parents can keep tabs on both the kids and game via the chunk of the field visible from the area and on a huge video screen.

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