|When the Kinston Indians moved to Zebulon (NC) after the 2011 season, there seemed a very slim chance that Grainger Stadium would ever host a full season team again. What other team would want to move into an older park that lacks the amenities that a new park can offer? It was surprising to me that the city did not try to attract an Appalachian League team or even a summer collegiate league team. Instead, they stuck to their guns, and made a push to get another Carolina League team to move here. Even after the proposed move of the Wilmington Blue Rocks to Kinston fell through, the city (with the help of the Texas Rangers) kept pushing. Finally, in August of 2016, it was announced that two California League teams would be shifted to the Carolina League. This opened the door for Grainger Stadium to once again be home to a Carolina League team. As a fan of old-time minor league ballparks, nothing makes me happier than to see them get a second life. Prior to the 2017 season, some renovations were completed including a new concession stand, a new field, and the installation of padding on the outfield walls. Additional renovations are planned for future years. All in all, this is simply a wonderful place to take in a ballgame. It is comfortable, relaxing, and fans are into the game.
- The grandstand has a beautiful roof that keeps the fans shaded and dry. I only wish they had some big ceiling fans which would allow for some air circulation.
- Almost more than any other place I’ve been, the fans seem genuinely into the game. This makes for a great atmosphere as it really feels like everyone is just there to watch baseball. You just don’t find this at many minor league ballparks.
- A new grassy berm as well as a couple rows of seats have been installed down the first base line. This is a great area for fans to mingle and hang out.
- The team has really embraced the Wood Ducks, with many duck references around the ballparks. One of the coolest is the duck blind that has been constructed as part of the home bullpen.
- Behind the grandstand on the first base side is an area with picnic tables which anyone can use. In addition, there is a grassy area where cornhole games can be played and kids can play catch.
- Right in front of the press box, there still exists a row of the original wooden seats. While many are broken (and probably uncomfortable to sit in), it is nice when there is a nod to the past history.
- The mascot (Dewd, an acronym for Down East Wood Ducks) is quite active throughout the game.
- A small team store is located underneath the grandstand.
- As part of the renovations before the 2017 season, a small playground was created in the right field corner. It is completely fenced in, so parents don’t need to worry about their kids getting hit with foul balls.
- A water tower with the Wood Ducks logo on it is visible past the left field fence.
- The overall atmosphere is pretty laid back, though they do play some music and do the typical between inning contests.
- The entire grandstand is protected by netting, meaning the sightlines are somewhat obstructed. The bleachers down the left field line and the berm on the first base side provide clear views of the field.
- The scoreboard is very hard to see in the daylight. Hopefully, there are plans to replace it as the video screen as well the linescore portion are both almost impossible to see when it is bright out.
- The box seats are simply made up of plastic folding chairs, rather than the nicer green fold downs that are installed elsewhere in the main grandstand. While having real boxes is cool and harkens back to a different era, not having real seats seems odd.
It’s nice to know that professional baseball can still be played at a vintage ballpark like Grainger Stadium. The crowds may not be as big and the seats may not be as comfortable, but is still a great experience to take in a game at a place like this. These ballparks are few and far between nowadays, especially in affiliated minor league baseball. Other than the high concession prices, there is nothing not to like here. Simply put, there are few places I would rather see a game.
- There are two main concession stands, one behind the grandstand on the third base side and one along the first base side. Additional carts are set up along the concourse behind home plate.
- For an older ballpark, prices are not as cheap as what you’d expect with most items being $4 or more. In fact some of the prices are higher than what you will find at a major league park.
- Most of the typical ballpark food is available including hot dogs ($4), sausages ($7), chicken tenders ($8), nachos ($5.50), pretzels ($4.75), french fries ($5.50), and pizza slices ($4).
- The limited amount of concession stands means the lines will be long on nights when crowds are large, though this is not a frequent occurrence.