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Monday, June 07, 2010

Local Guest Post

Play Ball at BB&T Ballpark
by Yarddawg

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.” ~Greg, age 8

This will not about be a critique on the name of the Winston-Salem Dash. Only a passing mention of the new mascot is necessary as most kids will change allegiances as quickly as a puppy does when the next person offers it a table scrap. Nor will there be jokes about the Dash logo and there is no need to rehash the well rehashed saga of the ballpark. The story has been well documented. This IS about the new BB&T Ballpark and what a place it is. It is simply first class and a local gem for the city.

The ballpark is as nice –albeit on a smaller scale- as any Major League ballpark I have ever been in. One Chicago White Sox executive stated the players would not play in a better facility until they made the Big Leagues and I completely agree. And remember this is Class A ball, the lowest of the three classes (A, AA, & AAA) in Minor League Baseball.

Technical Stuff

The playing field - For starters, the wide concourse surrounds the entire field and you can watch the action, standing, circumnavigating a full 360° around the facility, or sitting from almost any vantage point with excellent sightlines. The playing field is asymmetrical with many wall angles with nooks and crannies and varying outfield wall heights to make things interesting for both baseball purists and casual fans alike by creating some potential pin-ball machine like careens for the outfielders. Right-field features home run “porch” seats so if you plan to sit there bring a glove to help retrieve souvenir balls. Pull hitters will be tempted by the short 323 foot right field corner where the wall is only about 3 ½ tall. Center field is deeeep and the wall is very tall. Starting in left center-field, a LED board (it is the left field wall) extends for 200 linear feet, all the way to the left-field foul pole. The left-field “power alley is only 363 feet with an 8 foot wall which means excitement for fans and the possibility this will be a hitters park. It sure looks like it should be but prevailing winds and other conditions are never known until enough games are played over the course of the season. The playing field itself is a perfectly manicured hybrid Bermuda grass, Tifway 419, which has long been the gold standard for athletic field, natural playing surfaces. This warm season grass will only get better as the summer heat and humidity builds. Sorry, I couldn’t resist my M.O.

In the stands – BB&T Ballpark is ultra-modern in every respect but has the feel of a vintage park from days gone but with modern amenities. There are 5,500 permanent seats, a grassy area for sitting on a blanket. Opening night over 7,000 watched the game. The seating, with a panoramic view of downtown Winston-Salem, is definitely “uptown” and all seats are very close to the playing field. In the seats around home plate it will be possible to hear the manager and umpire discuss “world events” if you know what I mean. There is a not bad seat in the house. The huge 28 x 40 foot state of the art LED scoreboard is Major League quality complete with animation, video capability and other gizmos. There is also a kid’s zone behind the center-field wall. The ample sound system is targeted in a manner to keep the sound inside the ballpark and keep “leaking” into the surrounding neighborhood to a bare minimum.

Other stuff

Games - There will be 70 home games this season which started April 8th with games running until September 6th. During the season up to 250 locals will be employed for each game. 70% of the construction sub-contractors were also locally based.

Concessions – Someone once said; “A hotdog at a ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz”. Food options include Kernel Kustard, Chick-Fil-A, Dominos Pizza, Natty Greene’s Brewery. Dippin Dots ice cream, popcorn, Cracker Jacks, peanuts, frozen custard soda’s, cold beers, nachos and more. All the good stuff. Concession stands are located on the first and third base sides and behind home plate. Another concession stand, The Blue Rhino Backyard, is reserved for groups attending games and is laid out superbly with many way cool, half-moon, picnic tables for unrestricted views of the action. Founders Club members have access to the Womble Carlyle Club which serves a full nightly buffet with two entrees, plus sides, a hot dog bar, a full service bar, and several draft beer dispensing points. Members get four complimentary beers, per ticket, per game. The club area has tremendous views of the action as well as great views of downtown.

Extra – There is plenty of between inning entertainment and antics for those that go to the games for things other than baseball. The entertainment aspect enhances the experience but can be a bit over-the-top for baseball purists but that’s simply the way it is in this era of fan sportstainment. The Kids Zone in center-field is an expansive 12,000 square-feet (about the size of one of those new, ever popular, Boovie McMansions) and easily accessible from all directions inside the park. A new open air entertainment section for young adults in left-field is planned to open for the 2011 season. The area was originally intended as the bullpen. Parking on game day is not a problem. “Bolt”, the mascot is all over the place. The customer service is first-class.

There is so much to be proud of in this facility and it will take me several more visits to fully take everything in. Wake Forest Ballpark (formerly Ernie Shore Field) is still a good place to enjoy baseball. BB&T Ballpark takes viewing to a whole other level. It is simply an outstanding facility and an excellent addition to downtown. It is a great place to see a game and be seen. I give it the ultimate muy suave rating.
- Yarddawg

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