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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
While the Carolina Mudcats may lack the history and movie sashay of the Durham Bulls, Five County Stadium provides a solid experience for minor league baseball. Built in the middle of nowhere back in 1991, when the Columbus, Georgia ball club came to town to become the Mudcats, Five County Stadium sits about 20 miles outside of Raleigh, since the Bulls had territorial rights closer in. Technically situated in Wake County, it is named for its proximity to four other NC counties. The stadium seats 6,500, and was extensively renovated in 1999.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Five County Stadium offers a wide variety of food & beverage options, but the only really unique item is the catfish sandwich. The prices are typical of stadium fare, perhaps slightly on the high side, but the highlight of the park is the full-size (upscale) restaurant in the upper deck, where you can sit and eat while you watch the game. See the video here:
There are concessions stands located throughout the concourse, most of which offer the full selection, but there are a few specialty shops for things like ice cream and barbecue. Food options include Bright Leaf hot dogs (both Classic Red and All-Beef), Italian sausage, teriyaki, burgers, grilled chicken, catfish sandwiches, chicken tenders, nachos, corn dogs, pizza, warm pretzels, chips, Cracker Jack, peanuts, barbecue, and ice cream. Prices range from $2 for the smallest items to $9 for combos.
Coke products are sold in bottles and from the fountain, and you can also get sweet tea, water, Powerade, coffee, and hot cocoa. Beer is available in both cans and on draft, including Sierra Nevada, Foothills, Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller High Life, Miller Lite, Yuengling, Michelob, and O'Doul's. You can also purchase wine.
Wednesdays are dollar hot dog nights (although a couple of Wednesdays are exempt, which is odd). The Classic Reds are much tastier, and are grilled instead of boiled. However, they can only be found at the stands closest to first and third bases. If the lines downstairs are long, there is a secret concessions stand up on the 4th level near Cattails Restaurant, which never has a line, and has lower prices on certain items than the stands downstairs (although it doesn't have as many options).
FCS does not often sell out, but provides a fun atmosphere, including several nice amenities, such as picnic tables scattered all over the park, games for kids and adults, an interactive mascot (Muddy), and a full-size team store, as well as a satellite stand with kids items. Muddy's antics are fun to watch; for example, sometimes when the 'Cats are batting, he will stand on top of the outfield wall and pretend to catch home runs.
The sightlines are good, with all of the seats angled toward the infield. There are also two scoreboards, so it is easy for fans on both sides to keep track of what is happening. The netting in front of the infield is pretty thick and extends pretty high, however, which might be a bother for some fans.
All of the seats are plastic bucket-style with cup holders, most of which are red. There are only a few rows in the lower deck (which are covered), so most of the fans have to sit pretty far from the action in the upper deck. Sitting downstairs is definitely worthwhile, since you will be under cover and closer - you can even walk right up to the netting if you want, which isn't possible upstairs. On a busy night, you'll need to buy online or arrive early, because the lower level will sell out. Note that section 209 in the upper deck is designated as alcohol-free.
Well outside the city along US 264 and State Highway 39, there isn't much to do near Five County Stadium.
There are some fast food and local restaurants nearby, including a couple of seafood joints, but nothing in the way of a bar and grill-type place that would make a fun hangout before or after the game. The best options are probably McLean's Ole Time Café (a country restaurant with a wide menu and great prices) and Barham's (more of a breakfast place), both of which are in Zebulon. These are in addition to Cattails, the upscale restaurant on-site at FCS, which offers small and large plates. Cattails is only open during ball games, however, so it doesn't qualify as a pre or postgame option.
The closest hotels are in Raleigh, at least 15 minutes away, which is a big enough city to have plenty of options - Holiday Inn Raleigh North is the Mudcats' official hotel. While in the area, be sure to check out downtown Raleigh, where there are plenty of things to do for both kids and adults, such as Marbles Kids Museum or the Museum of Natural Sciences.
The Mudcats' average attendance is about 3,000, which is less than half full - attendance varies from around 1,500 on weekdays to four or five thousand on weekends.
The fans at Five County Stadium put up a decent amount of crowd noise at times, but it does not overwhelm the experience. Not too many fans wear gear, even though it is sold on-site. A lot of music is played during the game, especially Carolina-themed songs, so the fans get up and dance fairly often during the game.
Five County Stadium is easy to get to, and there is no traffic nearby to contend with.
There are parking lots all around the park, and the cost is only $3 per vehicle. There are entrances on three sides of the park, but the main entrance is located on the far side, in the back behind the infield, and this is where will call is located, so you are better off bringing your tickets with you.
The concourse is fairly wide, so there is plenty of room to move around. There are more than enough bathrooms and concessions stands to accommodate the crowd, and there are even signs overhead to help you find what you need (check out the video below to see these signs up close).
Tickets are a little on the high side for minor league ball, especially if you want to sit close to the action.
They cost $10 to $15, depending on where you want to sit - the most expensive are the box seats inside Cattails Restaurant. The covered seats downstairs behind the infield (premium field level) are $12; everywhere else, they are $10. The 'Cats do offer promotional tickets for some games, with prices as low as $7 per ticket.
One point for the on-site restaurant - this is a rarity at a minor league ballpark, and provides a great way to enjoy the game.
Another point for the baseball-shaped water tower beyond the outfield, which is another unique feature of Five County Stadium.
A third point for all of the picnic tables scattered around, for those who like dining sitting down, but don't want to pay Cattails prices.
A good ballpark with some unique amenities, Five County Stadium is worth a visit if you are in the area. It's a bit out of the way, but worth the drive, with great sight lines, its own restaurant, and lots of energy.
Member Review by brian on May 06, 2012
North Carolina baseball is loaded with baseball history and interesting parks (so much so that there's a book — Mark Cryan's "Cradle of the Game" — about it), and Five County Stadium is no exception. This stadium emerged from an old tobacco field upon the birth of the Mudcats franchise in the early 1990s. The otherwise-tiny town of Zebulon came to host the Mudcats because of territorial rights in the Raleigh and Durham markets.
The Mudcats were themselves a relocated team, having moved from Columbus, Georgia. The 2012 season brought more relocation to Five County Stadium, as the Southern League (AA) version of the Mudcats were sold and became the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, while Kinston, North Carolina's Indians moved north and became the Indians' entry in the advanced-A Carolina League.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Aug 25, 2015
A rain storm before the game kept fans away and so I did not get the full experience, but did have a section to myself. Great service, too much netting, and enough promotions to keep one occupied during the inning breaks. Parking is now $5, way too much for this level. Cattails restaurant looks like a great place to watch the game in inclement weather.
418 W Gannon Ave
Zebulon, NC 27597
122 N Arendell Ave
Zebulon, NC 27597
2805 Highwoods Blvd
Raleigh, NC 27604