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Official Review by David Berger, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Kingsport is one of the newer and more modern parks in the Appalachian League, at less than 20 years old. While still a small park, it has enough capacity to host regional tournaments, as well as college tournaments, like the NAIA World Series. Kingsport does a nice job of mixing more modern conveniences with the charm of traditional neighborhood sponsored Rookie level baseball.
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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".
As is typical, prices are below what you expect in larger markets, and quality is fine. Beer selection is pedestrian, without an emphasis on locals, just larger national brands.
Biggie's Restaurant runs a stand down the 1st base line under the picnic pavilion that sells fresh cooked to order cheese steaks, roast beef sandwiches, and sausage and peppers subs. These are nice premium options to find in a park of this size. The cheese steaks go fast, but the roast beef sandwiches are a quality second option.
For the kids, the shaved ice cart has a steady line all game long. Clearly one of the most popular items in the park, portions are large, and flavors are strong but not overbearing.
A Kingsport game is designed to be family friendly, so they are big on on-field promotions and "find the autograph" promotions over the PA system. There's a small reserved seat section behind home plate, but the majority of the seating is bleachers down each of the baselines. You can sit down the line and get out from behind the screens for a clearer view. The outfield is mostly tree-lined, and there's only a small mountain view from the left field corner.
On the negative side, as you enter the park, there's a barrage of commercial promotions. You basically have to walk through a gauntlet of local businesses handing out flyers, coupons and cheap promotional items. I can appreciate the need for great support from local businesses to support a 32 game home schedule, but there should be a bundle or a packet you receive rather than have to work your way through a half a dozen greeters.
Hunter Wright Stadium isn't really near anything, as it's isolated into a residential area bordered by forests and a river. Before or after a game it's best to go into the town of Kingsport to the west for dining, lodging and entertainment options. While there certainly is not anything within walking distance from Hunter Wright Stadium, Stone Drive is not far away and there are plenty of restaurants to be found along that stretch.
One possibility is Rush Street Neighborhood Grill to try their Chicago-style pizza.It is not Chicago-style at all, but if you can push that expectation out of your head, then the pie is fairly decent. It's just flat and crispy. They also serve steaks, sandwiches, and salads, and offer a nice little outdoor seating area.
Closer to Hunter Wright Stadium is Biggie's Clam Bar, which seems out of place in Northeast Tennessee. It is one of three restaurants which originated from Hoboken, NJ, and they serve excellent seafood and a wonderful atmosphere. There are numerous TVs for keeping up with the day's sports, wonderful service, and a good beer selection at the bar. This is my recommendation for dinner before the game, or as a place to hang out after the game.
You can expect the fans at a Kingsport Mets game to be quietly watching the action, cheering at appropriate times, but generally just sitting back and enjoying the atmosphere of a game. There are several fans who bring folding chairs and sit along the top of the concourse behind home plate. It is a good perch for a game, and worth trying if you have a chair handy.
During my visit there was one person (hard to call him a fan) who stood in the woods behind a fence beyond the concourse. He was there for one purpose only, to find foul balls. He must have ended up with a dozen or so, filling the small plastic shopping bag he brought with him. My guess is that this is a usual routine for him, but it was something I haven't seen at any other park before.
Parking is free, and there's easy access from I-26. There are not really public transportation options beyond driving though.
Bathrooms are clean and large enough to accommodate the small crowds typical of a Kingsport Mets game at Hunter Wright Stadium. Fans do not have the ability to walk around the entire ballpark as the paved area stops about half way down each line. This is fairly typical of a small ballpark like this one.
Bring a soccer chair or stadium seat pad and sit in the bleachers. The locals like to stay around the concourse, about 15 rows up. Sitting right behind 1st base for $3 is a nice deal. There is very little competition if you want a game ball. Even the local kids don't seem to chase them.
For a stadium with fairly low attendance, the small souvenir stand exhibited exorbitant prices, typically reserved for a major league park.
Kingsport really needs to work on the arrival experience. The one ticket booth didn't really have the tools needed handy, and a three person line at will call took much longer than it should to process a total of 7 tickets. Then, both people manning the only turnstiles literally turned their backs on us for 5 minutes while they explained something to a vendor. Follow that with the obtrusiveness of the vendors, and that's not a "Fan First" approach.
What is really nice is a grass field off the picnic area, where kids can play catch and run around. They are nicely visible for parents in the pavilion, and they don't try to entertain with bouncy castles or a carousel.
On the far side of the play area, you can watch not only bullpen work, but an outdoor batting cage where players work during batting practice to hone their swing.
Member Review by paul on Aug 23, 2012
Since 1980, the ball club in Kingsport, TN has been affiliated with the New York Mets, and since 1995 the squad has played in Hunter Wright Stadium. It’s a small venue with the main concourse stretching above the seats and down the first base line. The main entrance takes you in through a short tunnel with the lone concession stand on your right and the field straight ahead.
There’s just something about walking out of a dark tunnel with the green of the field in front of you on a sunny day. This effect is accentuated by the trees which surround the outfield walls, and right filed side of the stadium.
Like many ballparks in the Appalachian League, Hunter Wright Stadium offers a very basic game presentation, where fans will just want to sit back and watch the baseball.
Member Review by ballparkreviews on Jul 04, 2013
Took in a game here in June of 2013 and really enjoyed the experience. As with all the Appy League parks, the atmosphere does not feel scripted and the fans are not here because it is the cool place to be. They are just here to watch baseball and have a relaxing night out. It appears that the concessions have improved since the reviewer attended a game here. The pavilion along the first base side now offers several grilled sandwiches from Biggies - I tried the cheesesteak, which was quite tasty. The main concession stand also offers a taco in a helmet which looked delicious. They do also sell beer now. Overall, this is probably one of the better ballparks in the App League.
Member Review by oldskoolberk on Feb 23, 2014
The one thing if you go to this park or any Appalachian League Park (that isn't Greeneville) is that you feel like you might be at a community ballpark or a ballpark that is for a high school/college. Strangely, before Hunter Wright Stadium, the Mets played their games at a high school. With that said, going to this park provides an interesting experience.
FOOD & BEVERAGE: Suprisingly, there is a variety with barbecue and Mexican, not to mention snow cones. The big "unique" item was nachos in a helmet (and not one of those Ice cream helmets, but larger). It was very tasty actually. The pulled barbecue sandwich was very tasty as well.
ATMOSPHERE: Something about this place gave it a unique feel. Maybe because it just had that "community" style that when you see the players run to the concession stands before the game to eat and even talk with the fans, just made it different.
NEIGHBORHOOD: In terms of local eats, you will need to take a drive out of the park because it is only a neighborhood (looked like a seniors community was near the park) near there and the mountains in the background. I can't really badmouth it given it provides a great scenic backdrop.
FANS: Maybe the game I went to, which was delayed an hour for rain, had dampered the fans spirits or maybe it was the Twins jumping on the Mets early, but they seemed disinterested. Some of the fans in Elizabethton made the drive over and made more noise than the Kingsport fans.
ACCESS: Easy to get to as you get off the interstate and it is right off the main highway in Kingsport. Parking is free and easy.
ROI: Everything save for souvenirs is very cheap. Most foods (except for the cheesesteak) hit at under $5 and tickets for box seats are a bargain at $6. And you have a shot at winning a game used bat for $2 among other things such as free tickets & whatnot.
EXTRAS: All you're really getting is baseball at its purest form here. Nothing wowing on the architecture, scoreboard, or any of the "quirks" a new ballpark has. But you have a group of employees who try to make your experience worthwhile and seeing players do their darndest to make it to the next level.
1229 E Stone Dr
Kingsport, TN 37660
417 W Stone Dr
Kingsport, TN 37660
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