For travelers unfamiliar with the lineage of baseball in North Carolina, the Piedmont region of the state is a wonderful place to start. Textile and mill leagues, multiple classes of professional baseball and appearances in films tell the story of the game in Greensboro and across the region.
The book of baseball in North Carolina -- assuming one can be written to top Mark Cryan's "Cradle of the Game" -- would likely contain a number of chapters on Greensboro's World War Memorial Stadium. The 1920s-era stadium that saw every pitch, swing and out of professional baseball in Greensboro until the close of the 2004 season. Thankfully, that facility still stands in Greensboro, serving as the home of North Carolina A&T and Greensboro College baseball, while providing an important link to the past. Stars such as Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Giancarlo Stanton -- among others -- crossed the baselines in the Gate City.
The Greensboro Grasshoppers were born in 2005, and the newly-minted club had a fresh new building to call home. NewBridge Bank Park (though it did not have that name when it first opened its doors) welcomed the club to its new downtown location. Ballparks play a key role in downtown revitalization projects, and NewBridge Bank Park is no exception. With a tenant that is routinely at or near the top of the South Atlantic League attendance standings and a nearly complete transformation taking place just outside its gates, this facility is truly changing the game for downtown Greensboro.
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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".
The Grasshoppers serve essentially the same things from three primary fixed stands, called O. Henry's Corner, Cornwallis' Last Stand and General Greene's Grille. Pizza ($7 for a personal size, $17 for a whole pizza), chicken tenders ($6.50, with accompanying french fries) and corn dogs ($4.50 for a footlong) provide the "classics" to hungry Grasshopper fans, but the choices don't stop there, by any means.
Among the numerous entree selections, fans can enjoy a bacon burger topped with North Carolina favorite pimento cheese ($7.50) or a Babe Burger ($6). There's something for the non-red meat eaters, too, with a seasoned turkey burger ($7) and veggie burger ($5) on the menu. Grilled chicken sandwiches ($5) and Carolina hot dogs ($4.50) also serve to satisfy. French fries ($4), sweet potato fries ($4) and loaded tater tots ($5.50) represent the starches.
Popcorn, soft pretzels and nachos (all $4) highlight the snack menu, with peanuts ($3.50) and Cracker Jacks ($3) also serving to tamp down salty or sweet cravings.
Pepsi does the bottling for NewBridge Bank Park. Sodas ($5.50 for souvenir size, $3 for small), Gatorade ($3.50) and bottled water ($3) will cool down the hottest of summer Tar Heel State nights. The first few weeks of each season are a bit cooler, and coffee or hot chocolate ($2.50) will warm the blood.
As with many ballparks around Minor League Baseball, kiosks selling various items can also be found along the concourse. These kiosks accompany the vendors wandering through the stands selling items. A kettle corn stand and popcorn stand (called "Hop Corn") are among the choices one can find outside of the "main" concession stands. There is also a stand called Delicious Links, which offers brats ($6), Italian sausages ($6), Cincinnati chili cheese coneys ($5.50), Chicago dogs ($5) and Dodger Dogs ($4) for the hot dog aficionado.
The view beyond the wall is eternally changing in Greensboro. Gone are several of the older buildings that used to take up residence along Smith Street beyond the wall, replaced by newer structures meant to highlight the ballpark district. The distant downtown lights provide some visual interest, but do not serve to draw the eye completely away from the action on the field.
There is a concourse above the seating bowl, with fixed seats quite plentiful around the ballpark. For those who would prefer to watch the game without being surrounded by those enjoying a beer, the YMCA Box section (the final section of box seats down the first base line) affords families and like-minded fans that luxury. There are also standalone tables and chairs at the top of many sections, which expands the seating capacity by a bit. Unfortunately, with as great as the seating bowl is -- even for a tall fan like myself -- there are some drawbacks. If you sit on the first base (visiting) side, be prepared for the bothersome feeling of watching the game through a cage. There is netting all the way down the line, except for one small section between the end of the seats and the bullpen. This section, naturally, draws children in search of foul balls.
For those who would rather watch the game from a berm, there is a smaller berm area down the right field line, along with Natty's Hill beyond the wall in left. The berm in right is another popular location for foul ball seekers -- and visiting team hecklers -- so Natty's Hill may be your preferred destination, if that's not your type of entertainment. There is plenty of room to stretch out and just enjoy the game, though on nights with fireworks displays, you will be moved from the hill back to the seating bowl for safety purposes. On the topic of the berms, note that buying a general admission ticket only grants fans admission to the berm areas, not a fixed seat. A party deck and suites are available on the second floor of the ballpark, if that type of entertainment is what you seek.
There is an electronic scoreboard beyond the wall in right field. This obviously provides updates on game information, along with biographical information on players, replays and commercials. The board also offers the speed of the most recent pitch, which is not always a common feature among ballparks. A separate board with the time and temperature can be found in the alley in left-center.
The team's grasshopper mascot (Guilford) and on-field emcee (Spaz) can be found throughout the ballpark during each game. Guilford primarily dances on the dugout and fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your view of things) instigates the wave among the fans. Spaz introduces the between-innings promotions, which are much the same as one would find in any other similar park. There is a promotion that features two fans sumo wrestling, which draws some laughs. The night Stadium Journey attended featured a "dancing bat boy," who apparently travels to different parks to perform his routine. The team clearly loved this promotion, as they went to it during almost every half-inning. After the first time or two, though, it got repetitive. Also repetitive are the continual sound effects played between innings, at-bats and pitches. These are funny for a while, but eventually just become an intrusion.
This section, unfortunately, is all about timing. Once all of the in-progress renovations are complete, this is likely going to be one of the must-see spots in Greensboro. For now, though, there are a number of buildings that are being demolished. This leaves a lot of open space around the ballpark, with just a few nearby options for pre or post game activities. Undercurrent, Acropolis and Smith Street Diner are within somewhat extended walking distance of the ballpark, but most of your entertainment will need to take place away from the park.
If you want to make an evening of it, the Greensboro Marriott Downtown is within sight of the ballpark.
Greensboro is a reasonably expansive city, with lots of great things to see, do and eat in the Triad region. Exploring the area will likely require a car, though, so be sure to come prepared to watch your gas mileage, instead of counting your steps.
Grasshopper fans do what they should do. The group makes noise for the home nine in key situations, and occasionally join in the wave when commanded by Guilford atop the dugout. There is just not an abundance of excitement in the crowd, though, despite the club's impressive efforts to try to engage the fans. Guilford tried repeatedly to get the crowd to make noise, and his calls went unanswered, on many occasions.
The more disappointing thing is that, on an August Saturday night with temperatures amazingly in the low 70s, the stadium was nowhere near full on the night of our visit. The team brought in a fan to guess the attendance on the night, and the "winning" number drew a few skeptical laughs from those around me. With an unseasonably cool night, two good teams on the field and a post game fireworks show, there should not be rows of empty seats. Greensboro puts a consistently good product on the field at a fair price, and the stadium deserves to be full (or close to it) on most nights.
One of the blessings of downtown baseball becomes a bit of a curse in Greensboro. As the ballpark is not near either of the major interstates (85 or 40) that traverse the city, accessing downtown requires a trip past the Greensboro Coliseum (in some cases), all the while navigating stoplight-filled, one-way streets. Missing the timing on these lights can considerably delay your trip into -- and/or away from -- the ballpark. My tip would be to arrive reasonably early and park near the Edgeworth Gate. All parking surrounding the ballpark is in surface lots, and will cost around $5.
Once inside the ballpark, be on the lookout for special parties or events being held on the concourse, particularly if you enter from the Edgeworth Gate. Buffets are often served for these gatherings, and those going to gather additional servings can cause minor traffic delays on the already crowded concourse. Getting out of the ballpark is also a bit slow, both in terms of navigating the concourse and the aforementioned surrounding streets. Be sure to leave plenty of extra time when departing the facility.
The restrooms are clean and well-kept. There should be no problem with lines accessing the restroom, even on the busiest of nights.
Like many South Atlantic League markets, Greensboro offers a very good product for a reasonable price. Ticket prices start at $6 (though these are the general admission berm "seats"), proceeding as high as $10 for "premium" (behind the plate and between the dugouts) seating. There is an unfortunate $1.50 service charge on all online ticket purchases, but the option to leave the tickets at will-call or print them at home is offered free. This is a nice touch.
Parking your car, getting a program and buying a Carolina hot dog and soda to take to your box seat will total about $25, which is certainly doable at this level. Souvenir prices are extremely high -- and the selection decreases as the season wears on -- but this can also be easily managed.
Music is a pretty interesting addition to Grasshopper games. The club has an organist who occasionally plays between innings and pitches. This is hardly unique in the Carolinas -- Durham features one, among others -- but is certainly a nice touch for baseball at this level.
The team also has its own "theme song," which is occasionally heard before games and during rallies. Parry Gripp's "Go Go Grasshoppers" is extremely catchy, and if you listen to it once, it will be stuck in your head for days.
The programs offered by the team are the standard-issue periodical style found in many minor league parks. Extra points, however, to the Grasshoppers for not only offering the programs, but the extremely nice people doing so.
There is a putting green (of all things) located down the line in left, near the Edgeworth Gate. Greensboro has considerable ties to golf, including the long-time PGA Greater Greensboro Open event. Most baseball fans won't immediately think of sinking putts when going to a game, but this feature provides an interesting sense of location.
The team has placed banners around the concourse commemorating the history of baseball in Greensboro. The banners are arranged by decade, and provide a nice introduction to those who may not be familiar with what came before whatever they are seeing on the field.
The area on the concourse behind the plate also bears mention, as it features the Grasshopper Cannon, a large bat with the Grasshoppers' logo, standings boards for both the South Atlantic League and Major League Baseball and the souvenir store, among other items. It is easy to disappear into this area and get lost looking around, so leave yourself plenty of time to investigate.
There are so many wonderful aspects to attending a game at NewBridge Bank Park. The team staff is as nice as any you'll find, the environment is comfortable and the product on the field is extremely solid. The old saying "there's too much of a good thing" can creep in at times, though. If fans would realize what they have in Greensboro and the gameday staff would dial back on the need for incessant sound effects and promotions, a Grasshoppers game could creep into the discussion with Durham and some of their counterparts at higher levels. This is the slower-paced South, after all.
Baseball has had a home in the largest city of North Carolina's Triad region, Greensboro, since the early 1900's. Those first teams were known as the Greensboro Patriots, in reference to the famed Revolutionary war battle which was fought at nearby Guilford Court House.
Most of minor league baseball's existence in Greensboro, through various incarnations over the years, would find the Greensboro team calling War Memorial Stadium, a few miles northeast of downtown, home. War Memorial was a venerable stadium, serving Greensboro teams proudly for over 75 years and possessing many interesting characteristics. Many of the seats used during a War Memorial Stadium retrofit were seats taken from Philadelphia's legendary Shibe Park after its demolition.
Even after various upgrades and retrofits over the years War Memorial began to show its age and the press for a new downtown ballpark began in the early 1990's. It would take a few years for those efforts to come to fruition, but in the spring of 2005 minor league baseball's new home in Greensboro, the 8,000 capacity NewBridge Bank Park (then First Horizon Park), would open just on the fringe of downtown Greensboro's north end.
Coinciding with the move to the new park was the name change from the Bats to the current moniker of the Grasshoppers. NewBridge Bank Park was built using Class AA facility standards, in hopes that Greensboro's team might one day find a home at a higher level of play.
In my 40+ stadium visits, I rate this one the highest for these reasons: (1) it's a beautiful park; (2) you can walk from a nearby hotel; (3) you have the option of buying a microbrew beer; and (4) good between innings entertainment. The "bad" was being carded everytime I bought a beer. I suggested wrist-bands and employees told me that they didn't work (go figure that one out). So, believe it or not, don't go on Thirsty Thursday.
327 Battleground Ave
Greensboro, NC 27401
345 S Elm St
Greensboro, NC 27401
438 Battleground Ave
Greensboro, NC 27401
304 N Greene St
Greensboro, NC 27401