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Official Review by Andy Mantsch, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Rock Hill is essentially a sleepy suburb of Charlotte, just across the South Carolina border from the Queen City. Its hallmark university is Winthrop, a member of the Big South Conference in all major sports. If Winthrop University rings a bell to casual sports fans, it's usually for its dominant small school basketball run of the 2000s and as a perennial sleeper pick in the NCAA tournament.
But Rock Hill and Winthrop have a baseball history, as well. The Western Carolinas League (defunct since 1979) used to call Rock Hill home, with teams such as the Cardinals, Wrens and Indians. Those teams all ceased to exist in the late '60s, and the stadiums they played in are near the site of Winthrop Ballpark, located in a larger complex of Winthrop sports venues.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Concessions at Winthrop Ballpark are fairly standard, with a few minor exceptions, and available at one concession stand located right at the main gate.
The food is nothing to write home about, but it suits the purpose of a small school venue, and may even exceed normal expectations. Hot dogs, popcorn, pizza, sunflower seeds and nachos are among the standard food options you'll find here. Throw in boiled peanuts, ice cream and brats, and you do get a touch of character to an otherwise standard menu. Nothing here will cost over $5, so all options are a good choice.
Drinks include Coke products and coffee options, and are also reasonably priced.
For some local flair, pick up some boiled peanuts with your brat before you head up the stairs to the grandstand.
The stadium itself seems comfortable enough, but aside from that, there's nothing much here -- and a quirky design flaw that you usually don't think of, to boot.
If you were to walk into Winthrop Ballpark with nothing going on, you'd probably think it's at least relatively nice for a small school college baseball venue. And it is. A beautiful brick facade and nice grandstand seating give some level of charm to the park. But there's really not much more than that to get excited about. Maroon seats wrap from first base to third base, but are generally not covered. This can be uncomfortable in the blazing South Carolina heat. The field itself is fairly cookie-cutter, and looks in relatively poor condition. There aren't any particularly comfortable berm seats, although you can stand in a little pen in right field to watch the game, if you so choose. The scoreboard is old, but does have a video board. The most interesting and difficult to deal with piece of construction is that the park faces directly into the western-setting sun. This is not something most ballparks do, for obvious reasons. A large black wall in center field attempts to mitigate the obvious challenges, but it couldn't be high enough to solve for them. This means for your typical 7pm game, fans and players alike will largely be blinded for the first 2-3 innings before the sun falls behind the wall.
There is very little in-game promotion to speak of. There's a pretty standard PA announcer and some sound effects over the speaker system, but otherwise, it's just pretty laid back.
There aren't a ton of options for seating. All face the outfield and setting sun, and none really offer much in terms of shade. Being mostly grandstand seating, you won't really find anywhere uncomfortable or with a bad view, so take your choice.
There's very little in actual entertainment in the area immediately around Winthrop Ballpark. But Rock Hill itself and the larger area of Charlotte do offer a considerable amount of drive-able options.
A couple of good food options in the general area include Michael's Rock Hill Grille for some relaxed atmosphere and island food, or Pier 51 for seafood, pasta and steaks. If you're looking for a wider array of restaurants, Charlotte is just a 20-minute drive up I-77.
Rock Hill may not be known for beautiful attractions, but it's full of highly-rated parks and greenspaces. Glencairn Park and River Park are particularly relaxing local stops in Rock Hill. If these don't suit your needs, you still have Charlotte within easy driving distance for much more of that big-city list of options.
Most of the hotel options in Rock Hill are lined up along I-77, making for easy access north to Charlotte and its airport or south to Columbia. Choose any one of these, as they'll all be clustered right at the exits just a few miles from the ballpark. You'll find both a Hampton Inn and a Courtyard Marriott, if you're a points person.
Fan support here is sparse, at best, and not very passionate.
There are generally a handful of uninterested fans attending the games here. A decent family atmosphere exists, but most of the kids are playing in the concourses or in the small pen area in right field. There really doesn't seem to be a lot of excitement about this baseball team. Winthrop fans definitely seem to be much more interested in basketball only.
The fans in attendance have a few that will engage in the game, yelling at the ump or supporting players by name. But by and large, there seems like a high level of disinterest here. It's almost like the majority of fans are here just to be outdoors in the setting sun.
Winthrop Ballpark isn't congested in any way, but it's a bit tucked away in Rock Hill and even within the confines of the sports complex.
To get to the stadium, it's just a short 5-10 minute drive west of I-77. Whether you're coming from Columbia to the south or Charlotte to the north, it's not hard to get to. Charlotte is easily your closest airport, and is about 30-40 minutes away. Once you hop off I-77 onto Cherry Road, the drive is short, but full of traffic signals. Be mindful that Google Maps will take you to campus, not the sports complex. So look for signs for the Winthrop Coliseum as you head west. That's where you'll want to park.
Parking is free and more than ample in the coliseum parking lot. There is a bit of a walk to the stadium itself through the tennis complex and along a path. While it's a relaxing stroll, it's not all that close from the ballpark to the parking lot.
The pathway will dump you directly at the main gate and ticket office. Getting into the park from here couldn't be much easier. The lack of crowds makes the experience quick and seamless.
The stadium itself is small enough to navigate easily. There are both concourses in the grandstand itself or behind it, so you have the option to see the game as you make the brief walk from first base to third base. Restrooms aren't immaculate, but are clean enough.
This is a case where the "investment" portion of ROI is fine, but the "return" portion is relatively low.
Tickets will only run you $5 here. With free parking and relatively inexpensive food, there's not a whole lot in terms of costs to be concerned about. The problem comes in that there just doesn't seem to be a whole lot of that relaxing, yet exciting baseball atmosphere going on. The uninterested fans and lack of any real game day enthusiasm make a game here end up feeling fairly boring.
There may not be a lot to get excited about, but there are a few unique things. The walk to the ballpark down a tree-lined path is at the very least interesting and a unique feature. Also, the grandstand itself is a beautiful brick, and lends hope that this could be a much nicer venue should the fan interest ever match that portion of the facility.
Honestly, there's just not much here. A couple of nice touches don't really make up for a fairly dull experience. And that largely falls on the disinterest of the fans and sleepy atmosphere of a game here. Excitement is in short supply at Winthrop Ballpark, and that's unfortunate for a relatively nice facility.
Member Review by brian on Apr 25, 2012
Rock Hill, South Carolina, is known to many as a “bedroom community” of Charlotte. This modest town ten miles from the North Carolina line is the home of Big South Conference member Winthrop University, but was also home to former big-league manager Sparky Anderson, as he won a pennant with the 1965 Rock Hill Cardinals of the now-defunct Western Carolinas League. Basketball is also somewhat of a tradition at Winthrop, with multiple NCAA tournament appearances in the school's history now accompanying their new slogan, “Rock the Hill”.
The historic facilities in Rock Hill, Legion Park and Municipal Stadium, are no more, having been replaced by Winthrop Ballpark. This on-campus facility seats just shy of 2,000 (1,989 is the official capacity) and is one of the cornerstones of Winthrop's athletics complex.
1039 Charlotte Ave
Rock Hill, SC 29732
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