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Official Review by Brian Wilmer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Baseball fans in North Carolina's Triad region have come to know and love NewBridge Bank Park, the home of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Florida Marlins' affiliate in the class-A South Atlantic League. The Grasshoppers are routinely at or near the top of the circuit in attendance, as the relatively-new downtown park continues to be a success.
The true hub of baseball history in the Gate City, though, is just over a mile away, at the intersection of Lindsay and Yanceyville Streets. World War Memorial Stadium served as the host for Greensboro baseball for nearly 75 years, before the Bats relocated and became the Grasshoppers. Opened and dedicated in 1926, the ballpark serves to honor residents of Guilford County who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I. Plaques with the names of those who fell are just outside the entrance to the stadium. Astute fans may also notice the stadium's star turn as the origin of a road trip in the movie Bull Durham.
World War Memorial Stadium is the oldest athletic facility still in operation in the Tar Heel State, and it is, unfortunately, really showing its age. The park is owned by the city's sports commission and rented to North Carolina A&T and Greensboro College, and it has, of late, somewhat fallen into a state of disrepair. A section of seating on the third base side now sits behind a fence, rumored to soon be demolished. Many of the girders around the park now sport a primary hue of rust, with peeling paint and overgrowth of vegetation common sights in many areas. Despite the obvious signs of age and neglect, this stadium still tells the story of the last 80-plus years of baseball in Greensboro, for all who are willing to listen.
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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".
There is a rather solid selection of foods at an Aggie baseball game. Hot dogs ($2), pizza ($3), nachos ($3.50) and cheeseburgers ($3.50) highlight the "entree" choices. Pork chops were also being sold on the day I attended, with a grill being manned in the breezeway between the entry gate and the concession stand. This gave the feeling of being at a cookout with friends or family.
Snacks include cheese crackers ($.50), candy ($1.25), chips ($.75), peanuts ($3), pickles ($1), popcorn ($1.50), sunflower seeds ($1), gum ($.05) and ice cream ($1.50). Candy bars, Skittles (three different flavors) and Air Heads are among the candy choices.
Drinks are Pepsi products, with bottled soda and Gatorade available for $2. Water, coffee and hot chocolate are $1 each.
Though signs of decay are evident in many parts of the stadium, the playing surface shows none of these problems. The field is beautifully maintained, with bright green grass. This is one of the clear highlights of the facility, along with the covered seating behind the plate. This is great for shielding out the North Carolina elements.
World War Memorial Stadium presents a truly comfortable environment in which to watch a game, at the very least. There is no concern whatsoever with leg room in any part of the seating bowl, as there is almost enough room between your seat and the seat in front of you to insert another row of seats. This is a tremendous feature for tall spectators like myself, allowing the luxury to stretch out and enjoy a game. Many of the seats in the lower portion of the seating bowl are fold-out stadium seats, with backless bleacher seating toward the top of the bowl. There is not likely to be a situation in which you cannot get a fold-out seat, but be sure to bring a wet cloth or two to clean the traditional North Carolina spring pollen off your seat before you sit down.
There are a number of speakers hanging from the top of the backstop, but they are not in use for North Carolina A&T games. Two portable speakers are mounted on stands outside the press box, and they can be loud enough to drown out conversation. The musical selection between innings is lively and diverse, though there are quite a few sound effects played between pitches, much like at Grasshoppers games. The lack of quiet does help offer a feeling that the game is moving along at a swift pace, though, which is nice.
The scoreboard is located in right-center field, and offers very little in terms of visual interest. The scoreboard is a basic structure with red numbers on a black background, flanked by "GUEST" and "HOME" and the game's line score. The number of the player at bat, a ball/strike/out count and a hit or error indicator compose the top row of the board. The red lights of the board can be a bit tough to read for afternoon games, but the public address announcer does a great job of recapping each half-inning's activity and current game score.
North Carolina A&T's campus is a short distance away from the stadium, and this already-beautiful campus is looking to expand. Unfortunately, this is the only real area of note to hang out before or after a game. Planned ballpark districts were not really a "thing" in the mid-1920s, as one might imagine. The ballpark is part of the historic Aycock neighborhood, but is largely residential, save for a farmers market across the street.
Interestingly enough, most of the dining and entertainment options are in the vicinity of the downtown ballpark that replaced World War Memorial Stadium. These choices will likely require a car, though, as walking to the downtown area is not all that feasible, due to both distance and the condition of some of the areas between the park and downtown. Triad favorite Natty Greene's is a choice of the locals, and for those who like local beers, this is a great place to give one a try. Undercurrent and Fincastle's are two other choices that seem to resonate with fans at Grasshoppers games, though even a few choices in the vicinity of an A&T game would be preferable.
Your chances of encountering a sellout crowd at an Aggie game are virtually nonexistent, but this does not mean that you will encounter a sleepy group of fans. Though small in numbers, those in attendance certainly love their Aggies. The crowd certainly sounds larger than it is, and some heckling (playful in nature, not personal) does occasionally take place. Some hearty fans had even made the long trip from Tallahassee-based Florida A&M on the day I took in a game.
If you go to a North Carolina A&T game, expect to see a lot of blue and gold, along with "The Lock" (the interlocking "AT" logo). There was a contest during the game I attended that awarded a prize to the first fan to bring an A&T logo item to the press box, and a number of fans ran toward the press box almost as soon as the announcement was complete.
The stadium is in a reasonably advantageous position for travelers in and around Greensboro. The park is within minutes of US HIghways 29, 70 and 220, along with Interstates 40 and 85. Two parking lots directly surround the stadium, with a small surface lot directly outside the entrance and a blacktop lot beyond the right field fence. The parking is completely free, and the walk from either lot is rather short.
As with many ballparks from this era, the main concourse is under the seating bowl. This makes the concourse area somewhat narrow and dark. The city also keeps a group of replacement seat pieces on the concourse, which serves to further clutter the area. The restrooms are rather old, as one would expect, but there are plenty of available stalls (I counted ten in the male restroom) and quasi-modern upgrades. You should never experience a line while waiting to use the restroom.
Free is an impossible price to beat, and admission to Aggie games will not cost you a dime. I was somewhat thrown by the presence of an unmanned ticket booth, only to be told -- by a very nice gentleman, I should add -- that admission was free. It is wise to have some cash with you just in case, especially considering the low concession prices.
With the admission and parking charge -- or lack thereof -- you can see a game, park your car and get a hot dog and drink for $4.00. This is as good a value as you will find anywhere in college sports.
A small program-like "document" is available at the concession stand. This document contains a team photo, rosters for both teams and a score sheet. This may not be a full program, but it certainly provides a good amount of information.
The people of North Carolina A&T also deserve extra notice. Every stadium worker and fan with whom I came into contact was supremely nice, going out of their way to make those in attendance feel welcome. Customer service is the easiest thing to get right when hosting events, and A&T certainly does just that.
A trip to War Memorial Stadium is both enlightening and heartbreaking. If you are a fan of historic venues, this is an absolute must-see facility. The simple thought of all of the events that have taken place inside the stadium is enough to bring out the nostalgic side in anyone.
At the same time, the knowledge of this venue's history makes the current state of the facility that much more upsetting. The stadium's run-down appearance is by no means the fault of those at North Caroilna A&T -- it is important that this be stressed -- but it deserves a much better fate than that which has happened to it. There are talks in the city now about how to renovate the stadium as part of a larger revitalization project, and the hope is that this eventually comes to fruition. A few coats of paint and some care could easily restore this beauty to her former majesty.
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345 S Elm St
Greensboro, NC 27401
327 Battleground Ave
Greensboro, NC 27401
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