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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

GoMart Ballpark - Charleston Dirty Birds


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57


GoMart Ballpark 601 Morris St Charleston, WV 25301



Year Opened: 2005

Capacity: 4,500


A Toast to the Dirty Birds

 

Professional baseball has been played in the city of Charleston since 1910. Numerous franchises in numerous leagues called West Virginia’s capital home before the Charleston Wheelers arrived in town in 1987. Originally a co-op team with a roster made up of players from several franchises, The Wheelers won a South Atlantic League championship in 1990.

 

The team was rebranded as the Charleston Alley Cats in 1995, but was unable to find a consistent MLB affiliate or even consistent ownership, as the team was sold numerous times. With the construction of Appalachian Power Park in 2005 the team was rebranded as the West Virginia Power. But still, stability eluded the franchise, as the team was dropped from affiliated baseball with the Great Minor League Baseball Reorganization of 2020.

 

A new ownership group led by Andy Shea, who was also the owner of the Lexington Legends, purchased the team in February 2021. Both teams joined the independent Atlantic League for the 2021 season. In September 2021 the team was rebranded as the Charleston Dirty Birds, a reference to the canary in a coal mine. During their first three seasons in the Atlantic League, the Dirty Birds have qualified for the playoffs once.

 

Food & Beverage 3

 

 Concession stands are located on either side of the ballpark. The menu here doesn’t stray too far from standard ballpark fare. Fans can get a little taste of West Virginia by purchasing a pepperoni roll, a favorite local snack. On the plus side, prices are very reasonable throughout the facility.

 

Pepsi products are featured at GoMart Ballpark. For fans who enjoy an adult beverage during the game, local craft beers from Stone Brewing are featured alongside the national brands.

 

Atmosphere 4

 

The Dirty Birds put on a typical minor league baseball show, with not a lot going on throughout the game to distract one’s attention from the action on the field. There’s a scoreboard in left-center field that is put to good use with graphics, photos and videos, the sound system is decent, with the typical music and PA adding to the atmosphere. The team’s mascot, a giant canary, roams the concourse interacting with fans.

 

There’s a kids zone behind home plate where younger fans in attendance can let off some steam, a mini golf course located down the left field line where fans can get in a quick nine holes, and some art work throughout ballpark by local artists that gives the ballpark a little flavor. The first base concourse is meant to evoke memories of Eutaw Street in Baltimore. It’s a nice, small facility in a nice, small town.

 

This all sounds pretty average so far, so why the above-average score? Three words: The Toast Man. Local politician Rod Blackstone has been taking up residence behind home plate at Charleston professional baseball games since 1992, dating back to the days of the Charleston Wheelers and Watt Powell Park. Blackstone leads the cheers in the sections behind home plate, punctuating visiting team strikeouts by yelling “You Are Toast!” and throwing pieces of toast in the air. How integral to the team is the Toast Man? When GoMart Ballpark was built in 2005, they made sure to include a power outlet and room for Blackstone’s table and toaster.

 


Neighborhood 2

 

GoMart Stadium is located in the East End of Charleston, West Virginia’s downtown. The CAMC General Hospital is behind the first base side of the facility and the state capitol building is about two miles away. Despite the ballpark’s downtown location, there’s not a ton of dining or lodging options right near the ballpark. Charleston is a small city of about 50,000 residents, so getting around the area isn’t too difficult if you’re staying in the area.

 

Capitol Street (ironically located in the opposite direction from the capitol building from the ballpark) is a historic dining and shopping area of the city. It’s located less than a mile from GoMart Ballpark. The Greater Charleston area offers many outdoor activities for fans visiting during baseball season.

 

Fans 4

 

The Dirty Birds have ranked in the middle of the Atlantic League attendance rankings since their arrival in the circuit, averaging about 2,500 fans per game in 2023 and 2024. The crowd is pretty typical of most minor league crowds around the country, with a mix of diehard fans, casual fans enjoying an affordable night out, with families and groups scattered throughout the ballpark.

 

As mentioned before, sitting behind home plate with the Toast Man and the rest of the Dirty Birds’ superfans will give a visiting fan a totally different perspective of the Charleston game day experience. Their presence lifts this score above the average.


 

Access 5

 

Interstates 64 and 77 meet and combine in Charleston and run a short distance from GoMart Ballpark. Exit 100 drops visitors off about three blocks from the park, while the onramp to the interstate runs right along the third base side of the facility. Parking is located in a pair of lots right across the street to the ballpark’s entrance. Fans using public transportation can take the 11 or 14 bus to the stop at the corner of Morris and Smith Streets.

 

The box office and main entrance to GoMart Ballpark are located in the right field corner of the ballpark on Morris Street. After a quick security check, fans will enter a concourse meant to evoke images of Eutaw Street at Camden Yards. The team store and concession stands are built into the buildings that run along this concourse.

 

The 360-degree concourse that runs along the top of the seating bowl allows for views of the field from most points. Lines to the concession stands and restrooms are not usually an issue here. Seating consists of individual plastic chairs with cupholders. Sections furthest down the foul lines consist of metal bleachers with backs. There are picnic tables and areas for fans to mingle scattered throughout the ballpark. Fans who wish to roam around the facility will find plenty of standing room areas.

 

Return on Investment 5

 

Tickets to Dirty Birds games are very affordable, priced at $8 for general admission seats, $10 for box seats and $11 for premium seats in the sections behind home plate. Weekday games are discounted by one dollar. Purchasing your tickets on the day of the game increases the cost by two dollars.

 

Parking in the lots across the street from the entrance to the ballpark costs $5. With reasonable concessions prices, an evening at GoMart Ballpark is a most affordable entertainment option for central West Virginia sports fans.

 

Be aware that GoMart Ballpark is a cashless facility. Fans can convert cash into a card at the box office, team store, or fan assistance table.


 

Extras 2

 

The Michael C. Paterno Wall of Fame is located on the back side of the press box, honoring some of the more notable players from the area or those who passed through town during their careers. Among the notable names to be found here are Dave Parker, Kent Tekulve, Tommy John and Trevor Hoffman. Of course, the Toast Man is immortalized here as well.

 

Nods to Charleston’s baseball history can be found all over GoMart Ballpark, from the former team logos painted on the back of the press box to the Charleston Charlies gear sold in the team store.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

GoMart Ballpark may not be the type of ballpark that makes anyone’s “Best Of” list. But it does many things well. It’s inexpensive, cozy and thanks to The Toast Man and the cast of regulars in Section 107, incredibly entertaining. This ballpark suits the Atlantic League, the city of Charleston and its baseball fans perfectly.

 

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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