Atrium Health Ballpark – Kannapolis Cannon Ballers
Photos by David Berger, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Atrium Health Ballpark
Chestnut Ave and West B Street
Kannapolis, NC 28083
Year Opened: 2021
A New Stadium For Kannapolis
For the 2021 season, the Kannapolis Intimidators re-branded as the Kannapolis Cannon Ballers, and moved into a new downtown ballpark, retiring Intimidators Stadium, a 25-year-old ballpark they had called home since moving the franchise from Spartanburg, SC in 1995. The ballpark project is the hub of a downtown revitalization project for this small town, situated just 25 miles to the northeast of Charlotte.
The master plan calls for not just the stadium, but a refurbishment of the historic Gem Theater, a performing arts center, a hotel, retail and residential, and “mixed-use” development. The ballpark will also be used on non-game days as a public park, with a 1/3-mile walking track on the concourse, an enormous kids’ play area with a splash pad, and the Kinect Club (the ballpark’s hospitality space), available for event rental and banquets year round.
The ballpark is bordered to the north by the NC Research Campus, which right now consists of three buildings and a tremendous wide open green space. There’s plenty of room still for additional development to the west. You can see this as the beginning of something special for Kannapolis and its citizens.
Note: This review was evaluated at the 2nd home game and during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the scoring may be a bit lower than they would like on the hospitality side, there’s tremendous potential here, once the logistics are worked out.
Food & Beverage 2
The Cannon Ballers have some work to do on the food and beverage services. Most of the offerings at this point are fairly pedestrian. The main stands on the concourse serve hamburgers ($5) and hot dogs ($4), chicken tenders ($5), pretzels, and nachos – your standard ballpark fare. There is a plant based burger ($5) option as well. A Roasted Corn stand near gate 2 is very popular, with corn roasted to order over an open flame.
A Super Nachos stand in centerfield is also popular, but the offering ($9) is lackluster. It is a large portion, with your choice of meat, a bland nacho cheese sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, and a chipotle ranch sauce. For $9 it is more than a meal but lacks flavor, salsa, jalapenos, or any other toppings. Salsa may have been available earlier but was unavailable by the 6th inning.
There is a mix of beer options, between Budweiser/Bud Light, Miller Light, and a series of craft options. A center field bar is the best choice for purchasing the widest range of drinks.
Unfortunately, there are not enough stands, or they need to fix other logistics. Guests reported waiting for three or more innings in line at the main concession stands, and at least two at the carts – even though capacity at the ballpark was less than half of what would be allowed without social distancing.
There’s a lot of small town charm in Kannapolis, and that extends to the ballpark. The concourse is wide, and you never feel crowded, although you know you are in a crowd. Many people use the standing room spaces and there are drink rails, small tables, and lots of different vantage points. The playing surface itself has some fun quirks, with variable distances across the right field wall (deeper in the corner, a jut inward in straightaway right to accommodate a home run porch, and then deeper again towards center).
Like most Low A stadiums, people are there to have a good time and the game is almost secondary. Parents enjoying a drink on a cool evening, while the kids run around and tiring themselves out. Everything is very clean and the people are respectful.
The neighborhood is coming, and you’ll want to spend time in downtown Kannapolis before or after games soon. A few retail establishments are popping up as well as some restaurants. Consider Chophouse 101 for upscale pub food or the Old Armor Beer Company for some craft brews.
For literally their 5th day of existence as the Cannon Ballers, there were a tremendous number of fans wearing team garb… t-shirts, hats, and jerseys were prevalent, and there was a line to get into their small team store throughout the game. There’s a lot of excitement for having brought the team downtown, and fans are quick to latch on.
Still, this is low A minor leagues, and it’s as much a night out in fresh air with the family, a few snacks, and a few beers as it is fervent baseball fandom. They’ll need to build some history to drive more fan interest in the team. Also, they are coming to life at a time where the best White Sox (their parent franchise) prospects are either in AAA or have graduated to the majors in recent years – so there’s not a lot of name recognition for their guys right now.
Reaching the stadium is easy by car. Interstate I-85 is the main thoroughfare, and Dale Earnhardt Blvd is an exit, and it runs right along the side of the ballpark. $5 official parking is available at Chestnut Ave and Laureate Way, but there is also ample street parking available within a few blocks of the stadium. Try Oak Avenue or West Avenue, south of Vance Avenue for some free spaces. The team also offers a parking map, but it is subject to change.
There is an Amtrak station nearby, but the primary method people will get here is by car.
Return on Investment 5
This level of baseball is usually a great value for the money. Tickets are relatively inexpensive… concession prices are more reasonable than most of the offerings at the Charlotte Knights down the road, and there’s an option for everyone, the baseball fan, the casual observer, kids, and families. Even souvenirs from the team store are moderately priced. You can park for free, walk to a local restaurant or brewery, and then casually stroll in and enjoy the game. There’s really not much to complain about.
When the ballpark is not being used for baseball, it’s still open as a public/private space. The concourse is considered a public park, and the giant play structure is available for kids to use for free when there isn’t a game.
On the luxury box / Kinect Club level, there’s a ton of great old photos and memorabilia, recalling their days as the Piedmont Phillies, the Boll Weevils, and the Intimidators.
The Kinect Club also serves a for-purchase buffet.
The ballpark is the center of a large revitalization effort. Coming soon will be loft apartments at the ballpark, which are sure to draw new residents to the downtown area who want a hip new place, with a view of the park and its off-day amenities. My guess is this area will be almost unrecognizable in five years, as growth and development draw more inhabitants who want the small town charm, and a still very convenient pathway to the Charlotte Metro area.
The small town charm of Kannapolis is extended to this new ballpark. A great master plan for the stadium and area means it is expected to be an even greater experience in the years to come.