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  • Jared Goodman

Burlington Athletic Stadium – Burlington Royals


Photo by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

Burlington Athletic Stadium 1450 Graham St Burlington, NC 27217



Year Opened: 1960

Capacity: 3,500

 

The Royal Treatment

It’s fascinating that one of North Carolina’s most historic baseball venues wasn’t even constructed in the state. Burlington Athletic Stadium, home of the only rookie advanced team in the Tar Heel State, was built across the border in Danville, Virginia and moved to its present location almost 60 years ago.

After moving to the Piedmont city of Burlington, the ballpark was historically known as Fairchild Stadium, named after the nearby Fairchild Aircraft plant. The team was known then as the Burlington Indians and saw many future major league stars pass through, including CC Sabathia, Jim Thome, Bartolo Colon, and Manny Ramirez. Today, these players and more are honored on pennants located on the concourse behind the main grandstand.

Food & Beverage 3

With old-school baseball comes old-school concessions. That isn’t a bad thing, but don’t expect any over-the-top food items. Traditional fare is offered at several stands throughout the park, at below average prices. Chowing down is even cheaper on promotional nights when select items are just $1 or $2. Ice cream and ribs are probably the most deviant choices, although sno-balls are sometimes available. Pepsi is the main beverage served, primarily due to its popularity and roots in the region.

Atmosphere 4

Burlington Athletic received $1.2 million in upgrades and renovations prior to the 2019 season, which helped immensely in improving the game day experience for fans. Despite the changes, Burlington hasn’t lost the old-timey baseball feel that is always front and center in the Appalachian League circuit.

While Minor League Baseball in general has earned a reputation for being outlandish and outrageous in team names and promotions, you won’t find any of that nonsense here in Burlington. Things are very laid back on game days; sound effects and on-field games between innings are kept to a minimum.

If your seats are located in the main grandstand, be aware of the extremely steep ramps that lead up from the concourse. They’re somewhat difficult to ascend and descend in good weather, so imagine the difficulty level when it rains.

Neighborhood 2

The stadium is located in a residential area of Burlington, near the adjacent town of Graham. In fact, depending on how you approach the park from the interstate, you may pass through this quaint town.

That being said, there are no walkable options for fans before or after games. Since one would likely be driving to the ballpark anyway, there isn’t exactly a need for amenities in the immediate area.

Retail and restaurant chains are just a short drive away, near I-85/I-40. The towns of Burlington and Elon are also close; both are home to local shops and eateries. Skid’s Drive-In, a Burlington staple, is just a few minutes from the stadium and worth a stop.

Fans 3

Burlington typically draws in the upper echelon of the Appy League. It’s not clear whether this is due to the team’s performance (the Royals advanced to the Championship in 2019, losing to Johnson City in 3 games) or the dedication of baseball fans in the area. Regardless, folks show up to support their Royals. Sellouts don’t happen often, but the house is usually packed with a decent number of fans, depending on the night of the week and the opponent. Most fans who show up to games are knowledgeable and involved, but there are a select few who are just there to socialize and aren’t engaged with the action on the field.


Access 5

The ballpark is surrounded by parking lots, all of which are free. There is a massive lot directly adjacent to the park; when it fills up, there is a secondary lot not too far away. Note that there’s a bit of a walk involved if you park in this alternate lot, so arrive early if you want to park close.

Interstate 85/40 is the main route used to get to the stadium and there are several exits and approaches that can be used depending on the direction that one comes from. Burlington itself is located approximately halfway between the Triad and Triangle regions of North Carolina, meaning the city is almost equidistant from Greensboro and Durham. Within a short drive, there are at least 4 other minor league teams, as well as a multitude of college baseball programs. The region is served by two airports and five major interstates.

In the Appalachian League, the Royals might be considered the geographical outlier. The nearest team is in Danville; together, the two clubs are somewhat isolated from the extremely compact league footprint in southern West Virginia, southwest Virginia, and the Tri-Cities region of Tennessee.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets on the day of game are between $7 and $10, depending on where you want to sit. This is just a shade higher than the league average, but still extremely affordable and well worth the price.

Tickets and concessions for a family of four will run approximately $70. One person can enjoy a solo night out for around $15. Remember, parking is free.

Extras 2

One point for the updated ticketing system, which has made significant strides in recent seasons. Today, the simple and easy process for purchasing game tickets is on par with the rest of the minor leagues.

A second point is awarded for the rich history of the stadium. The park appeared momentarily in the famous movie Bull Durham and was home to a 27-inning contest in 1988 that lasted more than eight hours, setting the record for the longest continuous single-game solo broadcast in baseball history.

Final Thoughts

Burlington Athletic Stadium is small-town baseball at its finest. The quaint grounds on which the Royals play almost transport you back in time to the golden age of baseball. While it’s not a modern venue in a vibrant downtown as is the case in other Carolina cities, this Field of Dreams should be on your ballpark bucket list.

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