The Bank of the James Stadium – Lynchburg Hillcats
Photos by Aaron S Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
The Bank of the James Stadium 3180 Fort Ave. Lynchburg, VA 24501
Year Opened: 1940 Capacity: 4,000
Minor League Baseball in the Virginia Hill Country
Baseball had been played in Lynchburg, Virginia since 1886 and the city has represented many leagues from the Virginia League, the Appalachian League, the Southern League, and the South Atlantic League. Baseball has been played at one place since 1940, what is now called The Bank of the James Stadium was known as City Stadium for most of its 80 years.
The first game took place in front of 7,000 fans on April 11, 1940, between the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. That same year it served as the home of the Lynchburg Senators of the Virginia League where 2,500 fans came out on opening day to watch the Senators play its first game. Later on that year the club captured the league championship.
The stadium has been the home to Carolina League baseball since the 1966 season and the Hillcats since 1995. The man who brought Carolina League to town was Calvin Falwell who has served as the president of the Lynchburg Baseball Corporation since 1956 and was known as “Mr. Baseball”. The stadium would be rededicated in his honor in 2004 before the club secured naming rights with Bank of the James in 2020.
The ballpark has gone through multiple renovations since 1978, but the most extensive rehab took place in 2002 when $6.5 million altered the look of the facility. The improvements included the completion of a brand new concourse with seatback chairs, two picnic areas, two new concession stands, eight luxury boxes, a new press box, and a brand new state-of-the-art scoreboard
Food & Beverage 5
The Bank of the James Stadium has a great selection of food and beverage options for such a small stadium. Hot dogs, corn dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches, pizza, pulled pork, brats, Italian sausage, and grilled chicken salad are all available at prices ranging from $3 to $8.50, including kid’s meals for $4. Numerous snack items are also available including nachos, peanuts, Cracker Jack, chips, French fries, mac ‘n cheese bites, pretzels, and Little Caesars crazy bread ($3 to $5). If you find yourself craving something sweet,
The stadium also offers many different dessert items, including Oreo churros, several ice cream selections, and assorted types of candy ($2 to $5). Drink items are equally numerous, with selections including bottled water, fountain soda, Gatorade, Rockstar energy drinks, hot chocolate, several coffee choices, including cappuccino, and even beer and wine. Beer starts at $5, the wine starts at $6, and non-alcoholic drinks run $2 to $4.
The Bank of the James Stadium has comfortable seating, with wide chair back seats in the section behind home plate, and in the first few rows along the first and third baselines (most of the seats along the baselines are metal bleachers). Most of the section behind home plate is covered by a roof, so you will be protected from the sun (or rain) if you choose to sit there, which is actually the general admission section (unlike most sports venues where general admission would be the “worse” seats). The scoreboard at Calvin Falwell Field is pretty basic and does not include a video board, and the in-game activities between innings are pretty standard.
There is not a lot to do in the immediate vicinity of The Bank of the James Stadium, though the region offers plenty, such as Appomattox Court House National Park and the National D-Day Memorial both within a 30-minute drive. Less than a mile from the baseball field, though, is Fort Early, a Civil War-era battlefield with a couple of monuments, and you can also visit Amazement Square (a children’s museum) in downtown Lynchburg. Downtown is also the place to be if you are looking for a bite to eat while visiting – Depot Grille and Market on Main are both great choices. And if you are looking for a place to stay while in the area, most of the hotels near downtown are bed and breakfasts, but there are a slew of national chains southwest on Highway 29 near Liberty University, including a Hilton Garden Inn and a Fairfield Inn & Suites.
The Lynchburg Hillcats averaged about 1,858 fans per game, with Sundays tending be the least attended. This ranks them second to last in the league. This level of attendance doesn’t lend itself to much crowd noise, although it does make it really easy to park and to get around the stadium.
Getting to The Bank of the James Stadium is not hard, per se, since there isn’t a lot of traffic in the area, but the venue does feel like it is a bit out in the middle of nowhere, so you won’t be able to use Interstates for much of your trip, meaning you will hit a lot of stoplights on your way in and out of town. The stadium does have some free parking on site, however, which is nice, in addition to some reserved parking slightly closer to the front entrance for about $6 per vehicle. Moving around the concourse is easy, thanks in part to the small crowd size, and there are no lines to speak of. The only downside really is that the parking lot is not that well kept up – on one recent visit, I ended up ruining a pair of sneakers, due to the summer heat being so bad it melted some of the asphalt.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to Lynchburg Hillcats games start at only $6, which is a pretty good deal and is in line with other minor league parks in the vicinity. Free parking is also a plus, and the concessions prices are reasonable, albeit coming in at a slightly higher price point perhaps than similar venues. The only downside is the out of the way location, so depending on where you live, you may be able to find a baseball game that is a little easier to get to.
The Lynchburg Hillcats have a great logo, with nice bright colors, and there is a huge play area for the kids inside the park. It is the only ballpark in professional baseball that allows dogs to all home games. Also, the staff does a lot of great promotions throughout the year.
The atmosphere can be somewhat laid back and down-home at the ballpark. A Hillcats game is comfortable and relaxing but not over the top in excitement or exuberance. That said, there are other parks nearby you could visit with bigger crowds and better amenities. But if you do find yourself at The Bank of the James Stadium for a game, you will certainly have a decent time.