Photos by Brian Wilmer, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
George S. Erath Field at Coy O. Williams Baseball Stadium 1013 N College Dr High Point, NC 27262
Year Opened: 2007 Capacity: 550
Choose To Be Extraordinary
North Carolina is a state loaded with collegiate baseball history. Though no Tar Heel State team has raised the trophy in Omaha since Wake Forest accomplished the feat in 1955, North Carolina has played for two titles. NC State and Duke have also enjoyed success on the diamond, and many other schools across the state have participated in the NCAA regionals in recent years.
High Point University has spent fewer than two decades at the Division I level, but has already placed a player in Major League Baseball (reliever Cody Allen) and hosted the Big South Conference baseball tournament. The Panthers’ home, Williard Baseball Stadium, is part of a vibrant athletic complex that continues to enjoy significant growth. If you want to catch a North Carolina program on the rise in a comfortable setting, High Point may just be your place.
Food & Beverage 3
One should not expect a large amount of offerings at a High Point game. There are, however, enough choices to enjoy a small meal or in-game snack from the lone concession stand behind home plate.
The school offers four hot items as part of the menu. Domino’s pizza slices ($2), hot dogs ($2), nachos and cheese ($2.75) and warm pretzels ($2.75) serve as the “entrees.” For those seeking a snack, candy and bagged chips are available for $1.50 per item. Coca-Cola serves as the Panthers’ bottler, with bottled sodas, Powerade and water available for $2.
If you attend a weekday game, you might be able to enjoy an even more inexpensive night out. The school sells hot dogs for $1 apiece during in-week games.
Williard Stadium is just steps from the university’s expanding track and field sports facility, and the Millis Center — along with numerous additional campus buildings — is visible beyond the outfield fence. The view reinforces the integration of the facility into the fabric of the campus. There are also a few interestingly-hued houses (green, red, blue, et al) visible beyond the outfield wall.
One of the more interesting atmospheric touches in the ballpark is also a considerable drawback. There is a bit of a “wide-open” feel in the seating bowl, as there is no overhanging structure. While this allows views of most of the action on the field from almost anywhere inside the confines of the park, this also means that there are no shaded seating areas. Therefore, day games make sunscreen a requirement. If you are visiting for an evening game and sitting on the third base (visiting) side, consider a good pair of sunglasses and a hat to block out the setting sun. The sun will remain in your eyes for at least the first half of most evening contests.
All of the seats in the seating bowl are fixed, eliminating the highly uncomfortable spring option of bleachers. There is a reasonable amount of leg room for each seat, though the considerable amount of distance between the plate and backstop separates the seats from the field a bit.
A standard nine-inning scoreboard can be found beyond the wall in right-center field. The board contains the normal options one would expect to see when attending a game, along with a digital clock and LED board. The board is not used for video options, but does display statistical information about the current batter and the first three batters due up in the next inning. Advertisements are also occasionally shown on the board, with each shutout inning by the homestanding Panthers sponsored — for whatever reason — by a local real estate agent.
Williard Stadium is located in a largely residential neighborhood, near the intersection of Lexington and College. There are just a couple of options — along with a Food Lion grocery store — within a reasonable distance of the park. A small group of fans tailgate in a nearby parking lot before the game, so if you feel outgoing and adventurous, it may be worth trying to introduce yourself and joining the tailgate.
Many dining options can be found along North Main Street and Eastchester Drive (North Carolina Highway 68), though these options are well outside walking distance from the campus. Gianno’s, the official caterer of High Point athletics, is located on Eastchester Drive.
A fairly sizeable crowd can be found in the seats at most Panther games. The night I attended featured a crowd of 522 (capacity is 550), with numerous others gathered outside of the gates to watch. The number of fans in attendance is comparable with a number of Big South schools.
The true concern comes when analyzing the crowd itself. Attending games at High Point seems to be more of a social affair, with fans appearing more interested in hanging out with friends and catching up on the latest social news, versus making their support of the home team heard. The atmosphere can get a bit quiet at times, with the ability to hear the players on the field louder than the fans nearby in the stands. The crowd woke up a bit toward the end of the game I attended, though one might have expected more of a response throughout what ended up being a one-run game.
For fans looking to access High Point by air, the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI) is located about 20 minutes north of the university in Greensboro. This is easy enough. However, the numerous interstate highways in the Triad tend not to visit the High Point campus. Interstate 74 (co-signed with US Highway 311) is the nearest interstate, and is some ten minutes from the campus. North Carolina Highway 68 (Eastchester Drive) eventually connects the campus to the airport, though there are a number of stoplights along the route.
Upon your arrival to campus, parking is a bit of a challenge. There is a small lot behind the track, though it quickly fills. Therefore, it is probably best to park along the street on West College Drive (behind the track) or East Farris Avenue (between the stadium and the main campus guard house). Though this parking is free, it is not among the most convenient possible options. Either option will leave you with about a five-minute walk.
There is a tiny concourse inside the ballpark, and the concession stand and restrooms are located on the concourse. The restrooms are clean and well-kept, satisfying the needs of any crowd that may attend a game at Williard Stadium.
Return on Investment 4
In a world where it seems as though there is more demand for the entertainment dollar than ever, High Point offers a tremendous entertainment value for fans looking to enjoy a night out. The Big South is one of the better “non-power” baseball conferences in America, and it is almost a guarantee that, no matter the game, a great opponent will be on the field to take on the Panthers.
Using the standard test we often apply, a fan can get a seat ($5 for any seat in the park), a hot dog ($2) and a soda ($2) for just nine dollars, meaning a family of four can almost assuredly attend a game for under $40. Parking is also free, removing one of the usual headaches at a game. Value such as this is hard to argue.
High Point has a sports marketing table just inside the entrance to the stadium. The table features free roster sheets and other helpful documentation. For those who love to keep score at a game — and who doesn’t? — score sheets can also be found at this table.
If sitting in a regular ballpark seat bores you, the school furnishes rocking chairs along the top of the concourse. These chairs fill up early, so it is best to arrive early to guarantee a shot at one of these comfortable chairs. Rocking chairs are a long-time part of Southern lore, and these chairs give the park a sense of identity.
If you are a “knothole” viewer who chooses to watch the game from outside the interior of the park, there is a large hill behind the first base dugout on which fans can stand or sit. This area also contains one of the only sections of shade in the vicinity of the park. There is also a section beyond the center field wall called the Panther’s Den, in which fans tend to gather to watch the game. This area contains picnic tables and standing room. While these areas allow you to get a glimpse of the game without buying a ticket, you are also not afforded the options of concessions and restrooms offered within the gates. Keep this in mind when making your decision.
Sure, the park could be a bit louder and more lively, but — surprisingly — this may dim some of its charm. If a comfortable, inexpensive baseball experience is what you seek, come pull up a rocking chair at Williard Stadium. You’ll be treated to great people, beautiful weather and a relaxing night at the ballpark.