McNair Field – Forest City Owls
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
McNair Field 214 McNair Dr. Forest City, NC 28043
Year Opened: 2008
Give a Hoot
The Forest City Owls began their existence in 2003 as the Spartanburg Stingers. After five seasons in South Carolina, the team moved north to the small town of Forest City, where a brand-new ballpark, McNair Field, was being built.
The ballpark is named in honor of Forest City native Robert McNair. McNair is best known as the former owner of the Houston Texans. Through the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, the McNairs have donated millions of dollars in scholarships to local students. A donation from the McNair Foundation helped to fund the construction of this ballpark.
The Owls have won two Petit Cups as Coastal Plain League Champions. Four Owl alumni have reached the major leagues (Josh Edgin, Heath Hembree, Vince Belnome, Spencer Patton). With several players selected each year in the draft, that number should increase soon.
Food & Beverage 4
There is a concession stand on the first base side of the ballpark which offers a good selection of food for a ballpark of this size. Your typical ballpark fare can be found here (hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, pizza slices and cheesesteaks) along with french fries and corn dogs. Chili, cheese and cole slaw are available to add to any item as you see fit. Fans looking to save a few dollars can combine a burger or dog with fries and a soda to make a combo meal or you can buy 2, 3 or 4 of each in a family package.
Bojangles chicken and biscuits also operate a small stand when large crowds are in attendance.
Pepsi products are featured at McNair Field. In addition, several brands of beer are sold here, including Miller Lite, Coors Light, Yeungling, Michelob Ultra, Bud Light, Natural Light and Busch. If your taste runs toward the craft brews, a few brands from Highland Brewing are sold here, too. It’s an impressive selection from such a small concession stand.
When attending a game in Forest City, you can expect a small-town, laid-back atmosphere. The staff are friendly and helpful, and eager to engage in conversation about the team or McNair Field, as are the locals. This community is certainly proud of its ball club. The interns are highly visible all over the ballpark and work hard to make this a fun experience for visiting fans.
There is a large video board in right-center field, which unfortunately did not work during Stadium Journey’s visit. All your standard summer college game day staples can be found here, from the 50/50 raffle to the occasional between-inning contest. There are a pair of owl mascots roaming the ballpark, Hoot and Annie. Some of the interns may try a bit too hard (i.e. the crowd hype guy who often screamed at the top of his lungs over the PA system), but it’s a fun place to watch a game.
As you may expect, the small town of Forest City is not known as a destination location. Main Street is a short drive from the ballpark, and it certainly has that Hallmark Channel-movie vibe to it. The downtown looks like a great place for walking around and window shopping. At Christmastime Forest City is known for their light display, with a million twinkling lights decorating the downtown area. Of course, you can’t check it out during baseball season, but it may be worth another visit during the winter months.
If you’re looking for a place to eat while in Forest City, you’ll find a few spots in the downtown area a short distance from McNair Field. The Copper Penny Grill, Twisted Pear Taproom and Louis Café come highly recommended. You’ll find some chain restaurants out close to Route 74. There are also several lodging options along the Route 74 Business Loop.
Forest City generally ranks near the bottom of the Coastal Plain League in attendance. According to league stats, attendance at Owls games has been in a free fall over the past few seasons, from an average of about 500 in 2018 to just over 100 in 2021. Stadium Journey attended McNair Stadium on a rainy Monday night and attendance appeared to be about 150 fans, so take these figures for what they’re worth.
Fans at McNair Field are very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the Owls. Many appear to have a personal connection with the team. In addition, they are friendly to visitors and are willing to strike up a conversation with strangers without a second thought. This is certainly small-town baseball at its best.
McNair Field is located a short distance from downtown Forest City just off of East Main Street. Forest City is a small town of about 7,500 residents located about an hour west of Charlotte and about an hour southeast of Asheville. Accessible by Route 74, driving is the primary method for arriving at McNair Field.
Seating at McNair Stadium is available in many forms, from individual stadium seats to metal bleachers with backs. Fans looking to sit outside of the grandstand can take advantage of high-top tables with stools, a party deck or tables scattered around the patio on both sides of the field. With the small crowds at McNair Field, moving around the facility is not an issue.
Parking is available at no charge in the large lot across the street from the ballpark. The wide concourse is easy to navigate, and lines at the concession stand, merchandise stand, and rest rooms are nonexistent. One complaint is that the rest rooms, which are large and clean, are located around the back of the concession buildings and could use some better lighting.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets to an Owls game are very affordable, ranging in price from $6.53 for general admission seats to $9.63 for box seats (the odd prices are due to the inclusion of taxes). With the small grandstand, all seats offer excellent views of the action. The Owls also hold promotional nights. Some games are “$1.50 Nights,” where all tickets and several concession items (including beer) are sold at the aforementioned $1.50 price point. You can purchase seats on the first base party deck, otherwise known as “The Perch,” for five dollars. In addition to wait service throughout the game, a ticket on The Perch gets you one-dollar hot dogs, popcorn, soda, water and beer throughout the game.
Parking is free in the lot across the street from the ballpark. Concessions, which are affordably priced to begin with, can be purchased in combo meals or family packs to further increase their value.
The merchandise stand, with a great selection of affordably priced Owls gear, merits an extra point.
Championship banners and retired number banners line the façade of the concessions building. Coastal Plain League standings are posted on the side of the merchandise building.
A final extra point is awarded for the friendly and welcoming staff and fans here in Forest City. As mentioned before, they are why we travel the country looking for hidden gems like McNair Field. There’s a feel to an Owls game that just can’t be replicated in the big cities. And, I have never seen a grounds crew work so hard to make sure a game was played on a rainy night as I witnessed here in Forest City.
Forest City isn’t a place you’re going to stumble across accidentally. If you do find yourself in the area, do yourself a favor and take in an Owls game. This hidden gem of a ballpark is well worth the trip off the beaten path.
Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.