Sims Legion Park – Gastonia Grizzlies
Photos by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Sims Legion Park 1201-1299 Dr M.L.K. Jr. Way Gastonia, NC 28054
Year Opened: 1950
Grizzly in Gastonia
Sims Legion Park is a quaint 4,000-seat ballpark located west of Charlotte in the suburb of Gastonia, North Carolina. The park, built in 1950, received extensive upgrades in the late 1970s in order to attract an affiliated Minor League Baseball team, which was ultimately successful. Gastonia played host to a South Atlantic League team that went by several different monikers for nearly a decade and a half before the franchise moved north to nearby Hickory in 1992.
In 2002, baseball returned to the historic venue in the form of the Gastonia Grizzlies, a collegiate summer team that plays in the Coastal Plain League.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The Gastonia Grizzlies ceased operations after the 2020 season.
Food & Beverage 3
The main draw to the concession stand has to be the Donut Burger, a treat consisting of a hamburger patty wedged between two halves of a Krispy Kreme donut. It’s priced fairly at $5, but is apparently unavailable on most nights. The Donut Dog, a similar item that involves hot dogs instead of burgers, is only $3 but is also not always on tap. Garbage Can Nachos, a tray of nachos served on a garbage can lid, are also an option.
In addition to those specialty items, the Grizzlies offer the standard ballpark fare, like hot dogs and cracker jacks, all moderately priced.
A beer garden is located down the third base side and serves a variety of local craft beers.
The Grizzlies are known for their unusual yet creative promotions, such as “Dunk the GM”, “Grandma Beauty Pageant”, “Salute to Underwear Night”, and “Midnight Madness Night.” The latter, in which first pitch occurred at midnight, was suspended a few seasons ago. After certain games, the team also puts on a fireworks display, which is rather well done for this level.
A Kids Zone, complete with bouncy houses and other age-appropriate activities, is located behind the bleacher seating on the first base side. (Watch out for foul balls in that spot!)
There isn’t a whole lot going on in the area outside of the game, as Sims is surrounded by a small parking lot and a residential neighborhood. The ballpark is approximately two miles from downtown Gastonia where you’ll find some shops and restaurants, but there are a few chain outposts are located a bit closer like Pancake House or Cracker Barrel.
The most popular team in the Coastal Plain League, the Savannah Bananas, were visiting on the night of this visit. Even with the Bananas in town, not many fans turned out to Sims and the seats were mostly occupied by the few groups that were in attendance.
In the last few years, the team has consistently drawn more than 2,000 fans per game on average, and has broken their own single-season attendance record multiple times. This is good for both the team and the fans, as lack of attendance was an important factor in the relocation of the Gastonia Rangers to Hickory, North Carolina in the late 1990s.
While I-85 runs directly adjacent to the stadium parking lot, there’s no exit located there; a few simple turns are required to get from one to the other. The interstate itself runs mostly north and south between Richmond, Virginia and Montgomery, Alabama, hitting several major cities on the way – including Atlanta and nearby Charlotte.
The parking lot seems large enough to handle most game day crowds, though there’s plenty of open grassy areas available should overflow become necessary.
Return on Investment 3
A general admission ticket costs $8 – for $2 more, you can upgrade to a reserved seat in the grandstand. These ticket prices are typical for this level of collegiate summer baseball. One person can grab some food and a drink at the concession stand for about $10, meaning a night out at the ballpark would run a family of four approximately $80, including tickets. Parking is free.
One extra point for the Grizzlies’ mascot, Chizzle, who is frequently dubbed “the world’s strongest mascot.”
Another point for the unique terraced outfield, though closed off to the public, and the whitewashed brick wall that encompasses the park.
Despite its aging state, Sims Legion Park is a still a fine facility for watching baseball. The Grizzlies are making the best use of what they have and are pushing hard for a new downtown mixed-use development project that includes a state-of-the-art ballpark. However, whether the town will continue to support the team if the new stadium plan falls through remains to be seen. All in all, it’s probably fair to say that baseball will be in Gastonia in one form or the other for a long time to come.