Segra Park – Columbia Fireflies
Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.14
Segra Park 1640 Freed St. Columbia, SC 29201
Year Opened: 2016 Capacity: 9,077
Segra Park – Columbia Fireflies
Professional baseball would make a return to the South Carolina capital in 2016 when the Savannah Sand Gnats would leave coastal Georgia for a newly built stadium in Columbia. The city had gone without professional baseball for over a decade following the relocation of the Capital City Bombers to Greenville.
Initially, the South Atlantic League Class A affiliate of the New York Mets, the Columbia Fireflies garnered national attention when former University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow began his professional baseball career with the Fireflies. Tebow’s presence in Columbia went a long way in boosting the attendance numbers in 2017.
The 2021 restructuring of minor league baseball saw changes for the Fireflies – not only did their affiliation change from the Mets to the Kansas City Royals, but they also moved from the South Atlantic League to the Carolina League but would remain a Class A affiliate. Despite the change in leagues and affiliates, the Fireflies have done well in drawing fans and putting on an entertaining game experience since their inception in 2016 through today.
Food & Beverage 4
Concession stands at Segra Park are what would be expected at most typical sports venues; hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, fries, and candy are all abundantly available. The pimento cheese sandwich, or adding the southern classic to a hamburger, does add a bit of a local touch to the concessions menu. In addition, each home stand does feature a specialty hot dog related to the visiting team.
While the traditional concession stands provide just about all fans might want when it comes to food, the real gems are in the carts around the concourse – the food carts serve up fried snacks, Philly-style steak, barbecue, burritos, and even healthy options by way of salads, wraps, and hummus plates.
Segra Park does offer a full line of Pepsi products, as well as Gatorade. Fans looking to grab adult beverages for an outing to the ballpark have Coors and Bud products to choose from, local craft brewer River Rat Brewery, and a handful of other regional craft and craft-type beers. Wine, seltzers, hard ciders, and mixed drinks are also available at several locations around the ballpark.
Concession prices on the whole are not astronomically priced; specialty items that are found at the food carts do come at more of a premium price, but nothing costs more than the $15 beef brisket plate.
The key to finding the best food available is to not limit yourself to the traditional concession stands. Though there are pimento cheese options there, the real treasures are in the carts around the concourse.
The gathering of Palmetto trees and multi-tiered stairs guide fans to the stadium's main entry point and give off a warm feel of southern hospitality. The front of the stadium is very welcoming, and the combination of brick and large arched windows, combined with the iron gates, is a nice mix of classic and modern stadium design.
Fans have a full, uninterrupted 360-degree concourse to navigate around the stadium. The open concourse provides views of the action on the field no matter if fans run to grab a bite to eat, need a trip to the restroom, or just want to get up and walk the stadium for an inning or two.
Segra Park’s outfield wall itself plays into the excitement of the game – at just 319’ left field can be a home run haven, but is made more challenging with a high wall. The height drops down 7 to 8 feet in places, making home run-saving catches a real possibility. The angles and outcrops can also create unpredictable carroms. In dead center field, the wall steeply angles up and back on both sides, making the area ripe for triples.
The Fireflies in-game entertainment team does an excellent job engaging fans throughout the evening with their use of sound effects as a sort of commentary on the game. They are also tuned in to what sound effects fans are responding to and use those as long as they are getting a response. Though some clever sound effects can quickly become annoying through repeated use, the Fireflies have found a nice balance in not overusing something to the point it becomes stale.
Mid-inning contests see some new takes on old favorites like the dizzy bat race, now using impaired vision goggles, but pieces like the air guitar contest, flex cam, and guess the attendance are common at many parks around the country.
Segra Park’s traditional seating area is relatively small compared to most stadiums its size; fold-down seats run twenty rows deep from the cut of the outfield grass on the third baseline, to midway up the right field line. What is lost in the typical stadium seating is more than made up for in specialty areas that are comprised of mostly social group seating. For example, high-top tables with high-backed barstools and shorter outdoor dining-style tables make up the Bullpen Boxes down the left field line, while the right field line has several picnic-style tables in the Picnic Pavilion.
There are two separate areas of berm seating, one in left-center and a second in right field, that combine a grass embankment with an area of amphitheater-style tiers.
Berm seats are always going to provide excellent value and, given the low prices, you do not feel you are missing out on the experience of the game if you decide to venture out and explore the stadium a bit. Given the affordability of ticket prices though, upgrading to any of the seats from dugout to dugout will only set you back anywhere from $13 to $15 max, so these seats are terrific options, also.
Segra Park was built on the grounds of the former South Carolina State Hospital. Opened in 1828, a handful of the historic buildings on the grounds have been preserved and repurposed into office spaces, businesses, and residences. The centerpiece, the Babcock Building, served as a mental health hospital from as early as 1885 through the early 1990s, but today has been converted to apartments.
Along with the historical buildings that have remained, new construction has also started to pop up around the stadium from local, regional, and national businesses – familiar names such as REI and Starbucks have opened stores. In addition, Iron Hill Brewery and Mexican fusion restaurant Publico, which are just steps from the front gates of Segra Park, add to the culinary and beer options in the district. Even though it has taken some time to get to where it is today, the BullStreet District has been beautifully developed into an area that can easily attract fans to enjoy it long before the game’s first pitch.
If in Columbia for an early season game, a visit to Founders Park for the often nationally ranked University of South Carolina Gamecocks could be planned, or summer trips could be paired with the Lexington County Blowfish of the Coastal Plains League.
The Fireflies' first two seasons were a bit of an anomaly when it comes to analyzing attendance numbers; the return of baseball and a new park after such a long absence, plus a season with Tim Tebow significantly boosted attendance numbers. Today, average attendance sits at just over 3,000 fans per game, putting Columbia in the middle of the pack for Carolina League teams.
Fans in Columbia do a fantastic job staying involved with both the action on the field and with the stadium entertainment team, which engages them with several call-and-respond prompts throughout the game.
Columbia is located at the junction of several interstate highways; I-20, I-26, and I-77 all feed directly into the city, and I-95 is not much of a side trip away either. This all makes Segra Park an excellent part of a baseball road trip, with its accessibility to major highways.
The parking deck on nearby Freed Street provides parking for just $7. Alternatively, those showing up early enough might be able to grab one of the spots on the streets surrounding the ballpark, but the parking lots of residents and businesses in the area are not open. Any of the parking options at Segra Park will leave fans with only a short walk to the stadium.
Lines to get into the stadium can be a bit long for Friday and Saturday night games, but after the initial rush when gates open, there is not much of a wait. Once in the stadium, the concourse is generously wide, especially once leaving the cover of the grandstand. There is plenty of space for fans to move about, so there does not tend to be much trouble getting around the stadium or to the seats.
Return on Investment 5
You would be hard-pressed to find better ticket prices in Minor League Baseball than those offered at Segra Park – it is not just the price, but how close to the action on the field you can get for what you are paying.
Ticket prices do increase by $2 the day of the game, so plan to avoid the dreaded day-of price hike. You will still pay the extra $2 for each ticket by way of a service fee if ordering tickets online, so there is no avoiding the price hike unless possibly buy tickets through the box office ahead of time.
With some free parking and reasonable rates for the parking garage, to go along with affordable concession prices, fans are getting their money's worth at Segra Park.
For those in the Columbia area, the Neighborhood Pass allows unlimited games for $25 per month. This might be a good way to get the most out of your baseball dollar if looking to attend several games in a month.
The Fireflies do a fantastic job recognizing the history of baseball in Columbia. The club level and outfield concourse features photos and information on Columbia’s minor league teams and the stars who have passed through on their way to major league stardom and Hall of Fame status.
Columbia was one of the first teams in minor league baseball to use neon as one of their primary colors. The glow of the team’s neon green with its navy blue and gray accents is a nice combination that does not leave the feeling of slow-pitch softball uniforms.
Segra Park has a 1/3-mile walking/running loop which is open to the public daily from 7 a.m. until dark, unless there are ticketed events or baseball games, in which case the loop closes 3-4 hours beforehand.
The BullStreet District goes a long way in creating more of a game day feel to the area, which will continue to improve as the district fills out.
The Columbia Fireflies have done a wonderful job building an experience that offers fans what they want from a stadium; those wanting a more traditional baseball game have plenty of seats to choose from in the grandstand, whereas fans wanting to use the game as more of a social backdrop to their evening have both a considerable number of field level table boxes or the Bowtie Bar in center field.
Segra Park is a beautiful facility that provides multiple experiences for what fans might want out of their visit to the ballpark. In addition, the BullStreet District that continues to grow around the stadium just adds to what Segra Park has to offer.