Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.86
Winthrop Ballpark 900 Eden Terrace Rock Hill, SC 29730
Year Opened: 2001 Capacity: 1,800
Winthrop Ballpark – Winthrop Eagles
Just south of Charlotte and not far across the North Carolina-South Carolina state line is the town of Rock Hill, South Carolina, and the Winthrop University Eagles.
One of the original members of the Big South Conference, Winthrop made a name for itself in the early 2000s as one of the top basketball programs in the conference. At about the same time the Eagles were also the class of the diamond in the Big South, winning 3 conference championships (2001, 2003, 2005) and advancing to 3 NCAA Regionals (2001, 2005, 2006).
Food & Beverage 2
There is a light menu of food options here at reasonable rates – hot dogs and nachos are the featured items and top out at $5. Other ballpark classics such as soft pretzels, popcorn, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are also available.
Beverages include sports drinks and Coke products, along with domestic beers and seltzers. Local craft brewery Legion Brewing also has its IPA available.
Winthrop Ballpark is tucked away toward the front of the Winthrop athletics complex. As fans approach the stadium they are greeted by the back side of a towering brick and concrete grandstand, guarded by a black iron fence, which is adorned with the Winthrop Eagle logo atop the entry ways.
Upon passing through the gates and climbing the stairs into the seating bowl, the gigantic batter’s eye in baseball jumps out immediately. Standing 77-feet-tall, the batter’s eye that doubles as a sunshade is believed to be the largest in all of baseball. Once the enormity of the batter’s eye is processed, the lack of shade is the next thing that stands out. The grandstand has a short canopy, so this pushes most of the fans to the upper reaches of the seating area in search of shade. This creates a feeling that the fans are removed from the game.
The symmetrical, natural grass field plays a bit short at 325’ down each line and 390’ to straightaway center. From afar the brick-lined grandstand looks beautiful, but upon closer inspection the impressive structure could use a bit of sprucing up for its fading paint and section numbers.
There are some between inning activities, such as in-game Bingo or the “Let’s Make a Deal” game of “the first person to bring a paperclip to the press box”. The games are at least an attempt to engage fans, but there does not seem to be much fan interest in them.
Most of Winthrop’s athletic facilities are located just over a mile from campus, separated by a well-maintained, residential neighborhood.
The Winthrop athletics complex has plenty of activities for fans stopping by for more than just baseball – the university runs a 9-hole golf course that can be played all day for $10. There are also 2-disc golf courses which are ranked as some of the best in South Carolina, and best of all they are free to play.
Not far from Winthrop’s sports complex is Old Town Rock Hill, home to shops, restaurants, and Rock Hill Brewing Company.
Winthrop baseball games tend to be lightly attended – fans appear to be mostly family members and friends of players with a light turnout of student supporters, along with a few Rock Hill residents who have a passion for baseball. Most games here draw between two to three hundred fans each.
Throughout the game there does not seem to be an all-out enthusiasm, other than parents cheering on their child or getting on the umpire for his opinion of balls and strikes.
Winthrop Ballpark is just over three miles from Interstate-77, which runs locally between Columbia, South Carolina, and nearby Charlotte.
Parking is plentiful and free at any of the lots in the area. Signs direct baseball fans to park at the lot adjacent to the basketball arena. Those not familiar with the area will want to look for the woodchip path that leads to the stadium, as there is not much to direct fans to the walkway, and the intuition for first-time visitors would be to walk down the long road to the stadium.
Once inside the stadium, the visitors side of the entry plaza is closed off and the home side of the entry level is blocked by the Winthrop clubhouse, so fans must use one of two steep staircases to reach the field concourse. There are also ramps from the concourse to field level where some fans stand to watch the game, while children play in the grassy area and chase foul balls.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices are broken into two tiers, with $10 reserved seating and $5 general admission; Winthrop Ballpark is a small enough stadium that there is not enough of a difference between them to justify paying the extra amount, unless you just want to be close to the action. Given the size of the crowd, there does not seem to be much of a reason to have the two different price points (one price should be suitable). However, free parking and affordable concessions help balance the slightly elevated ticket price for the front rows of seating.
The entry plaza has an apparel shop where fans can to pick up Winthrop hats, t-shirts, and other Eagles souvenirs.
Chicago baseball fans will probably recognize the stadium announcer’s odes to Windy City baseball announcing icons – the 7th Inning Stretch’s “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is very reminiscent to that of Harry Caray’s. Also, home runs are celebrated with an impression of Hawk Harrelson’s, “Put it on the board...YES!”.
Winthrop does an excellent job of reminding fans of the pride players have representing their university, as the team lines up along the first baseline to sing Winthrop’s alma mater following the game.
At the time Winthrop Ballpark was built, the Eagles were entering one of the program’s most successful stretches. Winthrop was one of the better teams in the Big South Conference, with typical crowds of five to six hundred and occasionally even eclipsing 1,000. A stadium the size of Winthrop Ballpark made sense, but several consecutive years of a sub-.500 winning percentage appears to have taken its toll on the game experience.
The game itself is just fine for baseball junkies; Winthrop’s players play with a lot of grit and passion that adds to the enjoyment of the game. Overall though, the game does not have enough to capture the attention of the average fan and draw them out to the ballpark.