The Carolina League doesn’t compete anymore in classic Carolina League ballparks (for the most part, anyway), but at least some of the great old ballparks are still in play; the Burlington Royals compete in the rookie-level Appalachian League, so you can drop by every summer and see professional ballplayers in action.
Year Opened: 1960 (in Burlington)
Dimensions: 335L, 410C, 335R
League: Appalachian League
Parent: Kansas City Royals
Parking: Free and abundant in adjoining parking lot.
Directions: 1450 Graham St. Burlington. From I-40/I-85, take exit 145 and head north on Maple Avenue for approximately two miles. Take a right onto Mebane Street and stay on its for two miles. Take a right onto Beaumont Avenue and follow it until it ends; the ballpark is on the left.
If you’ve been reading our series on the ballparks of North Carolina, you’ve seen some references to classic Carolina League ballparks. During the last night of our nine-ballpark road trip, we spent a great evening at a classic Carolina League ballpark: Burlington Athletic Stadium, the home of the Burlington Royals.
That the Carolina League doesn’t compete anymore in classic Carolina League ballparks (for the most part, anyway) is sad, but at least some of the great old ballparks are still in play; the Burlington Royals compete in the rookie-level Appalachian League, so you can drop by every summer and see professional ballplayers in action.
The ballpark was originally located in Danville and served as the home of the Danville Leafs (Carolina League) from 1945 to 1958. The Leafs folded after the 1958 season, and the city of Burlington bought the whole thing for $5,000. Piece by piece the ballpark was moved to Burlington. In the current ballpark, the steel structure and roof are from that original Danville ballpark, but the original wooden grandstand floor and seats were replaced with aluminum decking and seats when the B-Tribe began play in 1986.
Before the Appy League came to town the ballpark served as home to the Carolina League’s Burlington Indians (1960-64), Burlington Senators (1965-1971) and Burlington Rangers (1972). Pro baseball returned in 1986 with the Burlington Indians, with a switch in later years to the Kansas City Royals.
The feel at Burlington Athletic Park is the feel retro ballparks strive to emulate. The grandstand provides evening shade and a rooftop for a press box and a special seating area. There are no box seats in the place, but there are seat-back reserved bleachers in the grandstand. Wooden bleachers can be found down each line, with a small kids’ area and a picnic area down the third-base line.
This is not a great or historic ballpark, but it is a comfortable one and a place where the residents of Burlington come to gather. In the end, ballparks like Burlington Athletic Stadium are the backbone of minor-league baseball: even though there are no fancy luxury boxes or seating services by a waitstaff, no one is calling for a replacement — and as long as ballparks like this are around, there’s hope for professional baseball.
Concessions can be found throughout the ballpark. A large stand underneath the grandstand offers hot dogs, pizza, Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches, BBQ sandwiches, popcorn, funnel cakes, and more. Behind the grandstand is a standalone Sno-Kone booth. Down the first-base line is a sit-down bar, while beer is also sold at a stand down the third-base line.
Three cheers to the Royals staff for stocking local soft drinks, including Cheerwine soda. Cheerwine is a cherry-favored soda and sweeter than all heck. Your teeth will ache after drinking a glass, but that’s OK: it’s refreshing to see something other than Pepsi and Coke at a ballpark. Also available: Royal Crown Cola, Diet Rite, Sun Drop and Sunkist.
For the Kids
Though there’s a small kids’ play area down the third-base line, the kids’ entertainment at the ballpark is the baseball game and the freedom to move freely down through the ballpark. There were many kids at the ballpark during our visit, and most seemed to have run of the park. There was also a special concession area devoted to kids’ offerings.
Before the Game
Burlington is in the midst of the BBQ Belt. Locals recommend Hursey’s Bar-B-Q (1834 S. Church St.), two miles north of the freeway. North Carolina BBQ is pretty straightforward: trays and plates of chopped and sliced pork, pork and beef ribs, chicken or flounder. The chopped pork was delicious, but the hush puppies were a tad dry.