It is always a fine thing when a college ballpark fits in just right with the scale and expectations of the baseball program it serves. This is particularly true when you look at Doak Field serving as home to the NCSU Wolfpack. Most years, NCSU features a handful of potential major leaguers on squads with an expectation to reach the NCAA Tournament (four straight years, 7 of past 10). The fit is right – the rebuilt Doak Field at Dail Park is entirely worthy of the high-caliber Wolfpack program.
Year Opened: 1966; major renovation completed 2003-04
Dimensions: 320L, 370LC, 400C, 375RC, 330R
Playing Surface: Grass
Ticket Prices (2009): General Admission, $5; Suites (seating up to 15), $240, plus $250-350 for catered concessions
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Parking: Free if you park in the West Lot south of ballpark across Sullivan Drive.
Address/Directions: 1081 Varsity Dr., Raleigh. From I-40 take exit 295 – Gorman Street. Coming from the east, turn right at Gorman Street for several miles past Western Boulevard to Sullivan Drive at the following traffic light. Doak Field will be the second turn on the left (take a right turn to enter the West Lot).
Author: Jim Robins
Our visit came on opening day in 2007, a game against William & Mary that was nearly canceled due to cold weather but got moved up by one hour with very little advance notice. In this instance, the place seemed a tad overly spacious but the fans weren’t wild about temperatures hovering near 40 degrees accompanied by a stiff breeze. The last-minute time change probably didn’t help attendance either. For most games, though, the 2,200 comfy chair-back seats and cozy left-field berm seem just right. The team averages nearly 25,000 fans each season. NCSU has nearly a .750 home winning percentage at Doak Field over four decades of play. (The full title of the park is rarely spoken. If you ask someone on campus directions to Dail Park your chances of getting a blank stare in return are considerably better than the very good odds of the Wolfpack winning any given home game.)
Legendary head coach Ray Tanner had tired of the sub-par facilities at NCSU and without promise of a facilities upgrade, so he moved on to the University of South Carolina. Successor Elliot Avent immediately built on Tanner’s success by scoring the Wolfpack’s first 30-win home season in 1997, and setting an attendance record. Winning ways continued, as did the major renovation six years later.
The facilities at Doak Field are top notch thanks to the $6 million rebuilding effort in 2003 (with finishing touches coming in 2004). Specifically, they feature the 1200-square-foot Frank Weedon Press Box and fan suites behind home plate, a baseball fieldhouse that includes a 1300-square-foot players’ locker room with direct access to the first-base dugout, a coaches’ locker room, players’ lounge, training room, equipment room, umpires locker room, coaches offices and a reception area. Down the right-field line, indoor and outdoor batting cages allow for practice during inclement weather. We especially like the cozy grassy berm area down the left-field line next to the grandstand and visitors’ third-base dugout.
The new facilities, finished in deep red-toned brick and steel, blend in well with the dominant campus architecture. Bright red seating and scoreboard in the usual Wolfpack color theme combine especially well with dark green fencing and pine trees dotting the landscape.
Perhaps the most important improvement from the players’ perspective is hardly noticeable to the fans. A state-of-the-art drainage and irrigation system was installed giving Doak Field one of the finest playing surfaces in all of college baseball. This was evident even on opening day in the first week of February.
All in all, Doak Field at Dail Park is an impressive facility long on its strengths with no glaring weaknesses. A spring visit (or late winter, for that matter) is well worth it.