It’s a new era in North Carolina baseball as the Charlotte Knights (Class AAA; International League) open a new Uptown ballpark tonight. Our Mark Cryan was on hand yesterday for a sneak preview.
BB&T Ballpark is largely complete, and the ongoing work seemed to be mostly typical last-minute items like installing the padding on the outfield wall, finishing the trim in the luxury suites, and stocking concession stands.
The whole area still has the look of a construction site, though, and that’s a great thing for downtown Charlotte. If you look closely at the photo below from the left-field corner, you can see the Bank of America Stadium, the home of the Carolina Panthers, rising above the Knights ballpark, and there are renovations underway there, as evidenced by the cranes. Across the street from the ballpark’s main entrance, there are condos under construction, along with more cranes. It’s a scene of significant economic activity, and a sight that must be heartwarming to the leaders of the Queen City.
During a walk around of the stadium on a gorgeous spring day, a couple areas really stood out, including the Home Run Porch in the right-field corner. Reminiscent of the Budweiser deck in the same spot in Fenway Park, this section includes lots of open space for milling around, and great views of field and the city behind you. The picnic pavilion in left field also looks like it will be in demand, with great sightlines and a nice shaded seating area.
The skyline rising beyond the outfield wall, though, is the real “wow factor” in this park. This park is perfectly located to take advantage of the view, with the center of the skyline rising directly behind center field. I have not seen a more striking backdrop in a minor-league ballpark anywhere in the country.
With open walkways overlooking the field, a 360-degree concourse, some really neat architectural details like the Home Plate Club, the Knights have vaulted to the head of the line with the state’s finest facility. After much delay, and with significant team investment, Charlotte’s team has finally come home, and it’s a grand slam.
Mark Cryan — Dr. Mark Cryan to you — is a former MiLB GM and now an instructor at Elon University. He’s also the author of the new, updated second edition of Cradle of the Game: Baseball and Ballparks in North Carolina. There is more detail on this ballpark and every other MiLB and Coastal Plain League ballpark in the state, as well many college facilities. Order it now at augustpublications.com.
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