In a few years, the current Buies Creek Astros (High A; Carolina League) will exist in a much different form. The franchise is currently awaiting the completion of a new downtown Fayetteville ballpark, where it is expected to begin play in 2019 under a new name that reflects their change in surroundings.
For 2017 and 2018, the Astros are calling Jim Perry Stadium home. While the quaint atmosphere of the on-campus ballpark at Campbell University stands in stark contrast to many current Minor League Baseball facilities, it is showing itself to be more than capable of handling professional action for the here and now.
While the Astros—along with the Down East Wood Ducks—were joining the Carolina League for the 2017 season, the new ballpark in Fayetteville was clearly not going to be ready in time for the team’s debut. As a result, the Houston Astros struck an agreement to place the team at Jim Perry Stadium, a facility with a long history in college baseball.
Campbell University’s lineage with the ballpark traces back to the 1940’s, when the site was used for a facility known as Taylor Field. Many of the current features at Jim Perry started taking shape earlier in this decade. Renovations commenced in 2011, and covered numerous fan amenities—such as concessions, the main entrance, and the grandstand. After the 2012 season, the ballpark was renamed in honor of Jim Perry, the former Campbell baseball and basketball standout who went on to a productive major league career that included an American League Cy Young Award in 1970.
Leading up to the 2017 season, Jim Perry Stadium received a new ProGrass Turf playing surface, new dugouts, and a videoboard that measures as the largest of any Big South Conference facility. Changes were also made to the seating—including the installation of new chairback seats and the Jim and Daphne Perry Pavilion, which features a 1,200-square-foot viewing deck.
Thanks to these upgrades, the Astros will have a comfortable place for their prospects to play as they await the completion of the new Fayetteville ballpark. This makes it a fine temporary venue from the team’s perspective, but fans should also feel welcomed by some of Jim Perry Stadium’s amenities.
The experience at Jim Perry Stadium is laid-back, but still unique. The small seating capacity and close proximity to the field typically associated with college level games provide fans with an up-close look at the action, and many of the spectator areas in the ballpark are covered by protective netting.
There are also concession stands that serve the basic ballpark fare, though Jim Perry Stadium did not sell alcohol at the time of this visit. Those who want a good collector’s item are also in luck, as the Astros have put together a solid inventory of merchandise that should leave reminders of the team after it assumes its new name.
For many reasons, the new ballpark in Fayetteville is an anticipated event around the minors. It will represent the latest facility in the Carolina League, and mark the return of affiliated baseball to a city whose last team—the Cape Fear Crocs (Low A; Sally League)—departed after the 2000 season.
The new Fayetteville ballpark should be a formidable draw when the time comes, but in the interim a Buies Creek Astros’ game will be a nice stopover for many. The laid-back atmosphere and intimate confines provide a distinct experience among full-season minor league facilities, and should allow Jim Perry Stadium to be a fine venue for players and fans alike during its time in the Carolina League.