The Milwaukee Brewers are exploring a Carolina Mudcats Wilson relocation, as the city and the Single-A Carolina League team have signed a memo of understanding to explore a new ballpark.
The Mudcats have played out of Five County Stadium since 1991, when owner Steve Bryant took a big chance and moved what was then a Class AA Southern League team to Zebulon, a small market that didn’t infringe on any other MiLB territorial rights. But the growth in the greater Raleigh market didn’t move east–instead, it came in the southern part of the Raleigh-Durham area–and the team was stuck in a very small market (Zebulon’s population is only 5,712). Later on the Double-A franchise was sold to Quint Studer and relocated to Pensacola in 2012; Bryant then purchased the Kinston Indians (High-A; Carolina League) and moved the team to Zebulon. The Brewers then closed on a purchase of the Mudcats after the 2017 season.
It’s not a surprise that the Brewers are looking at a new ballpark and a new market: Five County Stadium is in sore need of upgrades to meet the new MiLB facility guidelines required to be place for the 2025 season. The ballpark is owned by Wake County and the Town of Zebulon, and an initial inspection of the ballpark last year indicated the price tag to meet the new standards would be $15 million. That would include a new right-field multilevel home clubhouse, a renovation of the current home clubhouse for use by visiting teams, a new playing field and LED lighting, and a new clubhouse for women.
This renovation could happen, say Wake County official. While the team and Wilson have signed a memo of understanding for a new ballpark, there are plenty of choices that needs to be made, including where to locate a new ballpark (downtown is a possibility) and how to pay for it.
Wilson is a city of 49,310. It’s a traditional baseball market, with the Wilson Tobs a mainstay for decades in various North Carolina minor leagues, including the original Coastal Plain League. Today the Tobs play in the summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League out of historic Fleming Stadium. While there’s virtually no chance of the Carolina Mudcats returning to Fleming Stadium, which opened in 1939, we’re hoping the Mudcats can play a classic game at the classic ballpark: Fleming was the team’s first home wile Five County Stadium was under construction. Fleming Stadium is also home to the North Carolina Baseball Museum, and it hosted many exhibitions over the years, including a 1961 Roger Maris/Harmon Killebrew/Jim Gentile home-run tour that’s the subject of our upcoming Home Runs: Tales of Tonks, Taters, Contests and Derbies book by Andy Strasberg.
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