Usher Mike Nolan Pays a Visit to Bulls, Knights and Intimidators…

Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Built In 1995

TRENTON MAKES BLOG — June 27, 2011

by Mike Nolan

Going to all the ballparks like I do, it’s hard not to make comparisons between what we do and what other clubs do. Here’s one example.

We try to make Waterfront Park the most fan-friendly ballpark in the Minor Leagues. To that end, you have to go to other ballparks to see what they’re doing. If they do something better than us, bring it to the ballpark and we can discuss it and implement it. If we do something better that them, let us know. I have found many examples of how we service our fans a little better than other parks.

Last Wednesday at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham NC, the Bulls played the Syracuse Chiefs in a 1:05 start. Similar to what we do on midweek day games in the summer, it was camp day. I have seats high up behind home plate to the first base side of the press box. Along comes a group of about 40 kids and chaperones. The head chaperones has all the tickets in her hands, and is trying to place the kids. She was having considerable trouble, and so after waiting about 5 minutes for someone to come along, I decide to do what I do best in our ballpark and help her out.

Here’s a look at the rest of the trip, by ballpark…

Friday, June 17 — Nationals Park, Washington DC. It was the second time in that park for me, but the first in club level. In comparison to Philadelphia’s club, this one is smaller, and the food selection is also smaller. The seats have more padding and it is very comfortable. Plus, it’s mostly under cover, so rain did not bother us. The park is a beauty, the city of Washington loves it. For the veteran baseball traveler, if you look at the stands from center field, you see Citizens Bank Park, and from behind the plate the outfield is a mirror image of Turner Field, Atlanta.

Saturday, June 18 — Knights Stadium, Fort Mill SC, home of the Charlotte Knights (AAA White Sox). A ballpark that reminds me of the Diamond in Richmond and PNC Park in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Take a 1970’s cookie-cutter ballpark, like the Vet, cut a wedge going from behind third base to behind first place and you get this ballpark. Large foul territory, large upper deck. It’s in suburban Charlotte and nothing is near it. At all. It’s not easy to get to, which leads me to the conclusion that this place needs to be replaced badly. There is talk again of a downtown ballpark. I hope for the Knights’ sake and the sake of their fans, that it comes to pass

Sunday, June 19 — Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, Kannapolis NC, home of the Kannapolis Intimidators (Low Class A White Sox). Nice ballpark for the setting. Similar to our park, the concessions are all behind the last row of seats. A two story building is behind the seats on the first base side, picnic pavilions are on the top level behind third base. The staff told me that the money ran out just when they were going to put a roof over the stands, so there is no shade during an afternoon game. This game began at 5:00, and still no shade. Friendly staff, good choice of food items, including great “Steak Skewers”– pieces of steak with onions, tomatoes, and squash done on a charcoal grill.

Monday, June 20 — Durham Athletic Park, Durham NC. This is the park that the Durham Bulls used to play in, and where the movie “Bull Durham” was shot. I’m a sucker for old ballparks, and this one did not disappoint. The bull is gone from the outfield, but the stands are close to the field, most are chair back seats, and you can feel the history as you walk around the ballpark.

Tuesday, June 21 and Wednesday, June 22 — Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham NC, home of the Durham Bulls (AAA Rays). This ranks as one of the best AAA ballparks, although I haven’t seen Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville or Toledo yet. All 10,000 seats are on one level split by a “crosswalk”, and most are under a large roof. The roof has large ceiling fans, which made the two 90 degree days bearable. The park is part of the “American Tobacco Campus”, a business and restaurant area adjacent to the ballpark with one of the greatest man-made canal/fountains that I’ve seen.

Thursday, June 24 — Lewis-Gale Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark, home of the Salem Red Sox (Class A Advanced Red Sox). Take Waterfront Park. Add a large section of seats above the first base and third base sections and you get this one. There is an air-conditioned club above the press box which is accessible to all fans and has a standard concession stand inside. There are two crosswalks in this ballpark.

If you’re keeping score, that’s 166 ballparks visited and 100 to go. If you want to see the pictures, the website is: :

See you at the ballpark!

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