Minor league baseball makes grand slam in NC
April marks the start of minor league baseball at the state’s 11 ballparks, including the new Segra Stadium in downtown Fayetteville. Rendering courtesy of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers.
North Carolina’s minor league baseball teams reported attendance last year of about 2.5 million, which is a lot of hot dogs and popcorn. Look for the numbers to increase significantly this year as the Fayetteville Woodpeckers invade the new Segra Stadium, starting April 18. For the last two years, the Carolina League team has played at Campbell University’s stadium in Buies Creek, with attendance lagging the rest of the North Carolina ballclubs.
The Woodpeckers are an affiliate of the Houston Astros, whose billionaire owner Jim Crane signed a 30-year lease for the ’Ville’s new $40 million city-owned venue. His goal is to “make sure it is the absolute best stadium in the state,” spokeswoman Victoria Huggins says. The park was originally estimated to cost $33 million, but higher material and labor costs bumped the price tag. The city hasn’t had an officially sanctioned minor league team since 2000, when the Cape Fear Crocs moved to Lakewood, N.J.
The Woodpeckers are affiliated with a franchise that, after years of underperformance, has emerged as one of baseball’s most successful teams. The major league Astros won more than 100 games in each of the last two seasons and were World Series champions in 2017. Crane bought the Astros for about $615 million in 2011, and Forbes magazine now values the franchise at $1.7 billion.
The park is credited with spurring the $17 million renovation of the adjacent Prince Charles Hotel. Durham-based Prince Charles Holdings LLC is converting the building into 62 apartments. Built in the 1920s, the hotel had fallen into disrepair before its sale at a bankruptcy auction for $200,000 in 2014. Restaurants and a coffee shop are planned for the first floor.