KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Three months from Wednesday, the Down East Wood Ducks will take the field at Grainger Stadium for the first time, and there are a lot of improvements in store for fans and players.
Built in 1949, there’s plenty of history inside the stadium.
In fact, when the Down East Wood Ducks take the field in April, Grainger will become the oldest minor league baseball stadium in use in North Carolina.
With many franchises building new, state-of-the-art stadiums, the Texas Rangers, owners of the Wood Ducks, are banking on history.
“The Red Sox made that decision a long time ago that Fenway is really nice,” said Wade Howell, the team’s general manager. “And the Cubs have done it with Wrigley. And I think they’ve both done the same thing that we’re doing here, (which) is to invest the money into a historical park and just kind of bring it up and improve a little bit of the amenities and things for the fans.”
The improvements start outside the stadium. Right now, crews are demolishing the old Kinston Salt Wood Products buildings. That will clear the way for about 250 more parking spaces.
Inside, there’s work going on too.
There will be “a new concession stand on the third base side,” Howell said. “The old concession stand there just didn’t really provide the size and the space that we needed to provide the customer service. Instead of one window in that stand, now I think we’re going to have a stand that will have six to eight windows. So we’ll be able to service more fans and get it done quicker.”
The goal is to improve the game day experience, while retaining Grainger’s history and charm.
The stadium will be better for the players, too. In August, new turf was installed, replacing a field that was 18 years old. New padding is going up on the walls, too, to protect the players.
Other improvements will happen next year, like upgrades to the locker rooms.
It’s part of a gradual plan of improvements by the Down East Wood Ducks, and it’s that “Down East” moniker they’re hoping will help keep them in the community for a long time.
“That’s a key part for us,” said Howell. “Again, we’re happy and proud to be in Kinston. It’s our hometown and the stadium is here. But we need to draw from the region to be able to make this a long lasting franchise and successful franchise.”
Wednesday is another big day for the Wood Ducks. They’ll unveil their official logo and team colors at 4 p.m., live on their Facebook page.