|Location||400 East Grainger Avenue
Kinston, North Carolina
|Owner||City of Kinston|
|Field size||Right Field - 335 feet
Center Field - 395 feet
Left Field - 335 feet
($1.69 million in 2014 dollars)
|Architect||John J. Rowland|
|Kinston Indians ( Hi-A CL)
CAA Tournament (1995-99)
C-USA Tournament (2002)
Grainger Stadium is a sports venue located in Kinston, North Carolina. The Kinston Indians of the Carolina League, and all the professional Kinston baseball teams since 1949, played their home games there.
History and naming
The stadium is located at 400 East Grainger Avenue in Kinston. The original structure was built by architect John J. Rowland in 1949 at a cost of one hundred seventy thousand dollars inclusive of everything except the land. One hundred fifty thousand dollars of the money was raised by bond issue. The stadium is owned by the city and leased by the team. A dedicatory plaque identifies the structure as "Municipal Stadium," but it has been called Grainger Stadium since it was first built. Recent ownership has begun to refer to it as "Historic Grainger Stadium" due to its age relative to other fields in the Carolina League. It is currently the second oldest stadium in the circuit. The name Grainger comes from the donor of half of the cost of the land on which it is situate, Jesse Willis Grainger. Located on Grainger Avenue, it was initially used by Grainger High School. Grainger is a prominent old family name in [Greene and Lenoir Counties, North Carolina|Greene County;Lenoir County]].
The field itself has dimensions of 335 feet down the left and right field lines, and 390 feet to straightaway center field. The Grainger Stadium field of play has been considered by many in baseball as one of the best in the country for its level. This is largely due to the efforts of two men, Lewis B. "Mac" McAvery and Tommy Walston. McAvery was the head groundskeeper from 1949 to his death in 1979. In honor of his accomplishments, the team established an annual award in his name to be given to the individual who has done the most to "preserve and enhance" professional baseball in Kinston. Walston was the head groundskeeper until the spring of 2008. He was honored with four Carolina League Groundskeeper of the Year awards as well as the Sportsturf Manager of the Year award for all of Class A baseball in 2003. Walston is also president and founder of the Eastern North Carolina Sportsturf Association.
Seating and construction
Grainger Stadium currently has a seating capacity of 4,100 which includes a covered grandstand of eight sections partially protected by netting, uncovered metal bleachers down the third base line, and several rows of uncovered seating along the first base line. There is also a picnic area with tables that have a full view of the playing field. Box seats stretch from first to third base just in front of the grandstand. With the exception of the metal bleachers, all seats in Grainger Stadium are formed plastic. The box seats are squared off sections bordered by metal piping with plastic folding chairs and have waitresses assigned to them. The closest seating is mere inches from the playing field while the furthest seats in the top row of the grandstand sit fifty-two feet, four inches from the action. During the days of segregation, section one of the grandstand and a now removed set of metal bleachers that sat adjacent to section one were areas designated for Kinston's black baseball fans. A majority of the supporting structure is brick and steel. Steel beams do cause some partially obstructed views. The roof is wooden, as is the press box. The outfield wall is made of brick with signs of various materials and a wooden batter's eye.
The facility is often used for a variety of events besides minor league baseball. In September 1979, the USSSA (slow-pitch softball) World Series was held in Grainger Stadium. The stadium hosted the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Tournament from 1995-99 and the Conference USA Baseball Tournament in 2002. Two devoted fans who met at a Kinston Indians game decided to tie the knot at the ball park. On September 30, 2006, Grainger Stadium was the site of the Whole Hog Blues Festival. The facility is often used for regional youth and collegiate baseball tournaments. For example, in May 2007, the ball park was the site of the 2007 NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional. It is currently the home of the "Freedom Classic" which is the annual baseball series between the Air Force Academy and the Naval Academy.
Grainger Stadium has been renovated often through the years to maintain the facility and to try to keep it up to the standards of the more modern structures around the league. At times, these renovations can be quite extensive.
In January 2007, the Kinston-Lenoir County Tourism Development Authority approved seventy-five thousand dollars to help fund a new scoreboard and video board for Grainger Stadium. The funds will be disbursed in fifteen thousand dollar increments over the next five years, with the first payment being made in July. It was also announced that the City of Kinston would provide $175,000 in additional funds toward the project. The new boards will cost an estimated $350,000 in total.
Former Kinston ballparks
- West End Park was the home field of the Eastern Carolina Baseball Association, "outlaw league" Kinston Robins and Highwaymen, and the Kinston Eagles of the Virginia and Eastern Carolina Leagues. It was designed by local baseball legend George Suggs and constructed in 1920-21. The stadium was overhauled when Kinston joined the Virginia League in 1925 as the Eagles. John McGraw's New York Giants played an exhibition game against the Eagles in this venue in the spring of 1925. The last season that West End Park was used was 1929.
- Grainger Park was shared by the Kinston Eagles of the Coastal Plain League and the Grainger High School Red Devils who used it for both baseball and football. It was located directly behind the high school, a few hundred yards from where Grainger Stadium now sits. It was used as a minor league stadium from 1934 to 1948. Grainger Park hosted the Coastal Plain League All-Star Game in 1938. Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics played an exhibition game with the Eagles at the park in the spring of 1939.
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- Freedom ENC (2006-09-21), "Festival lineup 2006", New Bern Sun Journal
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- Gaunt, Robert H. (1997), We Would Have Played Forever: The Story of the Coastal Plain Baseball League, Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, Inc., p. 84, ISBN 0-9637189-8-3