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Grainger Stadium

From BR Bullpen

The Ballpark[edit]

  • Name: Grainger Stadium
  • GPS-able Address: 400 East Grainger Avenue, Kinston, NC 28501
  • Ballpark Owner: City of Kinston
  • Architects: Wooten and Rowland
  • Groundbreaking: September 1948
  • Minor League Baseball/Professional Development League Teams: Down East Wood Ducks (A) 2021-present; Down East Wood Ducks (A+) 2017-2020; Kinston Indians (A+) 1990-2011; Kinston Indians (A) 1987-1989; Kinston Indians (A) 1986; Kinston Blue Jays (A) 1982-1985; Kinston Eagles (A) 1978-1981; Kinston Eagles (B) 1962; Kinston Eagles (B) 1956-1957; Kinston Eagles (D) 1949-1952
  • Pro Baseball Class/League History: A/Carolina League 2022-present; A/Low-A East 2021; A+/Carolina League 2017-2020; A+/Carolina League 1990-2011; A/Carolina League 1978-1989; A/Carolina League 1962-1974; D/Coastal Plains League 1956-1957; D/Coastal Plains League 1949-1952
  • First Pro Baseball Game: 4/21/1949; stadium debut of Class D Eagles
  • Others Playing or Operating Here: None
  • Previous Ballpark Names: None
  • LF: 335 CF: 390 RF: 335
  • Seats: 3,410
  • Stated Capacity: 5,000
  • House Baseball/Softball Record Attendance: 5,394, 7/3/1995

Grainger Stadium in Kinston, NC, is the home of the Down East Wood Ducks, the Texas Rangers' Single-A Carolina League farm team. Opened in 1949, it appears to be about to lose its affiliated team for the second time in eight years.

A long previous run of Carolina League baseball in Kinston ended after the 2012 season, when Grainger became the odd stadium out in a three-way deal. The Southern League's Carolina Mudcats' owner, Steve Bryant, sold them to Quint Studer, who moved them to Pensacola, FL, and helped Bryant replace them by buying and moving the Kinston Indians.

The city kept the stadium up, and just three years later, the Rangers asked Kinston to renovate it to host their Class A Advanced farm club by 2017. Desperate to escape windy Adelanto, CA, they had bought the Wilmington Blue Rocks - contingent on the sale of the Binghamton Mets to replace the Rocks in Delaware. When that deal fell through, the Rangers reassured worried Kinston leadership that a team was still on the way and on the same time schedule. Plan B unfolded in due course: The Rangers bought their Adelanto affiliate, the Houston Astros bought the Bakersfield Blaze, and both farm teams were contracted from the California League in order to allow the Carolina to expand by two teams. In effect, both franchises moved from one circuit to the other.

Those renovations having been funded specifically to reel in the Rangers, the breaking of the 12-year lease and losing its team again eight seasons after replacing it will be, locally, a bitter pill.

However, on May 23, 2023, the Rangers and Diamond Baseball Holdings announced the sale of two Rangers-owned farm teams to DBH - the Ducks and the Hickory Crawdads. At about the same time, Spartanburg, SC, said it would include a 3,500-seat stadium in a $250 million redevelopment plan and that a Texas Rangers farm team will occupy it starting in 2025. Earlier reports, denied at the time, had said the Wood Ducks would be sold and moved either to the Wilmington, NC, area or to Spartanburg.[[1]] Several media reports are now identifying the Ducks as the team to be moved, and on May 24th DBH confirmed the coming move.[2]

The Ducks celebrated Grainger's 75th season in 2023. That was originally scheduled for April 8th - the date of its first baseball contest, a 1949 Grainger High School Red Devils home game - but that was rained out and the commemoration was held April 23rd.

While the word "historic" is often hung on aging ballparks - sometimes more officially than others - Kinston has gone a step further. On April 21, 2023, Kinston City Council voted to establish the Historic Grainger Stadium Commission. It will advise the city on opportunities related to the stadium, and to make recommendations for its use, improvement, and preservation.

Farming magnate and civic leader Jesse Willis Grainger donated half the cost of the ballpark site shortly before it was built. He also made a large donation to rebuild a high school that was then named for him.

History and Naming[edit]

The stadium is located at 400 East Grainger Avenue in Kinston. The original structure was built by architect John J. Rowland at a cost of $170,000 inclusive of everything except the land. Of this sum, $150,000 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 ended the Affiliated Era as the second oldest stadium in the Carolina League, behind the one that opened in 1939 as Lynchburg City Stadium.

Grainger Stadium was featured in Baseball America's 2011 Great Parks Calendar as the park for the month of August. It underwent thorough renovation between the departure of the Kinston Indians after the 2011 season and the arrival of the Down East Wood Ducks in 2017.

The Field[edit]

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 through the spring of 2008 when he decided to leave for a job at East Carolina University. 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[edit]

Grainger stadium.jpg

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.

Other Uses[edit]

The facility is often used for a variety of events besides minor league baseball. In September of 1979, the USSSA (slow-pitch softball) World Series was held in Grainger Stadium. Two devoted fans who met at a Kinston Indians game decided to tie the knot at the ballpark. When longtime scoreboard operator Delmont Miller died in October 2008, his funeral was held in the stadium. 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 of 2007, the ballpark was the site of the 2007 NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional baseball tournament.


Grainger Stadium has been renovated often through the years to maintain the facility and to try and keep it up to the standards of the more modern structures around the league. At times, these renovations can be quite extensive.


Prior to the 1990 season, sixty new box seats were installed at field level. Seven new boxes with six seats each were placed on the third base side, and three new boxes were installed on the first base side. The concession areas were revamped as well with several being moved to more convenient locations to accommodate lines and a new concession stand being installed in the picnic area. New connections were installed in the beer coolers to allow for multiple kegs to be connected to single outlets to alleviate delays. New restrooms were created on the third base side of the concourse in an area that was once used as the home team clubhouse. The stadium's lighting system was upgraded to conform with new minor league standards. The K-Tribe clubhouse was given a new coat of paint along with new carpeting and an improved air conditioning system. A new irrigation system was installed for better drainage from the field and a batting cage was placed behind the third base grandstand.

In 1991, the renovations were much more modest. The main upgrade was a new parking lot behind the wall in center and right field. Work on the concession areas that started the year before was also completed. Cosmetic improvements were also made as new flower boxes and shrubbery were added throughout the facility.

The Indians prepared for the 1992 season by revamping Grainger Stadium's sound system. Besides providing clearer "theater quality" sound, the new system also allowed the guys in the booth to experiment with sound effects for the first time. Half-steps were added to the structure's stairs in order to provide easier access. In the outfield, additional lights were installed for greater clarity during night games.

In between the 1992 and 1993 seasons, twenty-five new box seats were installed creating better sightlines, new aluminum bleachers were installed down the left field line, the picnic area on the first base side of the ballpark was enlarged and renamed the Bojangles' Picnic Pavilion, two new concrete light poles were placed in left field. The playing surface was given a crushed brick warning track, and a twenty-four foot tall batter's eye was created in center.

Just prior to the 1994 season, a new 5,800 square foot clubhouse was built with office space, a clubroom, a greatly expanded dressing area, a laundry and storage room, an equipment room, a weight room, a conference room and offices for the manager and coaches. A new entrance way was built for the stadium as well with brick columns and wrought-iron gates. A new roof was installed over the grandstand and much of the stadium was given a new paint job. In addition, the parking lot was also resurfaced.

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[edit]

  • 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.

Related Sites[edit]

Current ballparks of the Carolina League
North Division Central Division South Division
Arthur W. Perdue Stadium | Bank of the James Stadium | Salem Memorial Ballpark
Virginia Credit Union Stadium
Atrium Health Ballpark | Five County Stadium | Grainger Stadium
Segra Stadium
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park | Pelicans Ballpark | Segra Park
SRP Park