Most people know that I have lived in Fayetteville my whole life which in 3 months will be 70 years. I have written about growing up in Fayetteville and the downtown area many times. When you go to a party, the fun is in seeing old friends and enjoying the atmosphere of the party. The first game at the new Segra Stadium was like a party and it marked the crowning of the revitalization of downtown Fayetteville. Way back in 1996, the city hired an architect from South Carolina named Robert Marvin who unveiled some unorthodox recommendations for revitalizing downtown. One of the craziest parts of his proposal was building a giant mound where Festival Park is now. It was to be the centerpiece of downtown revitalization, a sort of “drawing card.” It never got off the ground, thank the Lord. Twenty-three years later, we now have our “drawing card” and it is not a 60–foot mound.
I am so proud of my hometown. The negative images can be put on the heap of historical garbage; they are over.
The official opening of the new stadium took place on the evening of April 19, a Thursday. My wife and I were there with two good friends, Ken and Carolyn Lancaster, along with 6,200 other wild-eyed people, to take it all in. It was a gathering. I saw people I have not seen in years. It was so much fun. The whole event could have brought “a tear to a glass eye.” It was spectacular!!
I did a little advance thinking and, mindful of the two-hour downtown parking limit that expires at 5 p.m., parked my car at 3:05 p.m. in a free city parking space on Winslow Street across from the train station. We then took Uber from our home to the game and drove my car back afterwards. I didn’t save any money on parking because Uber cost me $11 but we had a very short walk to the stadium.
We got there at 5:25 and the line was not too long then. But it grew very long soon thereafter because of the security check. It seemed to me that many of the people there must have never been to an airport because the security check at the stadium was very similar to the check-in at an airport. Many people were not taking their phones out of their pockets and therefore setting off the alarms. They would have to go back through again, slowing the process.
When we got inside, we looked around, then sat down in one of the areas on the concourse with sofas and lounge chairs and had some refreshments. The concession lines were starting to build up because many people had decided to eat at the stadium. We went to our seats when the pre-game show was about to start, at about 6 p.m. And boy, what a show it was!
Special Forces troops from Fort Bragg did a skydive into the stadium which was a good trick because the wind was blowing strongly. Six men jumped but only four landed in centerfield; the other two missed the stadium but landed safely outside. The last soldier was carrying the America flag in its full glory. It spread full just before he landed. We stood in awe. Then came the national anthem sung by the 82nd Airborne’s chorus. Two massive helicopters did a flyover.
Our seats were right outside the barbeque venue on the third base line. All concession lines were long but this one moved faster if you got in the cash–only line. The brisket and barbeque were better than average considering it was stadium food.
The baseball was must better than I expected. Several home runs were hit by both teams with the Carolina Mudcats hitting a one–on-base home run in the top of the 9th to break a tie. The Woodpeckers ended up losing 7-5.
I talked with many people after the game and not one person was disappointed in the stadium. They were disappointed that we lost our home opener but everything else was marvelous. There are so many positive things happening in Fayetteville now. God bless Fayetteville – and He has indeed blessed us with this wonderful stadium. Stay tuned for more to come!!