Play ball! Fayetteville gets ready
By Eddie Southards
The city of Fayetteville hopes to hit a home run by buildi
ng a baseball stadium downtown
on Hay Street that will house a minor league affiliate of t
he World Series champion Houston
Construction of the $37.8 million project is well underway and o
n schedule to be ready
for the 2019 season opener in April.
But there is much more than a baseball stadium in play
in this high-stakes investment.
City and Astros officials believe it could be the cataly
st to create a dramatic change in downtown
Fayetteville by making it an entertainment and business dest
One company, Prince Charles Holding, already has announced pl
ans for a $65 million
investment that will include a hotel with rooms looking down int
o the stadium, a parking garage
and a transformation of the historic Prince Charles Hot
el that will convert it into apartments by
March of next year.
Fayetteville team president Mark Zarthar is excited about
I thought I was coming here to run a baseball team but that's
not necessarily the case,
It's more of an entire city developmental project in
conjunction with the real estate
developers and the city of Fayetteville. It's much bigger th
an baseball. No matter how many
tickets we sell or how well we do as a team, we won't be con
sidered a success unless the
downtown revitalization is considered a success as well.
Zarthar grew up in a suburb of Boston and moved to Fayetteville
from New York City
where he worked for Anheuser-Busch in sports marketing. It
is quite a lifestyle change for the
30-year-old but he didn't see just a sleepy Southern town wh
en he arrived in Fayetteville in
I think what may go underappreciated is the character of down
When I first walked Hay Street, what stood out to me were the
tree-lined streets, the
cobblestoned sidewalks, the 1800s architecture and the colorful
storefronts. It reminded me of
places like River Street in Savannah (Georgia) and King St
reet in Charleston (South Carolina).
Those are places that tourists flock to because of their c
haracter. We just need a bit more of a
shot in the arm to reach our potential and this project ca
n help us take the next step.
The Class A Carolina League franchise has been playing game
s for the past two seasons
at Campbell University in Buies Creek while the stadium
is being built. Not much has yet been
revealed about the team once it moves to Fayetteville, oth
er than the team colors will be red,
gray and black. The stadium will be trimmed in those colo
But all will be revealed in August at a planned celebration
open to the public. Zarthar
said the team uniforms and logo will be displayed and T-shirts
and caps will be available for
purchase. There will be live music, food and beverages an
d the World Series trophy may even be
here so fans can take pictures with it.
Most importantly, the team name will be revealed. Zartha
r would neither confirm nor
deny the choices were down to Woodpeckers or Fatbacks. Fans also
had voted for Fly Traps,
Jumpers or Wood Dogs in a contest held last year.
We understand the name is a hot topic in Fayetteville,
It's great to hear
everyone ask about the team name. To me, it just shows
that people are highly interested in this
team and the stadium. The anticipation is certainly the
Zarthar and his small staff, for now, are working out of an
office on Hay Street about
three blocks from the stadium site. Once the stadium is
ready, the team offices will move there.
The stadium will seat about 4,900 and will include a team merc
handise store, a ticket office,
clubhouse and batting cages.
Six suites will be available for businesses to lease for
their employees or clients' use.
There will be covered seating behind home plate. Concessio
n stands will offer what Zarthar calls
high quality, highly creative food.
A large video scoreboard in left center field will have
the capability of in-game replays
and offer advertising opportunities for local businesses.
The field will be covered in real grass and the dimensions
to the fence from home plate
will be 345 feet down the left field line, 375 to left center, 400
to center field, 370 to right center
and 325 down the right field line.
Season tickets will go on sale at the brand launch part
y in August. Single-game tickets
will go on sale early next year after the team gets it
s schedule. Zarthar said those tickets will
range from $9-$16.
Fans also can join the Founders Club. For $250, they can
have their name etched in
bricks that will be located at the stadium entrance.
The stadium will not sit idle in the baseball offseas
on. Zarthar already is making plans to
host collegiate and high school baseball tournaments, hig
h school football games and concerts.
Zarthar said he has no concerns about the stadium being r
eady on time for the season opener in
He said the construction firm, the Barton-Malow Company,
has a track record of never
being late for any stadium and they've built stadiums all
over the United States. I'm very
confident the stadium will be beautiful, it will be stat
e of the art and it will be ready for opening
Zarthar plans to have a full-time staff of about 20 people i
n place by the end of the year.
He also will be hiring about 50 part-time workers for the baseb
Finding local and diverse talent is something we will be focus
The arrival of the team also should boost employment i
n downtown businesses.
will be required to hire hundreds of part-time staff to support an
influx of 5,000 fans for a
We expect bars, restaurants and shops to thrive based on t
added foot traffic.
Will there be enough parking available for all the fans? Ye
s, according to Zarthar.
It's not going to be an issue at all,
There might be limited parking on Hay
Street but if you go one block south to Franklin Street, there
is an abundant amount of parking
including a parking garage. Go another block south to Russell Stree
t and there's even more
parking. The Dogwood Festival had 120,000 people on Saturday and there
were no parking
issues. I think downtown can accommodate our 4,900 fans.
Once inside the stadium, Zarthar feels any perceived proble
ms will melt away.
This is not about minor league baseball or the stadium,
It's an entertainment
venue and an anchor for downtown businesses. We'll have firewo
rks shows, an area for kids to
hang out and a bar for adults.
Fayetteville has not been kind to professional sports teams
in the past. Two basketball
teams and two minor-league baseball teams have failed to la
st. The last such baseball team left
town in 2000. But Zarthar remains confident despite that history.