KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - The rain cleared much to the delight of baseball fans in Kannapolis who are finally getting to see their Minor League ballclub take the field in a brand new ballpark. Atrium Health Ballpark was ready to go last year, but the pandemic wiped out the season.
A loud cheer followed a military flyover, then the crowd cheered again as the first pitch of the season came over the plate as a strike. This was the moment that was years in the making.
“I’ve been waiting a long time, I’m very excited,” said season ticket holder Don Duncan.
“The first thought on my mind is that it’s Opening Day, it’s here. It’s truly like Christmas Day for those of us that work in Minor League Baseball,” said Cannon Ballers General Manager Matt Millward.
For Millward and crew, this night was the crowning achievement. Because of the pandemic, it’s been 614 days since Minor league Ball was played in Kannapolis at the old ballpark.
Ground was broken for Atrium Health Ballpark on October 30, 2018.
And while there was no action on the field until Tuesday night, there was plenty of action all around it. The City of Kannapolis bought 46 acres of property in 2015 and made it available for developers. Residential, restaurants, retail, all have moved in.
Brent Englehardt opened a new location for his Old Town Soap Company.
“They’ve done a phenomenal job with what it is,” Englehardt said, “so we wanted to be where they are creating a hot spot of activity.”
But none of this would have been possible, city leaders say, without the ballpark.
“This is the anchor to bring people downtown,” said Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant. “We’re expecting 200,000 people in the first season. From those 200,000 people they’re going to want to eat out, they’re going to want to go shopping, they’re going to be in the downtown, walking around.”
Attendance was announced as 2,487. Seating was limited due to safety protocols.
Game notes: The Down East Wood Ducks won the game by a score of 8-4.
-Carson White, a star pitcher for Jesse C. Carson High School made his professional debut pitching for Down East. White took no decision, pitching 2 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts.