“Build it and they will come” has never been truer than when you drive up and see the new Atrium Health Ballpark in the middle of Downtown Kannapolis. I lived in Kannapolis for 18 years and never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a stadium in the middle of town, but you know what… it works and it is beautiful. As I drove up I was surprised to see so many people there walking in the stadium either for their exercise or walking their dogs. The playground and splash pad were filled with children and parents enjoying the nice great weather.
Fun fact – I actually worked in the concession stand for a while when the newly arrived “Phillies” in 1995 quickly were renamed to the “Bollweevils” in Kannapolis and later renamed “The Intimidators”. Those were fun times, in the newly built stadium just off I-85 at the Lane Street exit. If you remember that far back and have visited Kannapolis off the interstate recently there have been quite a few changes to that exit, but getting to the stadium and a fun filled night or day at the ball field is still very easy.
I sat down recently at the Atrium Health Ballpark with Rachel Kilinski. Rachel is the Director of Special Events at the Atrium Health Ballpark home of the Cannon Ballers, and has worked for them for 2.5 years. She brings to the club years of experience with numerous sports teams including the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte 49ers, Charlotte Knights, Charlotte Hounds, and the Charlotte Independents. The team is actually owned by Temerity Baseball, LLC and is currently the only ball team that they own. Andy Sandler is the owner and along with Alicia Amling they work together to bring the best to Kannapolis.
So, if we go back to mid-March of 2020 Covid-19 hit and closed down the ballpark. They already had season ticket holders’ seats and selected seating had been chosen for other packages. Then suddenly staff were sent home to work remotely until Memorial Day weekend of 2020. That’s when Governor Cooper’s mandate opened parks back up in North Carolina and the Atrium Health Ballpark fell under parks.
They decided to name the main concession stand “Boomer’s Bistro” and have ball park food available if people wanted, when they were ready to return to the ballpark. The plan was to have 10 staff members there to manage what they anticipated to be a small crowd. They were slammed with people coming into the park and had a line out the door of people wanting and waiting to come in. Needless to say, they had to call in more help! Guess what? They still need help and they are happily accepting applications for food and beverage workers along with Stadium Operation jobs to help park cars and to help with tickets, etc. It’s a part-time job that pays $10.00 an hour and you get to see a ballgame!! If you are interested about inquiring for a job email email@example.com or call 704-932-3267.
Currently they have on staff 60 food and beverage workers, 50-60 people help with Stadium Operations, 20 people working in the front office, and they have 3-4 grounds keepers.
They also have their mascot, Boomer. Now a little-known secret is that I was the mascot, Sasha Kitty, for the Stitchin Post for a couple of years. I totally sympathize with any and all mascots!! It’s a hot job and especially in the summer months! However, it is and was incredibly rewarding to bring so many smiles to so many people! Boomer has two people that can take turns being a mascot for the team and we all know everybody loves Boomer! Speaking of Boomer, he is available for community partnerships, ribbon cuttings, parades etc. Just give Ryan Pegarsch a call to discuss arrangements. If you would like to get Boomer to come to a birthday party or even show up and dance at a wedding give Rachel a call to arrange that!
The Atrium Health Ballpark is also being used for business meetings, corporate luncheons, board meetings, holiday parties, rehearsal dinners, wedding receptions, and yes there has even been a wedding there.
Currently several schools have scheduled graduations there as well such as Cabarrus College of Health Sciences, Lake Norman Charter School, Community School of Davidson, and Bradford Preparatory School of Charlotte.
One event that is coming up on July 24, is an All Class Reunion with graduates from A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis. My daughter graduated from there and I’d love to go with her just to see all of her previous friends and classmates.
Rachel said, “I love doing events. You come with a vision and we will make it happen”. “I’ve never had a client not thank me at the end. It’s very rewarding.”
The season opener game was May 4, 2021 and they were sold out! “It was great to finally use the stadium for what it was meant to be for… baseball!” This is the Cannon Ballers’ inaugural year due to Covid-19 so filling seats while still following protocols that were still in place meant only around 2,900 people were at the first game.
Tickets are available online and at the gate of each game. Prices start at $10.00 and go up from there. A very reasonably priced fun family experience. Of course, if you want to have more than just a great seat down in the regular seats you have the opportunity to purchase different season ticket packages. One option is the “Infield Box” which is a yearly rate at $525.00. The second option is the “Home Plate Premium” package for $630.00 for the home plate section seats in the stadium. Taking the Home Plate option also gives you access to the Kinetic Club and the opportunity to purchase the buffet and drinks in the club as well. Then you have the “Upper Club” option which is $1,960.00 of which there are only 86 tickets available. This choice will give you an airconditioned view at first base of the game and includes a full buffet brought to the stadium by Professional Sports Catering out of Charlotte a private bar that serves beer, wine, and liquor. In June they will have 40-ish available tickets for the Upper Club. My birthday is coming up and I’d happily settle for any of those choices!
If you aren’t following Visit Rowan County, NC on social media go ahead and do so because they are going to be having Cannon Baller tickets to give away starting the first of June!!
Rachel remembers well the “nerve wrecking” moments when they announced in the crowded Gem Theater the new name of the mascot. “We just weren’t sure how the public would react even though all the names were submitted by them. We were so happy they loved it!”.
I am lucky enough to have some friends in Kannapolis that I reached out to for their thoughts about the ballpark.
I went to my Pastor, Dr. Tom Cabiness, from First Baptist Church, situated right in the middle of the new Downtown area. I know what a huge fan Tom is of baseball and he shared the following with me. “I think it has become the anchor for our new Downtown by allowing people a place to gather, talk, and enjoy their free time. We haven’t had a place that draws people across the ages in a long time. All ages can find a place to walk, enjoy food, watch a game and bring friends too. It’s a long overdue place for our community. As for the church, it offers us new options for recreation and a new partner for serving the community. We’ve already partnered with the team for two events.”
Next, I went to friends John and Erin Noonan along with their little son, Kellan. I am always seeing pictures of the family fun that they are enjoying at the ballpark and in the new Downtown area. Erin said, “Thanks for thinking of us… we DO love that ballpark! I always comment about it really is the “field of dreams” they built it, and everyone came. It’s the centerpiece of our city now and I love seeing the Kannapolis community embrace it for all that it is… a ballpark, a perfect place for kids with the playground and splashpad, somewhere to exercise and bring your dog, or just a great spot to eat, drink, and gather with friends. It really is so much more than just a baseball stadium! Having the Cannon Ballers on the field now is just an added bonus!”.
Also, my dear friend Rene Hammon added, “The stadium is awesome! The atmosphere is great. Not a bad seat in the place, and the food is good!”. Also… “ya’ll have to go to a game with us”! That definitely sounds like a plan to me!!
I asked Rachel about special nights at the ball park and she filled me in on a few standards for each week.
Wednesdays are “Bark the Park” and people can come to the games with their dogs!
Thursdays are “Thirsty Thursdays” where you will find all sorts of beer specials. They carry brews from Cabarrus Brewery, 26 Acres, Morgan Ridge, Wicked Weed, Red Oak, and of course other well-known domestic beers. Cabarrus Brewery even came out with “Baller Beer” to honor the team!
Saturdays there are always fireworks after the game.
Sundays are “Run the Bases” where kids can run the bases post game.
The stadium is open 7 days a week from 7:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m. and they close on game days three hours prior to game time of 7:00 p.m. Sunday games are at 12:30 p.m.
Of course, all of the ballgames have fun kid games to be played such as donut races, kids wearing animal masks on the field, a sneaker scramble, and a classic… spinning the bat! The giveaways when you enter the stadium for a game is also something to look forward to as well! The day I was there they were giving away door mats that night!
They also have merchandise galore! Rachel shared that the Cannon Ballers merchandise has been “shipped out and purchased in all 50 states”. You can grab some merch in their gift store and online as well.
Closing out our conversation I asked Rachel how she felt about the ballpark, “We are more than just baseball. We are the home of entertainment, come out to the ballgames, bring the kids out to the playground, and see all we have to offer. We are just more than baseball.”
As I walked around the ballpark preparing to leave I made a few mental notes. This ballpark is clean, there is good music playing constantly, there is trivia popping up on the large screen, the kids and parents there were happy and smiling, they have ample seating and picnic tables so that if you desire you can sit and enjoy some of Boomer’s Bistro’s finest. Ladies… I can happily report I’d be surprised if you ever had to wait in line for the bathrooms because they thought ahead of time about that for us! This place is just amazing and everyone that helped to make this a reality did a great job of bringing the “field of dreams” to Kannapolis.
Atrium Health Stadium is located at 1 Cannon Baller Way, Kannapolis 28081. You can contact them at 704-932-3267.