Opening Day: What to Expect from the newly-minted CaroMont Health Park
Want more in your inbox? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter here.
The field has been lined, the bases are out, and the pitching mound is in place. The Gastonia Honey Hunters are ready to play ball!
After a year of shelter in place, phased COVID restrictions, and social distancing at the forefront of everything we did, a baseball game felt like wishful thinking. But on April 15, Gaston County leaders and partners participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the culmination of their hard work, knowing that opening day was finally just weeks away.
Soon, baseball lovers will feel the excitement of the new Gastonia Honey Hunters buzzing throughout the new, 5,000+ seat multi-use sports and entertainment facility, CaroMont Health Park, as a part of the ever-developing FUSE district. Formerly the FUSE Sports Complex, The Honey Hunters have recently entered into a ten-year naming rights agreement with CaroMont Health, giving the regional health system the opportunity to sponsor various activities and exclusive special events.
The stadium's inaugural event took place May 14, celebrating Gaston College's 2021 and 2020 graduates in their commencement ceremony, and plans feature other year-round sporting events, like football and lacrosse, as well as concerts and family-friendly entertainment.
Sprawling more than 6.5 acres along West Franklin Boulevard in Gastonia, the state-of-the-art facility will serve as the team’s home, playing a full season of games until October. The first opponent up to bat against the Honey Hunters will be the Lancaster Barnstormers on May 27th.
Bringing the energy of their ferocious mascot, the honey badger, the Honey Hunters and their staff are preparing on and off the field for the tasks ahead, working tirelessly to ensure the young squad is ready come game day.
“Opening day is fast approaching, and we are excited to bring Gastonia’s baseball fans into our home,” said David Martin, COO, Gastonia Honey Hunters. “Our team is coming together, the support from our fans and the community has been amazing, and the Honey Hunters are excited to provide Gaston County with family-friendly affordable entertainment and first-rate baseball for years to come.”
What's in the Name
This community spirit has been center stage throughout the team’s construction, particularly with their name. Last autumn, the team announced that five names were under consideration for the franchise: Gastonia Fire Ants, Gastonia Hogzillas, Gastonia Hotshots, Gastonia Uppercuts, and (the winner) Honey Hunters in a name-the-team contest.
However, Team Owner Brandon Bellamy believes that the name speaks to more than the team. “Honey Hunters was chosen to reflect the shared traits between the City of Gastonia and those of the most fearless animal in the world: fearless, determined, and resilient,” he stated via press statement.
The team name honors the late Ransom Hunter, regarded as Gaston County's first freed formerly-enslaved person to own land. This name is in honor of his resiliency and to pay homage to a heritage that was largely blotted out, as Bill Poteat from the Gaston Gazette says, "...due in part to the limitations of public records, as well as society's past tendencies to gloss over Black history." Though these tendencies may not fully be in the past, the decision to choose a name that acknowledges and celebrates Hunter's history while moving towards a future of inclusion and recognition of the Black Americans who have shaped our cities and county. Being on the forefront of this is a source of pride that brings opportunities beyond baseball.
Mayor Walker Reid adds that the new moniker is "the perfect name for the team," and predicted the new stadium and the new baseball franchise will "bring this community together."
What's to Come
Surrounding the stadium's adjacent lots, the district is courting over $100 million in private investment and development. CaroMont Health Park is one in a portfolio of projects that will create opportunity and enhance sustainability, efficiency and entertainment in the city.
Two co-projects in the expansion include an overhaul to the historic Trenton Mill, foregrounding the development of 84 loft apartments, and the redevelopment of a 5,000-square-foot space attached to the historic Coca-Cola bottling plant, which will be occupied by Durham-based Durty Bull Brewing Co., adding to Gaston County's growing list of local breweries and bringing the first restaurant to the complex.
Once complete, the facility will ultimately create more job opportunities, mobilizing employment in various industries including construction, manufacturing, and retail, ultimately designing an experience for fans, shoppers and visitors that’s comfortable, interactive, and connected.
Come game day, fans will have an opportunity to enjoy the game via a 360-degree concourse, surrounded by premium amenities and highlights within the ballpark, like a covered beer garden with an occupiable rooftop.
Beginning May 27's Opening Night (and all subsequent games), Martin says safety and health of ticket-holders and others is top priority. “From a protocol standpoint, we’re going to do everything to keep not only our athletes but our employees as well as our fans safe," Per the Charlotte Business Journal, Honey Hunters will cap attendance at 2,000 fans for each game at CaroMont Health Park during this first homestand, which runs through Sunday, May 30.
As we look forward to opening day, what's to come and what has come before, we can invoke the quoted sentiment's of the team's namesake, making it a call and a mantra for our county moving forward together, "Always strive for something better, but never forget where you came from."
Ticket holders can buy single game and season tickets now, gaining access to such benefits as season-long parking passes, first-dib seating, invitation to special events and meet-and-greets as well as reserved seating at all home games. Purchase your game tickets here and follow the team’s journey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.