L.P. Frans Stadium – Hickory Crawdads
Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
L.P. Frans Stadium 2500 Clement Blvd NW Hickory, NC 28601
Year Opened: 1993 Capacity: 5,062
L.P. Frans Stadium – Hickory Crawdads
The Hickory Crawdads brought baseball back to Hickory, North Carolina, following more than a thirty-year absence, when the Gastonia Rangers would head north on US Highway 321 to their new home, L.P. Frans Stadium.
The current South Atlantic League affiliate of the Texas Rangers, the Crawdads were initially affiliated with the Chicago White Sox upon their move to Hickory, followed by a stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, before returning to their pre-Hickory affiliation with the Rangers in 2009.
Food & Beverage 3
Concessions at L.P. Fans Stadium do not particularly wow, but they do have everything you would expect at a ballpark concession stand, highlighted by the Philly cheesesteak. Hot dog, chicken fingers, and burger combo meals do include fries.
The food of the Crawdad Café, down the right field line, has a larger selection of choices with BBQ sandwiches and nachos, specialty burgers, and quesadillas.
While Pepsi products are the beverage of choice, the hand-squeezed lemonade is amazing. If looking for beer, all the usual suspects are available when it comes to the microbrews, but if you want a beer with a bit more flavor, craft brews are plentiful – illuminated Brew Works, Sierra Nevada, Catawaba Brewing, and Flat Rock Cider Company are among the nearly dozen craft beers in either cans or on tap that are available on the concourse.
If you can hold out long enough or need a late-inning bite before hitting the road, burgers and dogs get discounted toward the end of the top of the 8th inning.
Fans enter L.P. Frans Stadium into a wide-open concourse that is separated from the main seating area by blocks of suites and the press box. This setup limits the view of the field fans have while making their way around the stadium, mostly impeding the views from the area between the dugouts, and from a secondary area down the third baseline.
The outfield wall harkens back to the days when every square inch of it was covered by advertisements. The primary fence, along with a secondary double-tiered wall behind the first one, gives the playing area a bit of a cozy feel.
Mid-inning games are primarily aimed at younger fans, and are a throwback to some of the simpler contests of years gone by. The tire race where kids just push tires around the cut of the outfield grass, or the inflatable bouncy horse race are both simple, but the fans get really into them. Some scoreboard games are used to entertain fans, but they just do not seem to have the same level of engagement.
Behind the third base suites, there was also room to squeeze in a Crawdads themed merry-go-round, a bounce house, a jungle gym, and an inflatable batting cage. The area is a bit tight, but the team has done well to make the most of an area that otherwise might be difficult to use.
One of the drawbacks of the stadium experience are the foul ball-breaking glass ads that are used repeatedly throughout the game – it was one of those ideas that was clever at first, but is now overdone.
Overall, there is a lot of entertainment value in the game presentation to complement the contest on the field.
The Crawdads play in Hickory, North Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. L.P. Frans Stadium sits at the end of the Hickory Regional Airport, so the occasional flyover of a plane landing or taking off, just off the first base side of the field, might occur from Crawdads-themedistime to timethroughout the game.
Surrounded by a Pepsi Bottling warehouse and other shipping and industrial buildings, L.P. Frans Stadium has more of the feel of being in a business park than that of a baseball destination location.
The Crawdad loyalists show up well before the gates open and set up tailgating spreads in the parking lot. It is not often you will find such a setup in minor league baseball, and while it is not a massive number of people, there is just enough to create a fun gameday atmosphere before the gates open.
The attendance numbers fluctuate greatly between weekday and weekend games – typically the crowd on Friday and Saturday nights will be double that seen during Tuesday through Thursday contests.
Regardless of the size of the crowd, there will always be two constants from them; the first is the cowbells that ring throughout the stadium during the game, while the second is the fan engagement from the Section 108 crew. Much like some of the hockey fan groups, the fans of Section 108, led by Mega-Man and his megaphone and backed by the ‘Mega-Minions’, this group makes things as humorously uncomfortable for the visiting team as they can. For the most part, the ribbing is kept civil and all in good fun.
Even though the weekday crowds can be sparse, the work Mega-Man and the Mega-Minions do truly creates a unique experience that helps bolster the overall fan experience.
If traveling east or west on Interstate 40, Hickory is about halfway between Asheville and Winston-Salem, just about 5 miles from the interstate. Those coming from nearby Charlotte will use Highway 321, which runs north-south, and this highway leads right to L.P. Frans Stadium.
Once at the stadium, there are two areas to park in – the most convenient would be the large lot around the stadium that extends down the third base side. There is also a secondary grass lot atop the hill beyond the right field fence; a stairway leads down from the top of that hill to the stadium.
There is just one entry point into L.P. Frans Stadium, but since there is not a stringent bag check, lines move quickly.
Return on Investment 5
Fans are treated to affordable prices from the moment they arrive; the $5 the Crawdads charge for parking is more than reasonable. Parking lots do not accept cards, however, so make sure to have cash payment.
Adding to the value of attending a Crawdads game is that even tickets in the front row, behind home plate, can be had for just $9. There are some specialized games throughout the season with isolated instances of increased ticket prices, but your typical game will run $11 per ticket once you account for service fees if you purchase online. Day-of-game tickets increase by $1 at the box office.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more affordable ticket in any professional sport that puts fans as close to the action on the field.
The Crawdads have an extensive history display of players who have passed through Hickory on their way to careers in Major League Baseball. The concourse also displays the Crawdads’ Hall of Fame, a display of numbers Hickory has retired, and the names of those inducted in the South Atlantic League Hall of Fame.
Given its proximity to the highways throughout the Carolinas and their layout around the state, Hickory is an easy stop for any baseball road trip through the area.
The stadium architecture and the surrounding area are not all that awe-inspiring, but the game experience itself is well worth a trip to L.P. Fran Stadium. The atmosphere created by the fans and the work the game entertainment staff does with keeping younger fans part of the game partnered with the game on the field, create an all-around memorable baseball experience.