The Holly Springs Salamanders baseball team will host the Coastal Plain League’s 19th annual All-Star Game next summer, a two-day event that officials say will bring up to $3 million to the area.
The announcement was made Thursday, a little over a year after the $19 million North Main Athletic Complex opened as the Salamanders’ home venue.
The game and associated festivities will be Sunday, July 9, and Monday, July 10. The event starts with the All-Star Fan Fest and Home Run Derby on Sunday, where fans can meet players. The game will be held the evening of July 10, after the players take part in an All-Star luncheon and a major league-style scout day.
CPL officials anticipate the All-Star Game will attract more than 2,500 people to the area – likely the largest regional event that Holly Springs has hosted.
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“It’s an honor with Holly Springs being a very small town many, many years ago,” said Mayor Dick Sears, who moved to the town in 1995 when Holly Springs had just 3,000 residents. “Today, we are 33,000-plus (residents). We’ve got it all, and I think we have one of the finest stadiums.”
Even though the game will be in Holly Springs, the entire southwestern Wake County region will reap benefits because the town’s one 187-room hotel won’t be able to house all the game participants.
The collegiate Coastal Plain League celebrated its 20th season this year and has 16 teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia. Many of the league’s players go on to be drafted by major league teams. CPL officials report that 89 former players have made it to the major league.
“Of those 89 major leaguers, 24 of them were once all-stars in the Coastal Plain League,” said Justin Sellers, chief operating officer of CPL. “So there’s a very good chance you will see major league talent out here before you that day.”
Top echelon team
While the All-Star Game is rotated every year among the league’s teams, hosts also are selected based on fan response, and fans have praised the Salamanders and their 1,700-seat venue since their first game last summer, Sellers said.
“I think this is just the beginning for what is possible for Holly Springs,” said Scott Manning, president of the Holly Springs Chamber of Commerce. “I think it’s that tipping point to where people start to see, you know, this is a town that can support an event like that.”
The all-star teams are voted upon by the league’s 16 head coaches and two media representatives for each club. They will select 54 players, with 27 players apiece on the East and West teams.
The Salamanders finished their second season with a 22-32 record. More than 34,000 people attended the games, or about 1,200 per game.
“The Coastal Plain League – they are a hot commodity right now,” Manning said. “Nationally they are recognized, and affiliating their brand with Holly Springs is fantastic.”
The All-Star Game logo, ticket information and other activities will be announced throughout fall and into spring, Sellers said.
“We’ve got some really cool things in store that we’ve already been brainstorming,” he said. “We like to be outside the box, and we want it to be interesting and fun, family-filled entertainment.”
Even though the game moves to other teams each year, Sellers said he anticipates the game could return to Holly Springs sooner – possibly in five to 10 years – if next year’s game is successful.
“I think Holly Springs with their facility, with their operations will remain one of our top echelon teams and franchises,” he said.
The game also will be broadcast live on a network that has yet to be decided.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for us as a league to showcase what is probably the best college summer market facility in the country,” Sellers said. “It’s a good exposure opportunity as well for the town and Wake County to showcase a beautiful facility like this and what they have to offer.”
Holly Springs has attracted many other events in recent years, including Beericana Craft Beer and Music Festival, which will be Sept. 10 at Sugg Farm Park, Manning said.
“I grew up in Raleigh and never really came to Holly Springs or knew anyone from Holly Springs,” he said. “Now, when I talk to people in Raleigh about Holly Springs, they know where it is.”
‘A work in progress’
The North Main Athletic Complex has been up and running since May 2015 when it opened with soccer fields, tennis courts, pickleball courts, basketball courts and its $11 million baseball stadium.
“It’s a destination place now,” Sears said. “But more importantly, it’s a gathering place for our town.”
Besides the Salamanders, the complex with synthetic turf is used by football, baseball, lacrosse and soccer programs. It hosts events year-round, including a football camp held by Indianapolis Colts linebacker Sio Moore this summer.
But the complex is still “a work in progress,” Town Manager Chuck Simmons said. When the town built the complex using a variety of funding sources, including bonds and grant funds, there was not enough money to cover everything, including scoreboard upgrades and a beer garden.
However, those additions will be completed by the All-Star Game, and Simmons expects a playground to be installed before the Salamanders’ third season opens. Town officials and staff also hope to build a gymnasium and convocation center next door.
“A vibrant community has to stay relevant, and (the All-Star Game) allows us to stay relevant,” Manning said. “This is just the beginning for us.”
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon