Last year, the Holly Springs Salamanders’ home at the North Main Athletic Complex wasn’t quite finished for opening day
Bad weather had caused construction delays on the new $19 million venue, which also includes a soccer center and tennis complex.
But this year, as the Salamanders prepare to kick off the season Wednesday, June 1, the stadium is ready to go, save for the beer garden surrounding the outfield, which is scheduled to be finished mid-June.
That’s made the beginning of the second season more relaxed for everyone, said Auston Moore, the team’s director of marketing.
“I think we’re just really confident because we know what to expect,” she said. “It’s two completely different worlds, just given we’ve had a year to use everything. We know how everything works.”
Since then, the venue has undergone some minor additions. The seating area now has fans, and the concrete walkway is complete. And the mound of dirt behind the stadium is no longer a mound of dirt, but a construction site where a structure for the beer garden is starting to take shape.
This season, fans can expect new events and community involvement. Discount nights, including dollar-off concession nights and discounted souvenirs, will be offered, along with a range of special events like “Superhero Saturday” on June 4 and military appreciation day on July 2.
On opening day, the first pitches will be thrown by Holly Springs Fire Chief LeRoy Smith and Police Chief John Herring, and the Fuquay-Varina American Legion will present the colors. Brian Anderson, who Moore said was a fan favorite from last year, will perform the national anthem on his electric guitar.
Last season was considered a success, Moore said, with the 1,700-person stadium selling out multiple times. She said the average attendance per game was about 1,400 people.
“Honestly, just word-of-mouth was how we existed last year,” she said. “It was the new thing in town, so everybody talks and everybody’s really excited.”
She’s hopeful that the talk will continue into this year’s season as the team takes on the Savannah Bananas Wednesday. Gates open at 6 p.m. with the game set for 7 p.m.
“One of the things that was funny last year was we had a night that we had almost 2,500 people in the stadium, and in the pictures, it looks like there’s no one there,” Moore said. “But they’re all up in the concourse talking and hanging out.”
In the home locker rooms, the players’ jerseys are hung up neatly and are ready to be worn.
The Salamanders are part of the Coastal Plain League, which is a summer minor league for college players. There are 15 teams throughout the Carolinas and Virginia with players coming from all over the country. This year, one comes from as far as away as San Diego State. This year’s team includes some players with local connections, including from Raleigh, Bunn, Creedmoor and Holly Springs.
The players live with local host families during the season.
Andrew Ciencin, the Salamanders’ head coach, said the team’s small-town atmosphere makes things more personal for fans.
“People are stuck around here, seeing Duke and North Carolina, and N.C. State,” he said. “They get to kind of be on a more personal level with these guys. I think it’s just a smaller atmosphere, and that just makes everything a little bit more personal.”
Last year, the team signed autographs at the Holly Springs Farmers Market, and the players hosted multiple camps throughout the summer, where Ciencin said they coached about 70 kids.
“They got to interact with kids in the community, which was really good for them,” he said.
The games bring the community together, Moore said.
“I think it’s just a fun event for families in the area to bring their kids to and hang out,” she said.
Paige Connelly: 919-460-2609, @pconnellly
Want to go?
The Salamanders play the Savannah Bananas at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1. For a schedule and ticket prices, go to salamandersbaseball.com or call 919-249-7322. The North Main Athletic Complex is at 1151 N. Main St., Holly Springs.