Five County Stadium – Carolina Mudcats
Baseball in the Triangle (Almost)
Five County Stadium is the home of the Carolina Mudcats, who are in their second year as the Single-A Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. The ballpark is in Zebulon, NC, which is part of the Raleigh metropolitan area. In case you haven’t figured out yet, the venue sits on the border of five different counties: Wake, Nash, Franklin, Johnston and Wilson. When the Mudcats began their existence in 1991, the Durham Bulls refused to concede their regional territorial rights, which included Raleigh. Instead of finding another city around the Research Triangle, the Mudcats decided to settle literally as close to Raleigh as they could. There have been rumors that the team has explored a move to downtown Raleigh, but for now Zebulon remains the setting for Mudcats home games.
Food & Beverage 2
There are not a lot of refreshment options at Five County Stadium, and the few concession stands here are not overly imaginative. Some of the stands are branded differently, although they appear to be the same in everything but name. There are enough stands to ensure short wait times, but some of that is surely because the options are average. Coca-Cola provides the soft drinks; items are priced a little above average, but not too much. If you don’t get a ticket to the Cattails Restaurant, I would advise eating before or after the game.
Uniqueness is what we love about sporting venues, and Five County Stadium sure has plenty of character. From the outside, the green and white architecture reminds one of England during Shakespeare’s time. The seating bowl extends down the lines just past the bases, which is not uncommon in the minors. However, the field level sections are five rows deep, while the upper level features 13 rows of seating. Perhaps this was done very intentionally, as the upper level hangs over the lower level and covers the field level seats completely.
The scoreboard is brand new, and it is undoubtedly one of the most impressive in high-A ball. It is one of the biggest I’ve seen at any level, although finding balls and strikes takes more effort and concentration than it should. It is very nice, but it just feels a bit out of place in the aging ballpark. Five County Stadium feels stuck between modern and old school – not enough amenities to feel new, and not enough history to feel historic. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many improvements to modernize the fan experience.
Muddy the Mudcat is the team’s exuberant mascot that likes to ride a dirt bike around the warning track between innings. For those of you not from North Carolina, a mudcat is a type of Catfish. There are plenty of typical Minor League Baseball promotions between innings, such as the t-shirt toss or dizzy bat race. The entertainment between innings is a good microcosm for the whole Mudcats experience – about what you might expect, but still fun for the whole family.
Most of the Raleigh-Durham area is full of fun things to do and good places to eat, but the neighborhood around Five County Stadium consists of a parking lot. This is not a knock on the Mudcats at all – the team essentially is the town’s one attraction.
If you want things to do, head 30 minutes west to Raleigh. The second largest city in North Carolina is home to many wonderful attractions, such as the state capitol building. Lodging is aplenty in Raleigh, with the Raleigh Marriott City Center – among others – being right in the heart of downtown. There is no shortage of great restaurants downtown; the crown jewel being Jimmy V’s Osteria & Bar. The Italian restaurant serves some of the best flatbread pizza in the world. It is named after Jim Valvano, the legendary NC State basketball coach that led the Wolfpack to the 1983 national championship. “Jimmy V” passed away from cancer in 1993, but his legacy is immortalized with his famous quotes, such as, “Don’t Give Up. Don’t Ever Give Up.” These quotes are written on the walls of Jimmy V’s.
Five County Stadium draws a decent crowd, but the first thing that jumps out is the lack of fans. The ballpark that seats 6,500 is way too big for the level and fan interest. There are two general admission bleachers down the lines near the foul poles that contribute to the cavernous feel of the park. The Mudcats should think about taking them out and replacing them with beer gardens/club seating. The fans are engaged, but the atmosphere does not feel intimate whatsoever. The structure of the grandstand is such that if the fans were more concentrated, it could lead to a good atmosphere. However, that is not the case right now.
Zebulon is a community that was measured at under 5,000 in the 2010 census, so getting in and out of Five County Stadium is not difficult. NC Route 264 is a two-lane country road that goes by the ballpark. Raleigh-Durham International Airport is the airport that services the Research Triangle. There are two gravel parking lots on either side of the home plate gate that will set you back $5. There is also a campground behind the home plate gate if you’re into that. Five County Stadium’s easy accessibility is more than anything a product of being in the middle of nowhere, but the setup is everything it needs to be.
Inside the ballpark, concourses are extremely wide and easy to navigate. Although there are two seating levels, there is only one concourse. Fans simply walk up or down a stairway to get to the upper deck or lower deck, respectively. The Mudcats do not lead the league in attendance, but even a sold out Five County Stadium could easily handle the pedestrian traffic flow.
Return on Investment 4
Although a Mudcats game is not on everyone’s bucket list, going to a game there is an absolute steal. Field level seating is $12, and the seats behind home plate are surely some of the closest in professional baseball. Upper level seating is $10, and the steep nature of the grandstand will put you right on top of the action. Located down the first base line at the top of the stadium is the Cattails Restaurant, which is quite one of the nicest restaurants you will ever see inside a sporting venue. The climate-controlled restaurant will serve you fantastic American food as you overlook the field from four stories above the diamond.
$12 prime seats and $5 parking adds up to $17. Add an adult beverage, and you’re still talking under $25 for a great experience at a professional baseball game. Even for Minor League Baseball, that’s an absolute steal.
Due to the nature of being in Zebulon, there is no impressive skyline that overlooks Five County Stadium. The park is surrounded by woods, but it does have one neat feature in the backdrop – a baseball water tower. The tower is on the other side of the road behind the left field fence. The top of the white tower is in the round shape of a baseball, complete with stitching and the name “Mudcats” on the front. It’s somewhat subtle, but it’s a cool touch that fits right in with the North Carolina countryside.
What stadium chasers love about sporting venues is that no two are exactly alike. With Five County Stadium, you would be hard pressed to find a venue like it. The Mudcats play in the metropolitan area of a major city, but their home ballpark doesn’t feel big time at all. Instead, it feels like a ballfield surrounded by farmland, and that’s okay. Minor League teams moving into shiny new downtown ballparks has become the norm, but the Mudcats seem content where they are. Many folks these days love walking from downtown restaurants to a shiny new ballpark, and for good reason. But can’t driving down a two-lane country road to the ballpark on Sunday afternoon be just as fun? Variety is truly the spice of life, and Five County Stadium proves the value of a trip off the beaten path.
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Latest Crowd Reviews
A good ballpark with some unique amenities, Five County Stadium is worth a visit if you are in the area. It’s a bit out of the way, but worth the drive, with great sight lines, its own restaurant, and lots of energy.