Local News

Wilson Expects Windfall From Baseball

Posted Updated
Switch to classic wral.com

WILSON, N.C. — Friday's NCAA Tournament baseball game between North Carolina State and Le Moyne College was expected to mean big bucks for the host town -- which isn't Raleigh.

Because the Wolfpack's field is being renovated, N.C. State decided to host its opening playoff games at Fleming Field. It will mark the fourth big playoff event in Wilson in the last four years.

Supporters say the city considered tearing down the stadium a few years ago, then decided to fix it up instead. That's a good thing, given the excitement the tournament games generated Friday.

The flags were flying, and the hotels were hopping as a wave of Wolfpack red flowed into Wilson.

"Actually, they've been coming in for the last couple of days," said local hotel employee Derek Cobb. "Really, we've been turning people away."

Fleming Stadium, which was bult in 1939, is suddenly a popular venue for national events. After it fell into disrepair, the city considered tearing the stadium down before opting to pay for renovations.

"I could still see the beauty of an old baseball stadium like this if we could just renovate it and go forward." said Keith Montgomery of the Wilson Parks and Recreation Department.

In addition to the action on the diamond, Wilson hopes to prosper from the new North Carolina Baseball Museum, which will open later this summer and spotlights seven players from the state, including Enos Slaughter of Roxboro, Catfish Hunter of Hertford and Buck Leonard of Rocky Mount.

"We call them the Magnificent Seven," said museum representative Lee Gliarmis. "There's just so much baseball history in North Carolina that there's got to be a museum for all that."

Another player featured in the museum is Clyde King of Goldsboro. He pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and managed several teams, including the New York Yankees, whom he still works for.

"This is my first visit, and I'm so excited," King said Friday. "I've been trying to get over here, but when you work for George Steinbrenner, you keep your bags packed."

As the Wolfpack prepared to take the field for Friday's game, Wilson officials estimated the city would take in at least $300,000 this weekend alone - the amount the city paid to have Fleming Stadium renovated in the mid-1990's.