Atrium Health Ballpark
Affiliate: Chicago White Sox (Low A)
Ballpark Basics: The team (and the town) get a major upgrade with this new ballpark.
Originally slated to open in 2020 Kannapolis had to wait an extra year due to the pandemic to watch live baseball at Atrium Health Ballpark. However, during the summer of 2020 the city opened up the concourse for people to get outside and socially distance stroll around the concourse during the pandemic. Opening for the 2021 season the ballpark is a major upgrade for the team and the city of Kannapolis.
The team moved from the non-descript Intimidators Ballpark on the outside of town where the team had played since 1995. With the move came a name change from the Intimidators to the Cannon Ballers. The original team name was a nod to local NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr. While the name change takes away the link to the Earnhardt, the new mascot has his signature mustache and racing helmet as an ode to the driver.
The ballpark was built as the anchor to a new development along West Avenue in downtown Kannapolis and it has done just that. Shops, restaurants, and a brewery (see below) now line the street across the ballpark with apartments above. Fountains, benches and tables are also set up to encourage people to enjoy the rejuvenated avenue.
Walking into the ballpark the first thing you notice is the space. The concourse seems to have been built for social distancing. It is wide and expansive throughout. There is even enough space in center field for a rotating set of food trucks to come in. Along the infield there are suites that sit on the concourse above the seating bowl and can obstruct the view at times as you walk around the park.
There are multiple options for seating throughout Atrium Health Ballpark. The seating bowl lines each baseline, Picnic tables are set up in each outfield corner to allow for group seating, there is berm seating behind the left field wall and there is even reserved seating behind the right field wall next to the outfield bar.
Best Spot for Beer: There are numerous concession stands around the concourse as well as beverage carts with a selection of craft beer, including the team’s own Baller Beer from nearby Cabarrus Brewing Co. However, your best option is the outfield bar. Located in right-center field here you will find the most options on draft and in cans of local and craft beer.
Atrium Health Ballpark is a textbook example of using a ballpark to help spur development in a downtown setting. It was great to see fans fill up the restaurants and shops along West Avenue before heading into the game. It was the polar opposite from our visit to Intimidators Ballpark and we were grateful for it.
Old Armor Beer Company
Brew Basic: A Beer Company that’s bringing a lot to the table.
For anyone who is a fan of ballparks and brews, this one is a must do before (or after) catching a Cannonballers game. Located right in the heart of downtown Kannapolis and steps from the ballpark, this dog friendly brewery sports two outside concrete and gray brick patio options, with large cable spools turned on their sides and serving as tables. Some have umbrellas, all have fountain views and QR codes for a local restaurant or two in case you’d like to bring food in.
Inside the red brick building, you’ll find a long hallway style space with a lounge area to your left, a stage to your right and tables for small groups all the way up to a long communal table that could seat 16 or so. Like many breweries, on any given day you can find food trucks and live music. Many shows are completely free, but you may want to check their website or social media, as some shows do have a ticket fee (what we saw of upcoming shows mainly ranged from $5 to $15).
If the large American flag, military paraphernalia and beer names don’t make it obvious, this is also a business that supports all branches of the Armed Forces and is in fact, owned and operated by combat veterans. They’ve got lots of beers available and a guest tap or two as well, so there are lots to choose from. You also have the option to add to their “pay it forward” board. Purchase a beer or two for a future patron, and you can designate which branch, from Coast Guard to Space Force, (and all first responders) you’re buying it for. Might I add, Go Navy. Don’t have a trip to Kannapolis planned just yet? You can also add to their Pay it Forward board right on their website as well.
We were able to grab a seat on the patio for some pre-game entertainment and people (dog) watching, and had the opportunity to try four different Old Armor beers ourselves:
Phantom Num Noms (5%) – NEIPA Phantom pours light and somewhat wheat in color, with high carbonation and a yeasty bouquet. While this is a juicy beer, the dominant notes are wheat and though somewhat juicy, it ends tart and crisp. This beer is definitely best cold.
Barney Style Milkshake IPA (5%) – based on the name and the color of some of the other milkshake beers we’ve had poured for us of late, we were expecting this beer to be purple. It’s actually a normal yellow gold color, and Barney Style actually refers to a military term that is basically breaking something down simply, or the military equivalent of “explain like I’m five”. Thick with lacing, it smelled fruity and tasted of pineapple and a plethora of other tropical fruits. Put simply, it was good.
Salty Ass Guava Session Sour (3.5%) In an era where session beers seem to have ABVs that are edging up higher and higher, this is a true all-day drinker. Clearer and very pale yellow this session still packs a punch with a tropical bite and a sour tang that gets stronger, and more puckery, as it warms.
Oh Dark 30 (10.2%) – Jumping straight from the session to the heaviest option available, the Oh Dark 30 was a serious imperial stout. Dark chocolate brown in color, with similar chocolate notes in the aroma it tastes dry, malty and rich. On first blush, you get more roasted notes out of the finish but as it settles and warms, the liquory aftertaste becomes more pronounced as you’d expect with a +10% beer.
211 West Avenue
Kannapolis, NC 28081