In recent years, the enduring star of Historic Grainger Stadium was the immaculately kept field itself.

Wednesday, crews began laying down new grass as Kinston watches and waits to see if the city again becomes home to a Carolina League baseball team.

“It’s not like a normal thing that you do every year, but it’d been 18 years since we’d done it,” said Bill Ellis, Kinston-Lenoir County Parks & Recreation director. “We have a lull in the season where we don’t have any events right now, (so) this was the time for us to do it.”

The grass going into the stadium is classic Tifway 419 Bermuda grass, created in Tifton, Ga., in the late 1950s with the express purpose of use for golf courses and playing fields.

Eric Hitchcock, install manager with Sandhill Turf, said they’ve brought in sod in about 280 square feet a roll, with each roll measuring 80 feet long and 3.5 feet wide. He said he anticipates the sod install to last three or four days as they put down in the area of 100,000 square feet before it’s all over.

“Whether we get a professional team or not, it had to be done,” Ellis said.

The repairs and improvements were part of the recommended department budget passed by the Kinston City Council earlier this year. City Manager Tony Sears said in June field improvements would cost around $54,000.

Of course, a lease agreement exists between the City of Kinston and a Texas Rangers subsidiary. In the event the Rangers place a minor league team within Grainger’s confines, in addition to $1.65 million in capital improvements, the city would also be obligated to around $250,000 in initial repairs and upgrades to the parking lot, the grandstand, lighting and outfield wall.

Whether a team arrives in Kinston could be answered sooner than later. Sports media in Bakersfield, Calif., indicate their hometown Blaze of the California League could be the second part of a two-part move sending the High Desert Mavericks, for all intents and purposes, to Kinston while the Blaze would be contracted or moved to Fayetteville as the Houston Astros’ new Carolina League affiliate.

“If the California League is forced to contract two of its 10 teams, a move that’s been long rumored, then the Bakersfield Blaze will be one of the casualties, team owner D.G. Elmore said (July 14),” according to a July 15 story in the Bakersfield Californian.

That news came at the same time the Fayetteville Observer reported the city of Fayetteville signed on Hardball Capital owner Jason Freier – owner of the new Columbia, S.C. minor league team, among others — to head up the city’s negotiations with the Astros.

The sides have until Aug. 18 to draft a memorandum of understanding that would pave the way for a new Fayetteville franchise. The Observer reported Wednesday the city’s baseball committee was scheduled to resume negotiations with the Astros.


Chief Photographer Janet S. Carter contributed to this story. Wes Wolfe can be reached at 252-559-1075 and Follow him on Twitter @WesWolfeKFP.