How to Enjoy Triangle-Based Pro Sports for Less
Cut the cost of tickets with family or group discounts
For many families, there is no better experience than gathering the gang to cheer on your favorite team. No matter what sport your brood loves, there’s something special about coming together in full-throated support to root, root, root for the home team.
The price of attending a game, however, can make many families think twice. Attending a major league sporting event can cost a family of four several hundred dollars after paying for parking, tickets, concessions and merchandise.
But there are ways to keep those prices in check. Most teams offer family discounts on tickets, including incentives like food vouchers or discounts on merchandise. Keep in mind that tickets to minor league sporting events cost just a fraction of major league ticket prices, making it easy to keep the tab under $100 for a family of four. Plus, in-game entertainment at the lower levels of professional sports is geared toward families, and the smaller venues get everyone closer to the action.
Families aren’t the only ones who can get a break on prices. Most sports teams offer discounts for groups of 10 or more. Youth sports teams, in particular, can take advantage of affordably priced outings.
One more tip: Don’t forget about college sports. UNC-Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and Duke University play NCAA Division I athletics, the highest level of college sports. There’s more to choose from than high-profile football and basketball programs. Baseball, softball, volleyball and lacrosse are just some of the sports that are affordable to attend.
The Canes Fam Value Packs are among the featured discounts offered by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, and they offer flexibility in both price and amount of tickets at PNC Arena in Raleigh. There are a designated number of Canes Fam Nights each season for which fans can purchase from two to eight seats.
Per-ticket prices range from $32.50 in the upper level to $75 in the lower level. And the Hurricanes will give you a head start at the concession stand with a $10 food and drink credit for each ticket purchased. Canes Fam Value Packs must be purchased in advance of a game.
Family packages for the 2020-21 season will be available closer to the start of the season in October. Learn more at nhl.com/hurricanes/tickets/family-nights.
No matter what kind of group you’re bringing to the ballpark, the Durham Bulls have you covered. Gather a sports team, host a birthday party or bring the family together for a campout. Various packages include flexible seating, scoreboard recognition and on-field experiences at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham.
Wool E. Bull’s Allscripts All-Stars kids club is open to children ages 4-14. A free membership includes a ticket voucher for each child, while a $25 membership includes a voucher for four games, a Durham Bulls hat and other perks.
The Bulls, the top minor league affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, will host five Bark in the Park games this summer. Tickets cost $9 and dogs are admitted for $5.
Need a bigger fix of America’s pastime? The Bulls also have 8-, 9- and 10-game discounted plans with built-in attractions. Get a postgame fireworks package, choose discount food nights or select a family-friendly calendar of Thursday-only games. Learn more at milb.com/durham.
The Carolina Mudcats play in Zebulon. Five County Stadium’s cozy setting is perfect if you want to be close to the action of the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Mudcats offer five-game mini-packs that allow fans to choose from 20 of the team’s top promotional nights. Two-person packs ($75-$100) and four-person packs ($130-$195) offer a significant savings on individual game tickets. Can’t make it to a game on your ticket package? You can exchange any unused tickets for games later in the season.
Birthday party packages include plenty of perks for the kids, and group ticket packages for 20 or more include parking and merchandise discounts. Learn more at milb.com/carolina-mudcats.
Holly Springs Salamanders
Holly Springs Salamanders baseball has all the appeal of a pro game, but the team is part of a collegiate summer league that features some of the top players from around the country.
The Salamanders play in 1,800-seat Ting Park in Holly Springs. Ticket packages feature three, five-game plans that offer plenty of bang for your buck. For $54-$92 per person, fans receive admission, all-you-can-eat vouchers for each game and a Salamanders hat or T-shirt. Families interested in paying for a full season will pay $263.50 per person.
Take advantage of the all-you-can-eat program at any home game for $15 per person when you bring a group of 10 more. Learn more at salamandersbaseball.com.
North Carolina FC and NC Courage
If soccer is your sport, North Carolina Football Club (men) and NC Courage (women) offer exciting professional action at Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park. Each team offers a flex plan that includes 12 ticket vouchers that can be redeemed for any regular season game in any combination. Ticket packages range from $149-$479 for the 2020 season. Each team’s season runs from March through October.
Birthday and youth team parties come with pizza, drinks, cake and a gift for the kids. Both teams offer packages for adult parties, too. Guests have access to the Far Post Pavilion, where North Carolina FC or NC Courage cover the first round of drinks. Learn more at northcarolinafc.com and nccourage.com.
Kurt Dusterberg is a freelance writer in Apex. He is the Carolina Hurricanes correspondent for nhl.com and author of the book, “Journeymen: 24 Bittersweet Tales of Short Major League Sports Careers.”
Out-of-Town Pro Sports Options
Many people recognize the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes — North Carolina’s three major league sports franchises.
But across the state, there are plenty of other professional teams stocked with athletes waiting for a chance at the big time.
So if you’re out of town with a free evening, consider taking in a game in another North Carolina city. You can explore a new stadium or arena, watch a future star athlete and maybe splurge for that hat with the cool team logo. If you’re on the road with your children’s club or travel sports team, contact the team’s ticket office ahead of time. They might offer some added incentives for a night of fun at the game.
Here are some of the places you can find pro teams:
Minor League Baseball
Minor league baseball is a staple of summertime in towns across America, with 256 teams affiliated with Major League Baseball. Most teams play in modern stadiums with lots of amenities and in-game family entertainment. If you’re away from the Triangle, you can check out nine other teams:
• Charlotte Knights
• Down East Wood Ducks (Kinston)
• Fayetteville Woodpeckers
• Winston-Salem Dash
• Asheville Tourists
• Greensboro Grasshoppers
• Hickory Crawdads
• Kannapolis Intimidators
• Burlington Royals
If you’re a Carolina Hurricanes fan and you find yourself in Charlotte overnight, don’t forget about the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. Many of the Checkers players spend time on the Hurricanes’ roster throughout the season. Tickets at Bojangles Coliseum start at $12.
United Soccer League
Charlotte Independence plays soccer in the United Soccer League, and is a rival of North Carolina FC. Home games take place at the Sportsplex at Matthews with tickets priced at $15 and up.
Major League Lacrosse
The Queen City is home to the Charlotte Hounds, a Major League Lacrosse franchise. They play eight home games from June through September at American Legion Memorial Stadium with tickets available for $10.
Southern Professional Hockey League
The Fayetteville Marksmen play in the Southern Professional Hockey League, an independent minor league. Their season runs from mid-October through early April at Crown Coliseum. Tickets start at $7.
Federal Hockey League
The Carolina Thunderbirds play in the unaffiliated Federal Hockey League at The Annex at the Winston-Salem Fairgrounds, where tickets start at $9.
National Arena League
Remember arena football? The Carolina Cobras play the indoor version of the game. They are part of the National Arena League, with home games April 20-July 13 at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex. Most home games are on Saturdays. Family 4-Packs include four tickets, four hot dogs and four soft drinks for $28.75 per ticket.
The Greensboro Swarm basketball team is the development squad for the NBA’s Hornets, providing players directly to the major league team. The 2,100-seat Fieldhouse at the Coliseum Complex, which opened in 2016, hosts 24 home games in the NBA’s G League from November through March. Tickets start at $9.