A cliche regarding new Minor League ballparks is, "There's not a bad seat in the house."
That's a fair assessment of Segra Stadium, the new home of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers. But not all seats are created equal, and when it comes to the best seats in the house, a case could be made for those in Suite One. There are only six suites in the entire ballpark, and Suite One sits directly behind home plate. These 12 suite seats, consisting of two six-seat rows, are the best of both words. They provide an intimate yet expansive view of the entire ballpark as well as all the amenities that come with having a suite.
One might guess that Segra Stadium's Suite One has been leased to a corporate partner, or perhaps the city government. These are often the entities with the clout and commitment necessary to acquire premium views. But that guess would be wrong. Suite One is occupied by a group of loosely connected friends who, this past offseason, quickly banded together to secure it. To do this, they formed an LLC -- Peckers Suite One -- and ponied up for a three-year lease. The best seats in the house are theirs.
The Woodpeckers, Class A Advanced Houston affiliate, play at Segra Stadium
The Peckers Suite One crew was organized by Whitaker and McBryde Grannis, brothers and Fayetteville natives. They, along with several friends, had joined the Woodpeckers' Founders Club to get early access to season ticket packages. It turned out that the access they got wasn't quite early enough, however.
"I was really excited for the team to be here," said Whitaker, speaking alongside his brother during May 2's Woodpeckers game. "When they first started talking about the stadium and showed pictures of what it looked like, it was really exciting. And that's why we joined the Founder's Club. We wanted to make sure we got good season tickets. We wanted to support the team. We want this to be successful and we want to be part of this great story that's happening here.
"You had to get a reservation and come in and look at the season tickets and go through all that. And when we got in, we were actually upset. We wanted to be on the premium club level, and the tickets were all sold out. ... So, instead, [the Woodpeckers] started talking to us about other things that were an option for us. We already had a small group, four or five people, so it wasn't just the two of us."
After looking at the various seating options that were available, including field boxes and four-seater high-tops, a conclusion was reached.
"We really liked the suite. We liked the atmosphere of it," Whitaker said. "And we said that if we can get a good group together, this would be the best way to really experience the stadium."
Upon leaving the ballpark, the brothers convened an emergency lunch at the Fort Bragg Road location of Barbecue Hut, a Fayetteville institution.
"We had five or six people come to lunch and we started putting calls out to anybody who was interested, and we had the group filled by about 5 p.m. So, like four hours later, which was crazy," said Whitaker. "Basically, a call from us saying, 'Hey, go ask your wife. Go ask your business partner. Do you want two tickets and can you let us know immediately? First come, first served.' And it turned out really well. We got a great group together. Everybody's committed to it. ... And we did luck out. We were the very first suite to actually sign. We could choose from any one we wanted. That was part of our pitch."
The Peckers Suite One crew was assembled during lunch at The Barbecue Hut.
After getting their group together, the Grannis brothers formed the Peckers Suite One LLC.
"There was a lot of debate over the naming of the LLC, and we got a lot of really good puns that were thrown around," said Whitaker. "But we ended up deciding on something not that risque. ... I don't want to be quoted on any of the others.
"We did get a bank account," he continued. "Everybody had to write a check to the baking account. I think there were some funny looks at the bank. 'What's the name of this? Peckers Suite?'"
But that was just the beginning.
"We're on a three-year [lease] now, we're probably going to extend it to five," McBryde said. "Some nights, you come in and there's six kids running around, all under 12, and some nights there's eight or 10 adults watching the game. It's very much a family-oriented thing."
"I still think there's that corporate idea. 'I have business clients coming in who I want to entertain,'" said Whitaker. "But that's not the point of this suite at all. The point of this suite is 10 friends getting together and enjoying Minor League Baseball 70 nights a year. And that's awesome."
At this point in the conversation, Peckers Suite One member Grady Stephenson returned from a beer run and added his two cents.
"Look, Fayetteville needed baseball and we wanted it to be successful," he said. "And we're also meeting new people, because if somebody can't make it, then they send somebody and you meet them and they're nice people."
"I feel like this is something that other people would be into if they had an opportunity to do it," said Whitaker. "You don't want complete strangers, but if you can get people that you sort of know and get them into a group, it's a great way to experience Minor League Baseball."