Hickory, N.C., originally was called Hickory Tavern
because of a popular log tavern built in the mid-19th
Century. So years later, it is fitting that there are few
better places in the country to find better woodwork.
"When most people think of Hickory, they think of
furniture," Hickory Crawdads general manager David Haas
said. "People fly in from all over the country to buy
Hickory is referred to as the unofficial furniture
capital of the world, and the furniture goes much deeper
than wooden bats that belong to the Crawdads. A billion
dollar furniture retail industry attracts many to the
region, as does Hickory's small town atmosphere.
Approximately 60 percent of the furniture manufactured in
the United States is produced within a 200-mile radius of
Hickory, which is 50 miles from Charlotte.
Hickory has a 20-mile corridor of furniture outlets along
U.S. Highway 321. There is also the huge Hickory
Furniture Mart complex and the Catawba Furniture Mall
houses more than eight acres of furniture.
It has made Hickory into an attractive place to live and
watch baseball. In 1997, Hickory was named "One of the 10
Best Places to Live" by Reader's Digest. While the
community has a modest population of some 40,000, it
boasts a range of interesting sites for visitors and
residents. The Crawdads, in particular, have been one of
the top draws for sports fans since 1993.
"The Crawdads are a big deal simply because of our
market," Haas said. "We don't have any major college
sports or an ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) team here. A
lot of cities will have Arena Football or soccer or
something else. But in Hickory, we're the only
professional sports team in the area."
L.P. Frans Stadium hosts 70 South Atlantic League games a
year and is a comfortable spot to watch a game, with
amenities including an outdoor cafe with patio seating
and a playground. It was one of the first parks with a
working carousel, sparking a trend that has taken off in
Minor League Baseball.
Solid talent has come through Hickory on the way to the
Majors, including Magglio Ordonez, Jason Bere and Carlos
Lee, who played in the Chicago White Sox organization in
the 1990s. Since the Crawdads became the Pirates' Class A
affiliate in 1999, Jason Simontacchi, Brad Eldred and
Zach Duke have played at L.P. Frans Stadium.
If it's a need for speed, sports fans can find the
birthplace of NASCAR at Hickory Motor Speedway. The famed
track is emblazoned with the words "history, tradition
and mystique" at its entrance. "The World's Most Famous
Short Track" has hosted races since 1951 and was a
starting ground for many of the sport's greatest drivers,
including Dale Earnhardt, "The Intimidator," who hailed
from Kannapolis, N.C.
"The big boys started here: Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett,
David Pearson," Haas said. "It was one of the earliest
sanctioned NASCAR tracks and they call it the birthplace
of NASCAR. NASCAR has just gotten so big now that it's
easy to forget that."
The culturally inclined can find an array of choices in
the Hickory area. The Hickory Museum of Art was founded
in 1944 and is the second-oldest art museum in North
Carolina, featuring more than 1,200 works and hosting
traveling exhibitions, art classes, workshops, tours and
lectures. Hickory Public Library was named one of the
five best in the nation by Gale Research and Library
Journal in 1998. For golfers, there is the Rock Barn
Golf & Spa that also hosts The Hickory Classic, an event
on the PGA Champions Tour.
A history dating back to the 1880s can be found at two
spots on the National Register of Historic Places. Maple
Grove is a 19th Century residence that operates as a
museum. Propst House is a three-story Victorian gem that
inspired the founding of the Hickory Landmarks Society.
There also are a number of ways to get back to nature in
the vicinity of Hickory, which is located in the western
part of the state. Linville Gorge in nearby Caldwell and
Burke counties was designated a wilderness area in 1951
and encompasses nearly 11,000 acres. The scenery at
Wilson Creek includes fast-moving mountain streams along
with areas to swim, canoe, fish, camp or hike. Bakers
Mountain Park features 189 acres of mature chestnut oak
forest with nearly six miles of trails to explore. Much
like the rest of Hickory, it's another place to see
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.