Elon University presented an honorary doctorate to Wes Elingburg at Spring Convocation March 31. Elingburg retired as chief financial officer (CFO) at LabCorp in 2005 and has served on Elon’s Board of Trustees since then, spending time as chair of the board from 2010 to 2012.
He and his wife, Cathy, have given to Elon on numerous occasions and helped develop the internship program between Love School of Business students and LabCorp.
But when he retired from LabCorp, Elingburg found himself looking for something new to do.
In Greensboro, a minor league baseball team toiled in a dilapidated ballpark and was on the brink of leaving the area. Elingburg bought into the team and helped privately finance a new downtown ballpark, NewBridge Bank Park, and the Greensboro Grasshoppers were officially reborn.
In the following Q&A, Elingburg takes us through his history with baseball, his time as the owner of the Grasshoppers and his future goals for the organization.
Where did your love of baseball start, and when did it develop to this point?
“I grew up in Asheville. All of my family were baseball fanatics, and I ended up spending a lot of time in my summers going to Asheville Tourist games. We were all big baseball fans, and back then they were the Double-A team for the [Pittsburgh] Pirates. I saw Willie Stargell and all of these guys. I played baseball up until my freshman year of college.”
When did you think about getting into baseball as an owner and managing partner?
“I retired as CFO at LabCorp in 2005, and leading up to the retirement, I was looking for other things to do. As luck had it, some opportunities came up for me to buy into the ownership group here. I took that opportunity and I bought in. When I retired from LabCorp, this was one of the first things I got into outside of that world. And it wasn’t to make money. It never has been about making money. It’s always been about the love of the game.”
Since you helped open NewBridge Bank Park, what’s been the response that you’ve gotten?
“Everyone loves coming out here. It’s been all good, and everyone is always complimentary of the staff here and the entertainment. We still have LabCorp outings here, and occasionally there’s been Elon outings. It’s fun to have them all come out to the ballpark. This facility has meant a lot to Greensboro, as you can see by all the construction going on around here. This ballpark has helped revitalize downtown Greensboro.”
What’s been your best memory since becoming owner of the Grasshoppers?
“Oh, it’s the year we won the championship. When we won the championship, there was nothing any better than that. We all got big championship rings. A lot of the guys from the team we had are currently in the Major Leagues. Mark Canha for the Oakland A’s, [Christian] Yelich with the Marlins, [Marcell] Ozuna with the Marlins. Most of the members of that team are still in professional baseball, and some of them have made the Major Leagues. That was a fun time to be involved here.”
What’s been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced with the team in your 11 years so far?
“The biggest challenge was when we had that economic downturn a few years ago. It became increasingly difficult to [gain] corporate sponsorships. We had a little bit of a downturn, so our process of getting sponsors for events and signage became difficult. We were able to get through that period, but we’re just like any other business — it affects baseball, too. Fans still come out because we’re a cheap ticket and cheap entertainment, but you can’t survive in baseball on ticket sales. You have to have corporate sponsorships.”
What are your goals going forward? What do you want the Grasshoppers to become?
“Well, I’d like to see more involvement with the community. I’d like to see us do more for the community in our charitable work and giving. I’d like to see even more people coming to the ballpark — your ultimate goal is to see it sold out every night. We’re in it for the community. We’re in it for the families. I’d love to see us win a few more championships, but I have no control over that.”