We end 2015 with a countdown of the 10 biggest stories of the year on Ballpark Digest, as chosen by editors and partially based on page views. Today, #3: The opening of First Tennessee Park, home of the Nashville Sounds.
Ballpark fans enjoyed two high-profile facility openings in 2015. First out of the gate: First Tennessee Park, new home of the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). You will recall the years of effort from multiple ownership groups on a Greer Stadium replacement, and this year finally saw a new downtown stadium appropriately at the site of Sulphur Dell, longtime home to baseball in the city.
We were at the new ballpark’s opening, and what an opening it was. Here’s what we wrote:
It is the perfect ballpark for Nashville, a city where the modern prevails — but always with a nod to the past. First Tennessee Park, the new home of the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League), is a triumphant return of pro baseball to Sulphur Dell.…
Now, First Tennessee Park is certainly a modern ballpark; the grandstand lines are clean and the materials are state of the art, ranging from the tactile exterior on the north side of the ballpark to the acrylic floor covering in the grandstand. Some of the finishes choices were pragmatic — the grandstand floor covering also helps in case of flooding (something that will undoubtedly happen in coming years; the ballpark was designed to withstand a 100-year flood of the nearby Cumberland River) — but others were just lovely. Take the aforementioned exterior tiles: they’re a unique ballpark finish, and they also sparkle at night. The effect should even more dramatic once the apartments on the south side of the ballpark are completed. Another nod to the modern: the ballpark was designed for LEED Silver certification with a green roof, rainwater harvesting and a rain garden.
But, like Nashville, the modern is tempered by plenty of nods to the past. First Tennessee Park sits on the same exact spot as Sulphur Dell, and there are reminders of the old ballpark throughout First Tennessee Park; Vols displays are present throughout the club/suites level, and location markers throughout the ballpark honor Vols, Sounds and Nashville natives, such as Negro League star and Nashville native Turkey Stearnes (see below). The batters eye is metal, with the back displaying a nice tribute to Sulphur Dell. A suite-level party deck features a host of old Sulphur Dell photos. And the light stanchions on the grandstand (which you can also see below) are reminiscent of those found at Sulphur Dell. (Alas, no 10-foot-high berm in right, which was also found at Sulphur Dell.)
All in all, First Tennessee Park is already a winner: it’s a modern ballpark that fits perfectly into today’s Nashville ethos. It’s already generated development in a formerly run-down part of town and should spur even more development once the money folks see what’s happening north of downtown. It will be exciting to see First Tennessee Park once the construction dust settles and everything is functional — but for now, it’s already become one of the top ballparks in Minor League Baseball.
In many ways First Tennessee Park was and still is a work in progress: development immediately outside the ballpark is ongoing and won’t be done for a year or even two. Still, First Tennessee Park is a worthy addition to the MiLB ballpark lineup — making it an easy choice for top stories of the year.