From the years at Greer Stadium to today at First Tennessee Park, Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) vice president of operations Doug Scopel has been a mainstay with the club. The success of the Sounds and the ballpark makes Scopel the 2018 Ballpark Digest Executive of the Year.
“This is an extraordinary honor,” said Scopel. “I’m extremely humbled by it. From working in baseball, I know there are so many bright and talented executives in this group, and to be nominated by peers and recognized in this way among that amazing group of people makes it all the more special to me.”
Since First Tennessee Park opened in 2015, the Sounds have elevated their profile in the busy entertainment scene that is Nashville. With just a handful of games remaining this season, the team is set to draw a per-game average of more than 8,000 fans for the second consecutive year, and the ballpark continues to generate praise from fans. This season was particularly unique from an operation standpoint, as professional soccer arrived at First Tennessee Park in the form of Division II USL’s Nashville SC, slated to play at First Tennessee Park until a new MLS stadium opens. That presented some new operational challenges, but Scopel and the Sounds have been up to the task in ensuring a consistent fan experience.
“That added another 16 soccer matches on top of the already busy baseball calendar,” Scopel said of the addition of Nashville SC. “It brought that many more people into the building, so it’s good to be successful. But at the same time, we have to keep the place up to our standards and make sure that regardless of what the event is here that everybody has a wonderful time and that they receive the same, equal experience.”
A Year-Round Destination
The addition of soccer fits into how the Sounds view First Tennessee Park as a destination for not only baseball, but also a variety of events throughout the year. As the Sounds fill the ballpark’s event schedule, Scopel believes that the club has worked to not become complacent and instead always seek ways to improve.
“We want to be busy,” he said. “We want to use this wonderful ballpark, because of the success we’ve had and it’s a place people want to come. So operationally, we need to just keep on top of things and make sure that everything keeps running but also improves. To me, I don’t think you ever want to sit back and assume that you’re always going to be the same. You always need to forward think, plan ahead, and look to improve event-to-event and year-to-year.”
Events have been a big part of First Tennessee Park’s success, but so have the Sounds. Amenities like the Band Box—a unique outfield social space—and other modern features allow the ballpark to stand out, even in the competitive entertainment landscape of Nashville.
Aside from what the ballpark offers from an amenities standpoint, a core part of the team’s approach is a mindset that Scopel noted. He credited the entire staff with buying into the philosophy that every game could somebody’s first Sounds game, and that it is the little things that can make a strong first impression.
“Whether it’s a smile, a thank you, or making sure they find their seat, there’s 100 different things you can do that will make it a memorable time at the ballpark for them,” he said. “I think that kind of mindset is something that we can’t lose sight of.”
Scopel started with the team in 2000, working in a number of roles before being promoted to his current position in 2015. He has not only helped ensure not only that the Sounds become one of the top-drawing teams at the Triple-A level, but that First Tennessee Park is a destination in Nashville. His approach is a major factor in that success, but he views Executive of the Year as a team award.
“First of all, this type of honor is to me a team honor, because there’s so many great people that I get to work with on a day-to-day basis here, led by our GM Adam Nuse,” he said. “Without his guidance and the tremendous support of our ownership group, we wouldn’t even be in a position to have the great success we’ve had.
“We’ve got a lot of people in this building that are working really hard to make this place successful. I’m obviously very honored and grateful to be recognized for it, but it wouldn’t be possible without a lot of other people’s help.”
A Crowded Field
This was a competitive year for Executive of the Year. To reflect the number of viable candidates for this award, Ballpark Digest has chosen to recognize three honorable mentions.
Few clubs are as consistent as the Indianapolis Indians (Class AAA; International League), who stand out in a major market and have maintained Victory Field as a top-notch facility. Leading the way in Indianapolis is president and general manager Randy Lewandowski, an experienced executive that is overseeing the club’s success. “It’s an honor to be recognized and truly reflects the success of our organization,” said Lewandowski. “We enjoy strong support from our fans, community and corporate partners, and our staff works extremely hard to create and maintain a high-level game day experience. This recognition wouldn’t be possible without their efforts.”
The Greenville Drive (Low A; Sally League) have emerged as a success story over the years, with club general manager Eric Jarinko leading the way in providing an exception fan experience at Fluor Field. “Our industry is led by the brightest and most creative minds, so to be even mentioned in that company is truly an honor,” Jarinko said. “I’m proud to oversee a staff that continually puts their heart and soul into what they do each game, to ensure a top quality fan experience at Fluor Field. Without them, the support of our owner (Craig Brown), or the support from the Upstate Community, our success as an organization would not be possible.”
Over the last several years, the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) have ensured that Regions Field remains a true destination in downtown Birmingham. Much of that credit goes to president and general manager Jonathan Nelson, who oversees an operation that consistently offers a strong fan experience. “It is such an honor to be considered and included as Honorable Mention for Ballpark Digest’s Executive of the Year Award,” Nelson said. “2018 was another great Barons season and our front office, concessions and game day staff certainly deserve the credit for making all the ‘Magic’ happen here at Regions Field.”
Image courtesy Nashville Sounds.
2018 Ballpark Digest Award Winners
Ballpark of the Year: SRP Park
Past Ballpark Digest Executive of the Year Winners
2017: Ryan Keur
2016: Chris Allen
2015: Eric Edelstein
2014: Dan Rajkowski
2011: Martie Cordaro and Alan Stein
2010: Katie Dannemiller, Liz Kern and Amy Venuto
2009: Rick Brenner
2008: Joe Ricciutti