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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
After several years of planning, the city of Nashville, Tennessee debuted the brand new state-of-the-art baseball stadium First Tennessee Park in 2015. It replaced the 37-year-old Herschel Greer Stadium and returned baseball back to the historic site of the city’s original ballpark Sulphur Dell (1870-1963), which was home to the Nashville Vols of the American Association from 1901-1961, 1963. The new site also hopes to rejuvenate the area with retail, residential, and a parking complex.
The $47 million facility was designed to incorporate the city’s musical and baseball heritage. Throughout the 10,000-seat wraparound concourse are nods dedicated to the city’s past minor and Negro League teams along with a replica of the famous Sulphur Dell entrance sign in the back of the batter’s eye in center field.
However, there is much more to discover with a visit to First Tennessee Park. It is a AAA facility designed with numerous touches to attract both baseball and non baseball fans. The Sounds fans definitely have the modern ballpark that they have been wanting for a very long time.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The selection of food at First Tennessee Park is plentiful and fulfilling. The main concession areas are situated in pairs on the first and third base lines: Smokehouse BBQ, Music City Grill, Hot and Not Chicken, and Sulphur Dell Slices.
The Smokehouse BBQ stands offers ribs and fries ($10), BBQ nachos ($7.50), loaded tots ($6), and garlic fries ($5). There is also a smoked chicken leg smothered in barbecue sauce. The Hot and Not Chicken stand features the iconic hot fried chicken that is known throughout the city. Pepperfire offers both hot and not versions that come with waffle fries ($8.50-$9). There are other options that include the hot sandwich ($7), loaded waffle fries ($6), foot-long hot dog ($6), chili cheese dog ($8), and brats ($4.50).
The Music City Grill features more variety of ballpark delicacies including sliders with fries ($10), cheesesteaks ($9), chicken tenders with fries ($8.50), and pork chop sandwiches ($7.50). Sulphur Dell Slices feature locally based Hunts Brothers Pizza (by the slice or pie), chicken wings, hot dogs, and brats.
The most interesting culinary aspect of the ballpark is the Band Box that offers more food varieties and libations. Patrons will find a few interesting options that include jalapeno corn fritters ($5), kielbasa sandwich ($9), chicken sandwiches ($9), and nachos with fresh roasted corn ($10).
Drinks include 16-ounce drafts ($7-$8), wine ($11), mixed drinks, and the popular frozen Jack and Coke or grapefruit-vodka slushies ($10).
There is also a collection of portable stations in left field offering Sno Cones, cotton candy, popcorn, funnel cakes, and Dippin' Dots.
First Tennessee Park is a modern facility that attempts to be the envy of any other Triple-A stadium in the country. It is sleek, urban, hip, and pure Nashville. It was designed to incorporate the city's musical and baseball heritage. The location markers feature images of former players from the Sounds, Negro League teams, and the Vols. The iconic Sulphur Dell sign dominates the back of the metal backstop in center field, and there are musical themed guitar picks, clef symbols, and strings that adorn the concourses, aisles, chairs, and signage throughout the stadium.
One of minor league baseball's most recognizable symbols has moved over from the club's former home of Greer Stadium. The 4,200 square foot guitar shaped scoreboard can be found in the right field corner and continues to be the identity of the team. On Throwback Thursdays, the scoreboard is displayed in its original form with sodas and beers selling for $2 and $3 each.
Adjacent to the scoreboard is one of the park's most interesting places to witness the game. The Band Box is a 4,000 square foot outdoor bar and restaurant that includes cornhole, shuffleboard, ping pong, table hockey, surrounding televisions, and outdoor lounge chairs. There are plenty of menu options of food and drink for patrons of all ages. Many in the area are more concerned with the action at the bar than the ballgame. It's definitely the social hub of the ballpark experience.
The ballpark features many new areas that are now common to enhance the fan experience, a huge step up from the days of Greer Stadium. The Vanderbilt Children's Picnic Place accommodates 20-200 people in an all-you-can-eat area and the &Vodka 4-Top Seating Area includes wait service. On the opposite side of the stadium in left field is the Hyundai Deck, a three level seating area offering an all-you-can-eat buffet and the Twice Daily Grass Berm that is perfect for lying in the grass and featuring energetic Sounds staff.
The gift shop has expanded greatly over the previous store at Greer Stadium. There are collections of modern and retro Sounds gear along with Nashville Vols caps, shirts, and jerseys.
The area of the ballpark is much closer to downtown than its predecessor, approximately a half mile from the entertainment hub of Broadway. The area is a work in progress though, and it is recommended to drive or take a taxi to the many night spots in the city. However, within a few years the neighborhood will likely be reminiscent of many other ballpark districts with the construction of apartments, retail space, and parking decks. Depending on when you are reading this review, these changes may have already taken place.
Nashville features a copious array of options for tourists. The Country Music Hall of Fame, Music Row, Parthenon, Hermitage, and Opryland are what would be on your typical tourist list. There are many other options that include the Windy Hill, Nelson's Green Brier Distillery, Yazoo Brewery Tours, Hattie B's Hot Chicken, and the Slider House. If you love live music, check out Broadway and pick your spot, chances are you will hear an up and coming musical talent belting out their hearts at 10 AM.
Nashville has great fans and they have been longing for a chance to witness Sounds games at a spacious new ballpark. They have heard about the palaces like Huntington Park in Columbus, Southwest University Park in El Paso, and BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina. Now it is their turn to bask in the glory of an ultra-hip, modern, and comfortable 21st century facility.
To begin the team's inaugural season in their new ballpark, the Sounds are fourth in the league, and eighth in all of Triple-A baseball in average attendance. It also should be noted that the club has posted several crowds over 10,000 during its first season at the new ballpark - something that was not possible at old, cranky Greer.
The ballpark is easily accessible off I-65, I-40, and I-24 on Jefferson and Spring Streets. At this time, the parking deck has not been completed in time for the inaugural season at the stadium, but there are various lots located within the vicinity, many featuring shuttle service to the game. Look for the $5 lots, but if you want to park closer, you can choose to pay $10. Once inside, the wide open concourse wraps around the entire park and is spacious enough to walk around in comfort; although, the four main concession areas can get crowded.
There are nine different price points at First Tennessee Park that includes the 4-Top Tables ($70), Premier Club ($33), Club ($30), and Premier ($24). These prices are somewhat higher than other comparable ballparks, but are in line with Triple-A parks built within the past couple of years. However, there are familiar price points that include the dugout ($17), select ($15), bullpen ($9) and berm seats ($7). All of the seats, with the exception of the berm seats cost $2 more on game day, so buy ahead of time to save a little extra money.
The price points are more in line with newer ballparks in Charlotte and El Paso, than with ballparks in Louisville, Indianapolis, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Fortunately, there are many affordable price point options for tickets to choose from when making plans to attend a game.
One extra star for bringing back the iconic guitar shaped scoreboard and kudos for it changing to mimic the original scoreboard on Throwback Thursdays.
The Band Box area is one of minor league baseball's hippest and hottest spots to be during 9-innings. Do not be surprised if you forget about the baseball game when you are with friends in this section.
An extra point to the Nashville Sounds organization for creating an exciting and electrifying ballpark experience that includes local delicacies, an array of ballpark treats, and easy access from the interstate.
A major improvement over Greer Stadium, a facility that this writer spoke highly during recent visits. The simplicity of the old stadium is gone, but then again, First Tennessee Stadium was never meant to be a simple stadium. This is a facility that is aimed to entertain and encourage customers to return to the ballpark again and again. It is the shot of adrenaline that the city needed for its baseball and entertainment options. I only hope that the baseball purists are not turned off by the ticket prices and the cool factor of the stadium. It is definitely one of the city's best spots to be during the summer months. The ballpark experience will only get better once the surrounding neighborhood develops. Nashville, you got your ballpark.
Member Review by ballparkreviews on Jul 17, 2015
Obviously Nashville needed a new ballpark so anything they built was going to be a huge improvement over Herschel Greer Stadium. But after attending a game here in June of 2015, I came away feeling underwhelmed. Part of the problem is that it still feels a bit like a construction zone around the ballpark. Though even inside there wasn't much unique besides the guitar-shaped scoreboard. The ballpark is located in the downtown, but still the view of the skyline was not that impressive. Also, the prices are major league high on tickets, souvenirs, and concessions. Overall, a comfortable enough new ballpark, but one which isn't that memorable.
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