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Official Review by Chad Minton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Ballparks do not get much cozier than Smokies Park, home of the Tennessee Smokies. It’s nestled just a short drive away from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the stadium is very impressive for a minor league team at the AA level.
Smokies Park first opened in 2000 and has always drawn a great group of fans. The official capacity of Smokies Park is over 6,000, but there have been a few occasions when the attendance eclipsed 7,000 fans.
It’s only fitting that the team that plays in one of the better ballparks in the Southern League is affiliated with the Chicago Cubs, which of course calls historic Wrigley Field home.
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 food is moderately-priced and offers all of the ballpark favorites. Hot dogs are just $3, and if you have a sweet tooth then the classic helmets filled with ice cream are just $4. They also offer a barbeque sandwich that well exceeded my expectations, and barbeque nachos were also available.
Beverages range from small for $2 to a souvenir cup for $4, and you can get refills for just $1. If you're really feeling thirsty, then you can go with the $10 mug and get unlimited free refills.
The menu didn't jump out at you, but it offered plenty of options to satisfy the baseball fan.
This is a great ballpark to see a game, and you instantly get that cozy feeling of being in a minor league stadium. The video scoreboard in left field offers a crisp image that offers replays, player stats and stadium announcements. It was also obvious that there is pride taken in this ballpark just based on how clean the entire ballpark was kept. From the concourse, to the seating, it was well maintained.
There were plenty of contests in between innings to keep the crowd entertained, including a can stacking contest.
At times, though, there was some dead air through the ballpark where it seemed like something more could've been done to keep the fans occupied during game breaks.
What better neighborhood can you ask for than the gorgeous Smoky Mountains? The miles leading up to the ballpark are just beautiful with the backdrop of the mountains. It couldn't be more convenient for tourists as the ballpark is within walking distance of a few hotels. With the famous Gatlinburg area just a short drive down the road, it's hard to find anything wrong with the location of Smokies Park.
This particular game was played just before noon on a Thursday, so that had to do with the sparse crowd. However, the fans that were there were very energetic and vocal. Players from the opposing team, the Chattanooga Lookouts, heard plenty of heckling from the Smokies fans.
The classic "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" song was pretty weak. Very few actually sang along, which came off as a surprise.
What was most impressive from this crowd was how they continued to cheer on good plays by the Smokies despite the team being down seven runs late in the game. The Smokies actually cut the lead to just two in the 8th inning, and the crowd made a lot of noise to cheer on the rally by the home team. Unfortunately, the rally came up just short.
Once again, it couldn't get any easier to find a sports stadium. It's literally right off Interstate 40, and as an added bonus you get beautiful scenery heading in.
The parking was just $3, and it put you right by the main entrance to the ballpark. There was also plenty of staff directing everyone on where to park, keeping it very organized.
There are two types of tickets you can buy for a Smokies game. You can choose the bleacher seating for $8, or spend just two more dollars to get the bucket seats. Paying for the bucket seats really is the smarter choice because you can get right above the dugout instead of being a fair distance down the baseline. Senior citizens and children also enjoy a discounted price. It was hard to argue with the price considering that it got me a front row seat above the Smokies dugout, and it ended up being a great seat to watch some baseball.
The fans also got ample opportunities to win prizes, including a $10 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods if the Smokies won.
It was refreshing to see that the ballpark had dedicated a seat up on the concourse to all of the missing soldiers from World War I. A very nice plaque sits right next to the dedicated seat. That was cool to see.
Another convenient thing about this ballpark is that it also serves as the visitor center for the Smoky Mountain National Park, so it saves you an extra trip if you're a tourist looking for some info on the park.
Finally, major kudos goes to Smokies Park being the home ballpark to the Southern League 2012 All-Star Game. Anytime a league chooses your venue to host its All-Star game, you're doing something right.
It was very challenging to find anything wrong with Smokies Park. Perfection is hard to come by, and Smokies Park comes about as close as you can get for a minor league stadium. Smokies Park does a superb job at delivering a great baseball experience to their fans in this beautiful part of the country.
Member Review by puckmanri on Aug 24, 2013
If this ballpark were located in downtown Knoxville, it would undoubtedly get a higher score. Still, it's a nice ballpark that hits all the right notes. Bonus points for the seat permanently reserved for POW & MIA's. There's not much to do in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark, but the tourist destinations of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are close by.
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