Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark - Elizabethton River Riders
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark 900 Holly Ln Elizabethton, TN 37643
Year Opened: 1974 Capacity: 1,650
Down the Lazy River in Elizabethton
The Elizabethton River Riders of the Appalachian League debuted in 2021, replacing the Elizabethton Twins, who captured 12 league championships and 16 division titles since coming to town in 1974. The Riders were part of the new Appy League that would not be affiliated with a major league club but as a summer collegiate league.
The home ballpark would also get a new name after signing a naming agreement and being rechristened as Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark. The new name of the 47-year ballpark did not change much of the appearance or atmosphere of the quirky ballpark.
The city spent $12,000 on what was known as Riverside Park to renovate the playing field between 1973 and 1974, purchasing portable seats and lockers for the stadium. The E-Twins were the first professional club in town in 23 years. The last ballpark had its grandstand demolished during a storm on Independence Day in 1951. When the local rayon industry, which owned the ballpark, could not make available funds for a new grandstand, the team ceased operations.
The E-Twins brought a level of excellence, not having a season below .500 from 1989-2019. Will the River Riders provide continued excellence on the riverside park? It is too soon to see, but based on merchandise sales, fans appeared to have adapted to the new colors of sky blue and yellow. It should be an interesting next few years in E-Town.
Food & Beverage 4
There is ample variety of food at the main concession stand, but that is fine since it is served fast and hot to customers throughout the game. Several beer stands first made their appearance during the 2019 season, up until that point, liquor was not allowed at the stadium.
Fans can choose from hot dogs, brats, footlongs, burgers, chicken tender baskets, bbq sandwiches, pizza slices, and bbq nachos. There are also sweet items of deep-fried Oreos and funnel cake fries for purchase. The beer choices are also plentiful, with varieties from maco to microbrews available on draft or in 12-ounce cans.
Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark is a hodgepodge of pieces to make a ballpark that in 1974 might have been fine but is obsolete. It is a curious formation of a long, steep grandstand down the third baseline that would be better for watching a football game, along with a collection of plastic theater-style seats behind home plate, and an aluminum set of bleachers seating down the third-base side.
Fans enter the stadium through the right-field corner of the stadium and encounter a small kid zone play area, the main concession stand, and the official team shop. Club merchandise has been selling well this year, and fans can also scoop up old E-Twins caps and shirts for under $5. Rookie, a fuzzy green guy who has been at the ballpark for a few years, can be found giving out hugs and high-fives.
Two wooden structures are hovering in between the home plate seats–one serves as a suite and the other as the press box. The area underneath the two structures is for handicapped seating but also creates ample room for some shade during hot summer games.
The outfield wall includes a giant sign that houses all of the championships won by the E-Twins (they also could sneak in the five won by the Elizabethton Red Sox from 1937-1941 to increase it to 17 banners) and the current standings in the Appy League. Players also exit through a door in centerfield near the sign at the end of the game.
The ballpark is laid-back Appy League style. The majority of fans take a seat in the third base seating structure that also features carpeted stairways–a unique feature for an outdoor stadium. This is where you will find the best views of the surrounding area of the stadium; you can also chat with the visitor’s dugout that is on field level. A young kid was given a cracked bat by one of the players from the Burlington Sock Puppets.
Elizabethton is about 15 minutes west of Johnson City and TVA Credit Union Ballpark, allowing for witnessing a game easily in one day if the schedule permits. The ballpark is surrounded by mountains beyond the right-field wall and the Watauga River is located behind home plate and the third baseline (hence the name River Riders). Locals and visitors enjoy kayaking or tubing down the river during the summer months.
The town is home to 14,000 and is rather small, but also the natural wonders of Cherokee National Forest and Blue Hole Falls. There is a bit of history around the area that includes The Carter Mansion, Elizabethon Covered Bridge, and the Sycamore Shoals Historic Park. Restaurant options include The Southern Restaurant, Mayflower Seafood Restaurant, Big Dan’s BBQ, J’s Corner, and Nanny’s Country Cafe.
A core group of fans stayed until the end of the game, cheering for the team to a come-from-behind victory in the 9th inning. However, many in the stands were quiet throughout most of the game. The die-hards are behind the backstop in the blue seats.
There is one entrance in the left-field corner, and most of the concessions, restrooms, and merchandise store is behind the third-base grandstand. The narrow concourse in front of the third-base grandstand allows access to the rest of the stadium.
Return on Investment 3
A general admission ticket is $6, a daily reserve is $8, and a military/child is $5. The prices are the way they used to be, affordable, and probably the lowest in the league. There are no parking fees, concessions are in line with other clubs, and team merchandise ranges from shirts for $18 to game day caps for $30.
The ballpark earns a point for the large championship wall in the right-center field. The team store also offers multiple pieces of merchandise in various styles, plus deep discounts on E-Twins shirts and caps.
Many might not like Northeast Community Credit Union Ballpark for its design and aesthetics. I would not argue with the fact that perhaps a renovation is in order in the future. It rates lower on the list of other ballparks in the Appy League, and with new energy throughout the league, could it be left behind?