Photos by Erhan Stone, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.29
Smokies Stadium 3540 Line Dr Kodak, TN 37764
Year Opened: 2000
America’s Friendliest Ballpark
The Chicago Cubs’ Double-A affiliate Tennessee Smokies will play at Smokies Stadium through at least the next four seasons, until 2025. It was officially announced after being rumored that the Smokies would be moving closer to Knoxville, with their current living situation residing in Kodak, Tennessee – about a 30-minute drive from the scruffy city.
It’s a bittersweet reality for Smokies fans. Knoxville promised a state-of-the-art facility in the downtown area for the Smokies, but it's hard to pack up and leave what has been positioned as “America’s Friendliest Ballpark.”
Smokies Stadium opened in 2000 and was last renovated in 2015. It sits among the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee and is a popular visit for all baseball lovers in the area.
Food & Beverage 5
Smokies Stadium does a good job of using its space to its advantage. The main concourse level is packed with vendor carts, concession queues, and even a sit-down area beyond the left outfield. Most importantly, each of these food areas are different, offering unique options not often found at a double-a ballpark. The concourse features a “Chicago Corner” with Windy City grub, a Papa Johns down the first base lines, and a pair of Dippin Dots carts on either side of the park.
The two main concession areas are cheap and offer a good variety of Nachos, popcorn, hot dogs and more of the usual ballpark snacks. The popcorn is excellent and every concession area serves Pepsi products as well as Cheerwine, both bottled and fountain. Unfortunately, the hot dogs, the staple food of America’s pastime, are below average.
Truly, it was difficult to find many negatives apart from slightly, below-average hot dogs. The stadium sells alcohol, both beer and liquor with a few stands throughout the stadium for different drinks that are themed towards Sevier County’s Moonshine production, as well as Ole Smoky Moonshine Company.
Within the park, quality is an understatement. There’s truly not a bad seat in the house, with those behind the infield being in green stadium seating and bleachers the further out you go down either baseline. Cupholders in front of you are a plus so you don’t have to put your drink on the ground.
There is also outfield seating and a slight hill leading up to a walkway that outlines the park. The field has relatively small dimensions for a Double-A park, with centerfield being just 400 feet from home plate. Because of this, that outfield hill is the perfect place to camp out for a home run ball.
Smokies Stadium offers box suites that include fully furnished rooms, indoor and outdoor seating, and a buffet. While there isn’t a bad seat in the house, the view from the top of the Stadium is certainly the best.
“Smokies” is an appropriate name. The park’s outfield backdrops on a hill with well-kept trees, and to the South of the stadium is its namesake – the Smoky Mountains.
Kodak is about 30 minutes outside of Knoxville and an excellent appetizer for what is the beauty of East Tennessee. The Stadium is located just off the 1-40 exit and has plenty of restaurants such as Cracker Barrel, Flapjacks, and Checkers. Just about five miles down the road is Pigeon Forge with a strip of tourist destinations, as well as The Island, which is similar to a boardwalk at a beach. There are three hotels within walking distance, including one directly next to the main parking area.
Stadium Journey’s visit was an early season Sunday afternoon and the stands were still half full. Smokies baseball is a staple for many around the Knoxville area – ask anyone in the park and it isn’t their first time at Smokies Stadium.
It’s a fair assessment to say around 2,000 to 3,000 fans regularly attend each game, with Friday and Saturday nights seeing upper 4,000-5,000.
While Smokies Stadium is right off the interstate, busy gamedays are often a headache to navigate. The stretch from the off-ramp to the parking area is often backed up because there are only a few entrance points.
However, on normal game days, it is a surprisingly easy and painless process. Parking is only $5 and the employees keep up the “America’s Friendliest Ballpark” theme as well. The drive from the nearest airport is a long one, too. The nearest major airport is located in Alcoa, which is a 45-minute commute through a sometimes congested Knoxville area.
Return on Investment 5
Best available seats often sell for 20 dollars or less on mainstream sites, concessions are cheap and there’s often a good product on the field. With Sevierville and other tourist attractions nearby, it’s easily one of the better investments any baseball fan could make. Cheap tickets go for as low as $8. All in all, a family of four could walk away from Smokies Stadium having spent less than $75-100 dollars on the afternoon.
Near the front entrance is a sign pointing to the rest of the stadiums of the Chicago Cubs’ minor league affiliates. There are also plaques throughout the park commemorating the player who made it to The Show that passed through Kodak on the way. There is a very nice fan shop with a good selection of Smokies and Cubs gear as well.
It’s been said before, but the “America’s Friendliest Ballpark” is a fitting slogan. Everybody, from the fans to the event staff, is friendly, helpful, and passionate about the game. Go, while you can, see a game at Smokies Stadium if ever you’re around Knoxville.