The Nashville Sounds completed their first homestand at their new facility Friday night, and while the team split the eight games, the new ballpark was quite a success.
This season marks the Sounds’ first at First Tennessee Park after 37 years in Herschel Greer Stadium.
“The first two nights were sold out because there was so much excitement about the new facility and the new affiliation,” said Doug Scopel, Senior Vice-President of Operations for the Sounds.
“The first night, we had the mayor, the governor, and a lot of other dignitaries here that wanted to be a part of it. It was really a hot ticket in town. I know on StubHub and some of the secondary sites, we saw tickets going for way, way, way more than (face value) – it was one of those (occasions) where if you live in Nashville, you really wanted to be at that event.”
The excitement carried throughout the homestand in which the Sounds took three-of-four against Colorado Springs before dropping three-of-four against Oklahoma City.
“The weather is a little cool, the kids are still in school, the Nashville Predators have had a couple of home games where we're also home, but comparatively to what we normally drew at Greer Stadium, the crowds are significantly larger on any given night,” Scopel said.
According to the box scores, the Sounds drew 53,812 for the eight games, an average of 6,712 people per game. In comparison, they drew an average of 4,435 people per game in their opening six-game homestand last year, an average of 2,949 people in their opening seven-game homestand in 2013, and an average of 5,011 people in their opening seven-game homestand in 2012.
Those who have come have been impressed, Scopel said.
“They walk in and they are just 'wow'ed’,” Scopel said. “Greer Stadium had zero bells and whistles – it was built in the '70's – the suites didn't even have open windows on them. Our outfield had a nice guitar (scoreboard), but it was a dot matrix board, and if the wind wasn't blowing that night, it actually showed something. Greer was an okay facility, but it outlived its usefulness, and Nashville is a first-class city, (so) we really needed a first-class ballpark.”
And they have that in First Tennessee Park, Scopel said.
“Just to have technology (here) and have a 360-degree stadium with wide concourses – and there is not a bad seat in this place – the walk in says 'A major-league field,'” he said.
Sounds Manager Steve Scarsone, who played parts or all of seven seasons in the majors during his 14-year career, was also pleased.
“They've done a great job of making the stadium what I see as fan-friendly,” he said. “It's got kind of an intimate type of feel to it, and the playing surface is in great condition. I think it's a beautiful place to play baseball. For a minor league ballpark it's right up there as one of the best that I've ever seen.”
Scarsone said he was also happy with the crowds.
“It feels like it's a nice family crowd,” he said. “Nobody's obnoxious. They're supportive and they seem knowledgeable and they seem excited to have the new stadium to go watch their team, and we're fortunate to be the team that is here to do that.”
For those wondering how the ballpark would play, Scarsone noted that it is a bit smaller than MLB parks.
“[E]verything is of good quality – the background and everything is nice – I like the way they finished the outfield wall with a continuity about it with the nice padding,” Scarsone said. “It's not all mix and match type of stuff – we see that with some of the new stadiums that can try to be unique and turn into a ground rules nightmare, but this is simple and plays fairly fair.”
Scarsone also added that it was fun to be a part of the final weekend at Greer Stadium last season and then come full-circle to open First Tennessee Park this year.
“Our last [road] series with Sacramento was at Greer, and there were good crowds, and it cool to be a part of that,” Scarsone said. “[T]o be a part of this opening, it was a cool situation for us.”