First Tennessee Park
|Location||401 Jackson Street
|Owner||Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County|
|Operator||Nashville Sounds Baseball Club|
|Capacity||8,500 (fixed seating)
10,000 (plus berm seating)
|Broke ground||January 27, 2014|
|Opened||April 17, 2015 (scheduled)|
|Construction cost||$37 million|
|Architect||Hastings Architecture Associates, LLC
|Project manager||Gobbell Hays Partners, Inc.
Capital Project Solutions, Inc.
|Structural engineer||Walter P. Moore|
|Services engineer||Smith Seckman Reid, Inc.|
|General contractor||Barton Malow/Bell/Harmony, A Joint Venture, LLC|
|Nashville Sounds (PCL) (2015–beyond)|
First Tennessee Park is a minor league baseball park in Nashville, Tennessee, that is under construction. It is to be new home of the Triple-A Nashville Sounds of the Pacific Coast League. The ballpark is tentatively scheduled to open on April 17, 2015. It will serve as a replacement for the team's former home at Herschel Greer Stadium, where the team has played since its inception in 1978. The ceremonial groundbreaking took place on January 27, 2014. It is being constructed on the former site of Sulphur Dell, a minor league ballpark in use from 1870 to 1963.
Planning and development
First Tennessee Park is being constructed in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, near the current Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park and beside a proposed location for a new Tennessee State Museum. The stadium will be set between Third and Fifth Avenue on the east and west, and between Jackson Street and Harrison Street on the north and south. A portion of the ballpark will be located on the land on which Sulphur Dell ballpark sat from 1870 to 1969. Sulphur Dell was one of three possible sites identified by Populous as being suitable for a new stadium; the other two being on the east bank of the Cumberland River and the in North Gulch area.
Mayor Karl Dean drafted plans for financing of the stadium and acquiring the necessary land from the state. The deal involved Metro receiving the state-owned property in exchange for paying $18 million to the state for the construction of a 1,000-car parking garage on the site, as well as $5 million for an underground parking garage below the proposed new state library and archives. The city also acquired the property on which the Nashville School of the Arts is located.
The financing plan involves a combination of public and private funding. The city will pay $70 million for the acquisition of the needed land and construction of the stadium. The stadium will be owned by the city and leased to the team for a term of 30 years (through 2045). The Sounds will invest $50 million for a new mixed-use and retail development to anchor the facility. Embrey Development Corp., a San Antonio-based firm, will build a privately funded $37 million, 250-unit multi-family apartment complex on the site. Metro's $70 million investment will result in taking on $4.3 million in annual debt which will be paid for by five city revenue streams. These include an annual $700,000 Sounds' lease payment; $650,000 in stadium-generated sales tax revenue; $1.4 million in property taxes from the two private developments; and $520,000 in tax increment financing. The need for new water and electrical lines, not factored into the original $65 million cost, resulted in an additional $5 million being appropriated from existing capital funds. The city will pay $345,000 for maintenance on the new stadium yearly.
The ballpark received the last of its necessary approbations from the Metro Council, the State Building Commission, and the Nashville Sports Authority on December 10, 2013. Groundbreaking took place on January 27, 2014. Those in attendance for the public ceremony included Mayor Dean, Sounds owner Frank Ward, Minor League Baseball president Pat O'Conner, and Milwaukee Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin.
On April 22, 2014, the Sounds announced that Memphis-based bank First Tennessee had purchased the naming rights to the stadium for ten years (with an additional ten year option), and it would be called First Tennessee Park. Financial terms of the deal were not released. First Tennessee's name was also attached to an attempt at a new stadium a decade before, which was tentatively named First Tennessee Field.
When the naming rights agreement was announced, Sounds owner Frank Ward responded to a reporter's question about the possible relocation of Greer Stadium's iconic guitar-shaped scoreboard to First Tennessee Park by stating it would remain at Greer and that the design of First Tennessee Park's scoreboard was not yet finalized. Two months later, citing overwhelming support from the community, Ward announced that a larger, more modern guitar-shaped scoreboard capable of displaying high-definition video would indeed be constructed beyond the right-center field wall, and that the Sounds would pay for the project.
As of February 2015, construction of the stadium is on schedule to be completed before the Sounds' home opener against the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on April 17, 2015. The 1,000-car underground parking garage, however, is not expected to be completed until October 31, nearly two months after the end of the 2015 season. With no on-site parking, fans are encouraged to pay to park at the 800-space Metro Courthouse Garage where they can then ride a free shuttle to the ballpark's drop-off site at Fifth Avenue North and Harrison Street. Shuttles run every 10 minutes beginning 90 minutes before the start of each game and concluding 30 minutes after games. The Metro Transit Authority's Music City Circuit will provide bus service to and from this drop-off area as well. Other state-owned free parking lots and paid private lots are located in the vicinity. Nashville BCycle, the city's bike-share program, will have a station at First Tennessee Park.
The team had originally planned to leave Greer Stadium for a new ballpark in the early 2000s that would have sat downtown on the western bank of the Cumberland River, just south of Broadway on the site of Metro's former thermal transfer plant. The Metro Government would not approve the deal until private financing had been secured, which eventually happened, but later fell apart, due in part to the early effects of the late 2000s recession. Opening day at the proposed venue was repeatedly pushed back, to as late as 2009. Eventually the entire project was scrapped, after the developers missed a deadline set forth by the Metro Council.
In the meantime, numerous upgrades and repairs were made to Greer in order to preserve its functionality until a new stadium could be built. In January 2008, owners Amerisports Companies LLC introduced a bill into the Tennessee General Assembly that would have allowed the team to collect a portion of state and local sales tax in order to pay for a new stadium. The team later dropped its efforts to get the bill passed after the city called the endeavor "an act of bad faith" by the Sounds.
The lower seating bowl, which wraps around the playing field from one foul pole to the other, is divided into 24 sections. The second level has 13 sections of seating beginning behind third base and wrapping around to first base. Seats on both levels are traditional stadium-style chairs, though some lower-level seats behind and between the dugouts and all second-level seats have padded seat cushions. A grass berm with enough room for 1,500 spectators is located in left-center field.
Other seating at the park consists of small- and large-group areas. Four field-level suites, each able to accommodate 40 people, and their associated seating sections are located directly behind home plate. The second level has 18 suites with outdoor seating sections in front. Two 100-person covered party decks are located on the second level, one on each end. A 200-person group area, consisting of traditional stadium seats and arrangements of four chairs situated around tables, is located in right field in front of the guitar scoreboard. To the left of this area, when facing the field, is a similar section of tables and chairs which can accommodate 108 people. Another section like this, capable of holding 600 individuals, is located beyond the left field wall between the lower seating bowl and the outfield berm.
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