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First look at the new Nashville ballpark


Very, very historic site is where new park is under construction

Text and photos by Joe Mock, BaseballParks.com
All rights reserved

NASHVILLE "You can never go home again" is an over-used cliche ... but it's not true in Nashville. You see, starting in 1870, the home of pro baseball in that city was Sulphur Dell, a one-of-a-kind facility that hosted the Minors, Negro League teams and, after baseball left, car racing.

What made it unlike any other ballpark anywhere was its outfield. It wasn't level. In fact, it wasn't even close. Starting in the middle of right field, the ground rose at a 45-degree angle until reaching the outfield fence. At that point, it was 22 feet above the infield. Right fielders had to decide where on the incline to play the batter. Even harder was was trying to negotiate the sloping field to field the ball.

The ballpark, which was demolished in 1969, wasn't far from Tennessee's State Capitol. In fact, parking for State workers was constructed on the park's site, although a historical marker let visitors know where it was.

That sign (above left), though, has been removed -- although only temporarily. That's because the Nashville Sounds of the Pacific Coast League are indeed going home again. You see, the team is getting a badly needed new park where that sign (and Sulphur Dell) was located. Greer Stadium (above center and right), on the other side of downtown, is an aging mess, easily the worst facility in Triple-A baseball.

Construction is underway for First Tennessee Park, a modern ballpark that's sure to become one of the best in the PCL. In August of 2014, after excavation had taken place for the field and plumbing lines had been laid, I was given a tour of the site by Sara Atherton of Hastings Architecture of Nashville. Hastings is partnering with sports-facility giants Populous on the design and engineering for the new park.

The site of the new park is noteworthy for two major reasons: it's roughly in the same block where Sulphur Dell was located (allowing pro baseball to come home to the place of its birth where Sulphur Dell was located); it provides a nice view of the downtown skyline. No, there won't be a 22-foot incline in the outfield of the Sounds' new home, but it is oriented to face south by southeast, which is exactly how it needed to be to allow the most seats to have the best view of the City's skyscrapers.

On the left above is a view of the work being done on the main concourse behind what will be the first-base dugout. This is where food prep, restrooms and concessions stands will be. On the right is where underground water lines will run to that area behind first base.

Above is a look across what will become the playing field. The concrete rectangle at the very center (yes, beyond the port-a-potty) is the third-base dugout. On the right is a shot taken from a point that will be the right-field wall. Yes, that's Sara, my tour guide, and beyond her is the infield.

The ballpark itself will have about 9,000 seats, 19 upper-level luxury suites, four field-level suites behind the backstop and plenty of room for groups to socialize. The cost of the construction itself will probably end up around $37 million, while the City approved $65 million for the project to include the cost of acquiring land, interest on the bonds and infrastructure changes surrounding the park. The State will construct a parking garage just beyond right field that will be for State employees during the day and baseball fans in the evenings. It, unfortunately, isn't likely to be completed before the 2015 baseball season starts, which will make parking fairly tight until it's done.

The rendering on the left side above (courtesy of the Nashville Sounds and Populous) shows how the finished product will look from field-level seats. Note the downtown buildings visible beyond the outfield. On the right is a shot taken from the other side of Jackson Street, on the northern edge of the park's footprint. In the foreground, work on what will become the clubhouses continues, while in the distance is the downtown skyline.

Below is how the completed park will look from the air, while also showing how the field faces toward downtown (rendering courtesy of the Nashville Sounds and Populous).

Of course, we will have an exhaustive review of First Tennessee Park right after it opens in the spring of 2015. This is just to give you a first look at the site.