Nashville’s new AAA ballpark opens

If you hadn’t heard, the A’s changed AAA affiliates this year, going with the Nashville Sounds after the Sacramento River Cats chose to pair up with the SF Giants. After 36 years at Herschel Greer Stadium and multiple failed attempts to find its replacement, the Sounds moved into shiny new First Tennessee Park. FTP is located downtown, steps from the Cumberland River and blocks from the State Capitol building and Bridgestone Arena, home of the NHL Predators. Poetically, FTP was built at Sulphur Dell, the site of Nashville’s first pro ballpark dating back to the 1850’s.

The Tennesseean has a nine-part series on the development of the ballpark and fan reactions to it. Despite the proximity to the river, the ballpark was oriented southeast by architect Populous towards the downtown skyline. Eventually development will fill in the blocks between the ballpark and the Capitol, creating a sort of walkable mini-district between the two.

The façade behind home plate doesn’t follow the bowl shape, allowing for a great deal of additional usable concourse and flexible space. Five 33-seat suites dominate the seating behind home plate, including bar tables and glass door access to the suites (instead of the normal bunker suite configuration seen this low). To me this is the most controversial element of the park since it removes around 200 prime seats in favor of suites.

Seating at First Tennessee Park

Seating at First Tennessee Park

Additional suites are located above a club level that goes completely around the infield, which tells me that Sounds ownership knew there was a market for a healthy number of luxury options. Nashville’s a city on the rise, and has seen some success with its NFL and NHL franchises, so much that some are talking about Nashville being a major league city in the future – though not anytime soon. Maybe if MLB decides to expand again?

The big distinctive feature of First Tennessee Park is its massive guitar-shaped scoreboard, inspired by the old scoreboard at Greer. A huge video display takes up the “body” of the guitar, while a traditional line score is displayed on the neck. Another small video panel sits within the headstock.

The terrible weather that plagued much of the Eastern part of the country during the winter threatened FTP’s short construction timeline. Nevertheless, the Sounds and Populous got it done, completing the stadium in 410 days. That’s about as long as it took to build Aces Ballpark in Reno, though much longer than the 332 days needed to finish Southwest University Park in El Paso. So far, FTP is starting off on a good note.

P.S. – In June Southwest Airlines will start a non-stop route between OAK and BNA (Nashville). That’s a good thing considering the number of relief pitchers that will probably be going back and forth as the A’s search for bullpen solutions.

40 thoughts on “Nashville’s new AAA ballpark opens

  1. Nice yard in Nashville! Good to see the A’s have another quality AAA ballpark to play at before being called up to the Raiders Coliseum…

    Not giving up on San Jose, but IF (and still a big IF IMHO) we are forever banned down here by MLB at acquiring the A’s, we should plan a AAA ballpark ala FTP for downtown SJ. We should be a MLB city, but we’re definitely not a Single A city.

    Make the Giants T-Rights work in our favor (?) by having them finance a AAA ballpark for the G’s organization (Sac won’t be their affiliate forever). Perhaps utilizing the model of the St. Louis Cardinals, who own their affiliate AAA Memphis Redbirds. A 17,000-20,000 seat yard (similar in size to Coca Cola Field, Buffalo) at Diridon or Adobe/SJ Water parcels for Sharks-like critical mass 60-70 times per year. Would do wonders to keep downtown alive in the non-NHL Spring/Summer.

    Again, not giving up on SJ getting the A’s down here (still believe it will happen), but we should have a “FTP” Plan B to the Plan A. As always, Just my opinion..

  2. Looks like a nice ballpark- still amazes me that the A’s were out manuevered by the gints twice- letting them buy a portion of the SJ gints should have made them more aware to lock up Sacto long term- even become partial owners if possible, rather than be forced out of another Nor Cal region. Ultimately if the Raiders stay (which seems like a long shot) and SC decides against hearing the SJ suit then the gints long game strategy just may work in terms of forcing the A’s out of the region- and now that even means no to Sacramento- crazy

  3. Really nice ballpark, it’s great to see how ballparks (most) can become such a wonderful source of civic pride when, incorporated perfectly within the fabric of that city.
    @ GoA’s
    I here you about the A’s locking up Sacramento (I wish they had as well), but wasn’t that more of the River cats choice, then the A’s or the Giants?
    Regardless the SF Giants have their bases cover (pun intended), they have Sacramento (to the north), San Jose (to the South), and already do a better marketing job then the A’s in the East Bay, IMHO (A’s defined territory)
    So what’s the move Lew? Damn I almost forgot, continue to wait, and wait, and wait out Davis.

    • Sounds like the waiting period is coming to an end- Haggerty said the NFL wasn’t very impressed with Oakland’s efforts and he expected some sort of decision in weeks not months. Once the Raiders officially throw the towel in then the next waiting period will be for the SC to determine whether or not to hear the SJ case- any wonder why a 10 year lease was signed?

      • @GoA’s

        “Any wonder why a 10 year lease was signed.”
        I here you, anyone who objectively tried to keep up with this should know why. A cautionary note however, if the Raiders do work something out in Oakland and that remains a possibility. It does not guarantee that it will force the hand of MLB to open up San Jose to the A’s, as I sure Wolff would hope. If the A’s can’t get San Jose even after the Raiders are working on a new stadium (provided that happened), and the Supreme Court doesn’t here San Jose vs MLB, as is expected, then what?
        Will Wolff be forced to just sign on to the project, and do whatever he can with his 30-40 acers of it? (Its imposable both teams can’t build at the site, yea right)
        Will he look again at Fremont? Provided there is somewhere in Fremont to look.
        Will he then sale the team? (Perhaps even to out of town interest)
        Will the SF Giants have won?
        One thing is for sure (IMHO), if the A’s leave the Bay Area Lew Wolff, with his wait Davis out strategy (Oakland must chose, yea right), will be complicit (not nearly as much to blame as others), but certainly complicit in my mind. I do realize many, perhaps most don’t agree with me on that and its cool, hopefully they will find a home somewhere in the Bay Area if the Raiders do build in Oakland.

      • You have more optimism than I do about the Raiders staying- in terms of LW’s accountability if the A’s ultimately leave the Bay Area- of the 3 teams in Oakland he is the only one being forced to stay in Oakland or leave the Bay Area- we know the W’s are gone- Raiders pretty much as good as gone to LA even though they could have stayed in the Bay Area down in Santa Clara. Both of these teams made economic decisions not to build in Oakland- I don’t hold anyone accountable for making an economic decision that 2 other owners have proved to be true- that is there are far more lucrative markets than oakland.

      • @ GoA’s
        Believe me, I’m not happy with the way the Warriors, Raiders, or A’s have treated Oakland, nor am I happy with the way Oakland has treated the A’s (most of the time), or the Raiders in the past before there first move to LA (assuming there will be a second one).
        The Warriors are prepared to leave town, without paying off the bounds that were issued to get them a renovated arena in Oakland. (I think this in one court case Oakland will actually win)
        They have official merchandise with the skyline of San Francisco in it, even though they play in Oakland. They open the season with a lunch in San Francisco with the mayor, and won’t even send official representation to some events in Oakland. I love their slogan “Warriors ground”, an obvious intent to market theslves to the entire Bay area, which I would not have a problem with if they were willing to use there host city’s name in there moniker.
        The Raiders past history has been atrocious at times toward their host city, in spite of the fact that Oakland (blue collar/ urban town), is part of the teams identity, much in the same way the Stillers are with Pittsburgh.
        I don’t have a problem with someone making a profit either, but when you’re making a profit at the expense of misleading, or outright lying to the fan base that purchases your product, and I’m part of that fan base, I do have a problem with it.
        Lew Wolff is willing to use his wait Davis out strategy; I’m sorry I mean “Oakland must choose”, strategy which is fine I don’t have a problem with it in a general sense, other than
        A. So many people think it’s something that it isn’t.
        B. If it backfires the A’s may leave the Bay Area.
        But I guess for some if B happens its ok, because you know “can’t fault someone for wanting to make a profit” so it’s all good.
        I will have a long list of people to blame if the A’s leave the Bay Area, Lew Wolff won’t be the first on that list, or the last, but he will be on it.

      • Haggerty said that? Haggerty said there was progress but Grubman wants to see more porgress in the coming months at least by June and for sure August. I get a kick how the NFL all of a sudden is coming up with excuses such as they don’t really like the financing plan we would have with Kephart third party developers and building the stadiums around housing and retail. It’s sad that the NFL will try and dictate what a city wants to do to keep it’s sports team around while trying to revitalize a community….but I guess the NFL isn’t about that is it?

        The NFL would really want the Raiders in LA again instead of the Chargers? Doesn’t make sense….

      • @LSN- Pittsburgh taxpayers pay for all their stadiums- not team owners- if Oakland is willing to do that for the A’s or any of the teams we wouldn’t be playing this waiting game. Remember- we are talking a privately financed ballpark- besides ATT no one else has ever done that!

        At Cisco- yes Haggerty was quoted in the M&R article stating that he thought they had weeks and that the NFL was giving LA more of the befit of the doubt than Oakland-

      • @ GoA’s
        I agree with you, the more a municipality pays (tax money), like Pittsburgh the more valid the augment is, but you know as well as I do “privately financed” does not mean free, and even if it did it will never mean “free” for a secondary market like Oakland/ East Bay.
        I really don’t understand the point? If the Raiders build in Oakland, that doesn’t guarantee San Jose for the A’s, and if the Raiders don’t build in Oakland that doesn’t guarantee the A’s for Oakland.
        Lew Wolff may not be willing to build in Oakland regardless of weather the Raiders are there or not, I wonder what the excuses the Wolff apologist will come up with at that point?
        I believe you have already hinted at it. “Well you can’t blame someone for wanting to make a profit, can you?”
        I can if that desire to make a profit comes on the backs of a fan base that have been misled into believing you were given an honest effort. And yes, that goes for the Warriors, Raiders and A’s, as I have been consistent in expressing how displeased I am with all three.
        But it’s ok, right? Profits, it’s the American way, because we all know Wolff/Fisher haven’t made enough profit (potential), on increased franchise value for doing nothing but holding on to their investment, while the other owners of MLB teams drag them along.

      • Word to the wise: always take M&R reporting with a grain of salt when it comes to the future of the Raiders (and A’s for that matter). Cisco007’s take on the matter re what the NFL told AlCo is actually spot on compared to what the SFGate clowns dribbled…GO RAIDERS!

      • @cisco:
        How does it not make sense? The Raiders are FAR more popular in LA than the Chargers. It’s not even close in the regard.

  4. Who cares about this topic on a Nashville Minor League Baseball Stadium? SMH

    How about somebody getting an extensive interview with Kephart and Haggerty and finding out what happened during meeting with Grubman and who Kepharts financers will be for CC? Let us get to the meat and potatoes.

    • @ cisco007
      You must admit it’s a really nice ballpark, come on don’t you think?

      • Don’t really care about Minor League ballparks. Kind of a waste of blog space. More important issues and topics to get to the bottom of IMO.

      • @ Dan
        I was thinking the same thing. I think (hope), it’s simply because Davis actually wants to be in Oakland, not that his potential desire to do so will make it happen by itself. I also think this may mean that the Chargers don’t want to be in San Diego.

      • cisco, nobody’s forcing you to read or comment on every piece ML writes. This is still a new ballpark and it’s A’s-related, and ML’s free to write whatever he wants here. It’s his blog. You don’t like it? Go create your own and write what you want instead.

    • I am curious as to what was discussed. God knows the San Diego meeting with Grubman went national, but the Oakland meeting seems hush-hush by comparison.

      • @ Dan
        sorry meant this as reply.
        I was thinking the same thing. I think (hope), it’s simply because Davis actually wants to be in Oakland, not that his potential desire to do so will make it happen by itself. I also think this may mean that the Chargers don’t want to be in San Diego.

    • I suppose the author of this blog cares about it. I found it interesting.

      There’s been hundreds of posts on stadium/development related topics not directly involving the A’s on this blog over the years, and plenty of recent posts to comment on A’s/Coliseum City issues.

  5. even if the a’s were to build at the coliseum i still feel its a huge missed chance of getting a downtown park built. if there is a small baseball village around it i doubt it would’ve been as good if the a’s had built a the uptown location or if somehow a waterfront park was feasible, which it isn’t, where you would’ve had tens of thousands of people going into those areas and would revitalized downtown as a whole. already see what festivals during the year can do to downtown oakland, imagine twice as many as people and having it happen at least 81 times a year.

    keep going back at that initial plan/picture that was posted here i think last year where there was a plan to build a park at the laney college location back in the 60s instead of where they eventually built it at it’s current location. could only imagine what kind of impact a park at that location could’ve done to the city as a whole in that initial 2-3 decade run the coliseum had to begin with.

  6. Has it crossed anyone’s mind, while looking at the pics of this ballpark, that one day this park could be expanded to MLB specs and made the new home of the Nashville A’s if things don’t work out in Oakland?

    The land is there……part of the structure is already built…….new market……no territorial rights crap to deal with…..much cheaper to pay for expanding this ballpark than to build a new one in Oakland……AAA team will build an A’s fan base.

    Long shot really…but crazier things have happened regarding the A’s battle to get a new stadium in Oakland.

    • Just in terms of expanding that stadium, I was thinking about that possibility when looking at the pictures. Seems to be plenty of room on that block around the current ballpark. But that’s the simplest concern, not taking into account how hard it would be to attract an existing team or land an expansion team.

    • @ Alex
      As unlikely as that may sound, the possibility of the A’s current ownership group building in Oakland, maybe even more unlikely. This situation can’t go on indefinitely, although it may fill like it at times, it simply can’t.

    • Just based on the many pix I’ve seen of minor league ballpark vs MLB, the FTP grandstand appears to be to small for MLB expansion. Doesn’t mean that in the future MLB could alter their ballpark designs to allow for smaller grandstands, but as it stand now FTP would probably have to be gutted to build up to (current) MLB standards. Only AAA ballparks IMHO that currently allow for possible MLB expansion are Raley Field and Coco Cola Field (Buffalo); both have pretty large grandstands.

      If San Jose ever had to consider my “FTP” Plan B any AAA ballpark should be designed with a grandstand built to current MLB standards to allow for future/possible expansion, because in the future you never know…

      • While I think you’re right about the grandstand being too small, it’s more complicated than just that. It has to do with the fundamental infrastructure of the stadium. ML posted about this in regards to Raley years ago:

        Also, as ML kind of alluded to in this article, the cost of building a stadium that is setup for expansion is higher because of the additional support needed.

        The footprint around the stadium also would be significantly larger to account for eventual expansion. The additional land also makes the minor league park more expensive especially in a high real estate market like San Jose.

        It all comes down to who’s going to be pay for it. It only happens if the city foots the bill for the additional cost, because the benefit is to the city and not to the minor league team.

      • Good points Slacker.

      • Re: Raley Field, at some point not so long ago it was established that it, as it’s currently constructed, cannot be expanded to the point of being an MLB stadium without major reworking done. This is because, IIRC, bad weather forced a bit of a redesign in building the upper level while construction was taking place, and it is unable to support anything significant being added.

  7. The way Wolff has developed hohokum, now Nashville, the new A’s whether at the Dirdion site, or at the CC site will be the envy of MLB

    • Wolff did a wonderful job with Hohokum and the Quakes (in San Jose), but I had no idea he had anything to do the ballpark in Nashville? I’m sure whatever he builds for the A’s will be great, if it happens.

      • yeah you should compare wolff did with renovating hohokam along with the training facilities and then the building of avaya stadium for the earthquakes as a sign of what any future a’s park will look like in the end.

    • Don’t believe Wolff had anything to due with Nashville’s FTP. The Sounds only recently became an affiliate of the A’s, with FTP being planned/financed way before the affiliation took place.

    • Yeah Wolff wasn’t involved in Nashville, that was all their doing. The A’s just affiliated after the fact. In fact the Brewers are the only MLB team that had anything to do with Nashville’s new ballpark.

  8. OT: Re last week’s news of the NFL meeting with Oak/AlCo officials, Haggerty made some comments which alluded to the NFL being involved in the “revitalization of a stadium.” Huh? Could RM’s awesome idea of a rebuilt Coli possibly come to fruition?…

    • @ Tony D.
      That’s interesting. Do you recall where you saw that?

      • Tony’s probably referring to this article.

        I’m not going to post on every meeting, every rumor, when nothing of real substance comes from it. There are actual milestones for Coliseum City that everyone should be tracking towards, starting with the first deadline for deliverables two months from now. Most everything else about Oakland is gossip. I will post something coming out of the NFL presentations this week, though it will be more of an editorial than anything else.

  9. Kind of OT RM: how would you classify (?) 24,000 seat TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha? It’s definitely not a MLB yard nor is it minor league. To big IMO to be a college ballpark. Just curious..

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