Work is under way to create a new plaza and other improvements in front of Cardinal Park that should make access much easier, create room for family activities and events and offer fans a new, covered ticket office and concession area.
“This is exciting,” said Lee Sowers, Johnson City Sports Foundation president. “We knew when they closed Lonnie Lowe Lane and built the new Memorial Park Community Center that they were going to be making some improvements. This absolutely will bring some pizazz to Cardinal Park.”
Johnson City officials have had no choice but to keep this estimated $225,000 project on the back burner while other priorities were tended to. But the Public Works Department, which is doing the majority of the work, was hard at it Tuesday running underground pipe in which all overhead utilities will be placed and erecting what will be walls on either side of two new ramps leading to the ballpark from the parking lot.
Established in 1950, Cardinal Park is a 5-acre sports field primarily used for the St. Louis Cardinals’ Appalachian League farm club, the Johnson City Cardinals, as well as Science Hill High School’s home baseball games.
“This project closes Lonnie Lowe, and the primary entrance will now be off Legion Street, which brings visitors into the parking lot,” Phil Pindzola Public Works director said Tuesday. “We’re creating a much larger area for pedestrians. The sidewalk continues up from the community center and ties them together.”
The “plaza” is comprised of the area generally on the outside the ballpark from short left field, wrapping around to the end of what currently is the concession stand. The 40-foot-wide gated plaza will be complemented with red brick columns with black, wrought iron fencing. This will blend with what already has been constructed around the majority of the 25-acre campus and end on Legion Street. Pindzola said crews will at least have the ramps and plaza complete when the team begins its season here on June 22.
Also, red brick facade will be installed at the back of the first base-side bleachers, on the side of the rest rooms facing the plaza and in other areas at the front and on the or side of the exterior. A new bus pull-off area on Legion Street is planned, and plumbing needs also will be taken care of that reach into rest rooms and other structures at the facility during this project.
“The Public Works Department designed the plaza, which includes the concrete ramps that bring people up to the main level, and the enlarged design will accommodate a brand new ticket office and concession and souvenir area that will be under a canopy and be located just beyond the top of the ramps where people enter,” Pindzola said. “The plaza will allow for social events, games, picnics and the potential for other activities. Thomas Weems has designed the ticket office, but it is not yet funded.”
A new ticket office is estimated to cost about $50,000, Pindzola said. Those attending Cardinal games know that the park’s ticket office has been a few volunteers sitting at a folding table, so this will be quite an improvement.
Johnson City’s Park and Recreation Department and the nonprofit Johnson City Sports Foundation work together to host the games. The department handles most day-to-day maintenance. The foundation’s agreement with the city requires it pay a $420 facility user fee for each home game played at Cardinal Park.