Amber Fillers hands Philip Cox a Bud Light during Tuesday's Johnson City Cardinals game against the Danville Braves. (Max Hrenda/Johnson City Press)
After several years of a “dry” spell, the Johnson City Cardinals put a new beverage on tap for their fans to enjoy.
This week, for the first time in years, Cardinals fans were able to cheer on their home team while drinking a cold beer in the bleachers at Howard Johnson Field in Cardinal Park.
The park stopped serving beer years ago, before the Johnson City Sports Foundation assumed responsibility for running the team. In early June, however, the JCSF applied for a beer permit, and that application was approved by the City Commission on June 19.
Monday night’s game against the Danville Braves marked the first time since the commission’s approval that beer was sold inside the park. After beer sales concluded Monday night, Cardinals General Manager Tyler Parsons said he was pleased with the results.
“Overall, I think it went great,” Parsons said. “Even today, on our first day selling beer, I think the fans were great.”
Fans were not only appreciative of the beer, Parsons said, but no one got carried away. Parsons added that none of the fans who chose to buy beer allowed it to negatively affect their behavior.
“We didn’t have any complaints,” he said. “I don’t think we had anything close to what we would consider a problem.”
Part of that may have been because of the park’s approach to selling it. Parsons said the park did not do anything out of the ordinary to advertise the presence of beer.
“We didn’t really promote it,” Parsons said. “It was just kind of casual and natural. If people wanted a beer, they could grab a beer.”
Though casual, the process of buying a beer isn’t as simple as handing a clerk a wad of cash. Beer is sold at a separate location from the concessions stand. To drink at the park, everyone buying beer must submit a valid form of ID to the cashier. Afterward, the cashier gives them a wristband, which signifies their age to city police and park staff patrolling the park. Additionally, beer will not be sold Wednesdays or Sundays.
During Monday’s home opener, Amber Fillers worked the beer table, which was set up along the fence facing Legion Street. Although there were questions as to how well received the presence of beer inside the ballpark would be, Fillers said she stayed busy throughout the evening.
“It was pretty steady,” she said. “I was pretty busy all night.”
Like Parsons, Fillers added that none of her customers presented her with any problems.
Parsons estimated that approximately one-quarter of adults who attended Monday night’s game chose to buy a beer, and, though he did not provide the exact total, he added that Monday’s total beer sales doubled the park’s costs.
On Tuesday, during the park’s second day selling beer, fans expressed their delight at having the option to drink a beer during the game. Philip Cox likened the experience to watching the St. Louis Cardinals, instead of their Johnson City affiliate.
“It’s like being at a major league game,” Cox said. “I love to come out here, be able to have a few drinks and a hot dog and enjoy the game.”
Robert Williams, who attended the game with Cox, added that the combination of beer and baseball seemed uniquely American.
“I think it’s the American way,” Williams said. “Apple pie, hot dogs, peanuts and a cold beer — that’s what baseball is all about.”
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