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TVA Credit Union Ballpark — by any name, a great place to catch a game

Joe Avento • Mar 24, 2019 at 12:00 AM

It used to be known as the stadium with the hill.

These days, it’s just known as the most fun place to watch a rookie-league baseball game in the country.

Johnson City’s TVA Credit Union Ballpark, known for years as Cardinal Park, has been voted as the top rookie-league stadium in polls conducted by ballparkdigest.com for the past two seasons.

The Johnson City Cardinals broke their single-season and single-game attendance records last season thanks to stadium refurbishments and additions that have given the venue an atmosphere that continues to draw crowds.

In fact, the Appalachian League franchise had the three largest crowds in team history in 2018, capped by the 4,167 fans who showed up for Star Wars Night.

Zac Clark, the team’s general manager and the Appalachian League executive of the year, credited his staff with setting the team up for a successful season.

“They work their tails off from beginning to end,” Clark said. “This is a testament to what they do. We try to build an atmosphere here where they like to come to work every day and they enjoy being here as much as the fans enjoy being here. When that happens, that’s when you have a successful environment. If the employees enjoy it as much as the customers do, then that’s a great thing.”

The park has undergone changes throughout the years. Most notably, the hill in right field — a 45-degree bank just below the wall — was removed in 2010. It had been a characteristic of the stadium for years.

More recently, an artificial turf infield was installed, leading to fewer rainouts and a lot less field maintenance. A new LED lighting system was put in before last season. The box seats were replaced before last season as well.

The Perch, a beer garden on the third-base side, has been the most popular addition to the stadium. Something similar is planned for the first-base side this year.

Affordable ticket prices and concessions, including dollar-beer nights and an all-you-can-eat night, make a night at the Cardinals game affordable for the whole family.

All the improvements have led to an all-around positive experience for fans, and they keep on coming. Boyd Sports Management runs the club and it’s no coincidence that the Johnson City success really started when the Boyd folks got their hands on the team. Boyd has also operated the Tennessee Smokies and Greeneville Reds and is about to take over the Elizabethton Twins for the coming season.

The stadium was built in 1956 and had been known as Cardinal Park for years. In 1997, the playing field was named in honor of Howard Johnson, the founding director of the Johnson City Parks and Recreation department, although the stadium never lost its name. When Boyd came in, the organization took over naming rights to the stadium and changed it to TVA Credit Union Ballpark. While it’s a mouthful to say, the results have been there. Just ask the people taking tickets.

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