The Sevierville-based company assumed management of the Appalachian League Johnson City Cardinals on Jan. 21 when the City Commission agreed to a 10-year lease agreement, that includes the renaming of Cardinal Park.
The private company, which manages the Chicago Cubs’ AA affiliate Tennessee Smokies, agreed to make more than $350,000 in improvements, including a new artificial turf infield, improved training room, expanded concessions and a group pavilion.
“At the end of the day, I think the community is really going to enjoy this,” Allen said. “It’s a great old ballpark, and you’re going to see it come to life with the new amenities. We’re still in the design process, and it does not yet have a name, but it should accommodate from 150 to 200 people.
“The name of the game in our business is sponsorships and ticket sales, and one way to improve revenues is with group sales. Our construction team has gutted the old locker rooms, and the beer garden will be the next project.”
Johnson City architect Thomas Weems is designing the facility, which will include two “drink rails.” The first will be a smaller row on the second level. The second will be longer and situated on the back side of the left field warning track. Both are being designed so the view to home plate is unobstructed.
Allen said the bullpens will be moved further toward the outfield walls, and a second structure for groups, events and the general public could be on the way in a few years for the right field side.
“We will have catered events with Hokie Smokie supplying the food for group outings,” Allen said. “Beer, soft drinks and other beverages — as well as food — will be available to the public when the group outings conclude. Also we expect to designate Thursday nights as a time the general public can use the area.”
Allen said he is talking with Johnson City’s Holston Distributing and also plans to talk with other local brewery owners about coming on board.
“This garden or pavilion was something in our original plans, but it will all be subject to approval by the City Commission,” he said.
Boyd Sports plans to install artificial turf on the infield, and the areas behind home plate and down the foul line just past the first- and third-base warning tracks. There was not sufficient time for the estimated $200,000 redo prior to Science Hill High School’s baseball team taking the field.
Allen said work on the field will begin as soon as the Cardinals 34-game home season ends on Sept. 1. Work is expected to take between eight and 10 weeks.
The Johnson City Sports Foundation managed the team from 2004-15. The organization is no longer involved with baseball. Instead, it now operates as a nonprofit charitable organization, according to foundation President Lee Sowers.
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