Johnson City Press: Boyd Sports gives TVA Credit Union Ballpark a spring in its step
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Boyd Sports gives TVA Credit Union Ballpark a spring in its step

Gary B. Gray • Jan 24, 2017 at 8:58 PM

Boyd Sports has completed its $250,000 installation of new synthetic turf on TVA Credit Union Ballpark’s infield and other areas well ahead of Science Hill High School’s entry and the start of Appalachian League champion Johnson City Cardinals’ season.

The installation brings the company’s investment in the park to more than $800,000 since the Sevierville-based company assumed management of the Johnson City Cardinals roughly one year ago, when they inked a 10-year lease agreement with the city.

“We are excited to continue the effort of improving the facility as a whole,” said Boyd Sports President and COO Chris Allen. “This ballpark has a tremendous amount of use each year and by installing turf, it will allow us to provide a better, and more consistent playing surface for both the Cardinals as well as Science Hill. There are more things to come in the future."

While the outfield remains natural grass and the pitcher’s mound dirt, the new turf will create a more weather-friendly playing surface. Cardinals management will monitor the performance of the turf, and after one year will explore the possibility of adding turf to the outfield.

“The infield project has been a priority for years and we’re excited to get it completed,” said Cardinals General Manager Tyler Parsons. “We went back and forth on the artificial surface, but after doing our research and talking to other teams it became a no-brainer.

“It’s going to cut down on expenses for the city and provide a consistent playing surface for the players to perform on. And above all, it’s going to allow us to expand our use of TVA Credit Union Ballpark with outside events and strengthen its viability as a community asset.”

The new turf infield is expected to save an estimated $15,000 annually on maintenance costs, and the new surface also allows the team to host many more events on the field without worries of damaging the playing surface.

Science Hill’s baseball team will continue to use the field for their home games, and will make their first appearance on the turf when they play Unicoi County on Feb. 28.

“Our kids and coaches are very excited about all the renovations at TVA Credit Union Ballpark,” said Science Hill High School baseball head coach Ryan Edwards. “The turf on the infield will help take our training to another level. There will be many days when other teams are inside or cancelled and we will be getting practice and games accomplished. It should help draw good competition and tournaments because other programs know they will get their games in when they come to Johnson City.”

Boyd Sports’ construction of a new 250-seat “Perch,” a two-level beer garden behind the left-field line, increased the amount of money fans spent at City Cardinals games, attracted a younger crowd and drew people who normally would not have come if it weren’t for the new amenity.

The new amenity also likely helped the Cardinals break an all-time attendance record this past season at 53,434. Ballpark Digest also rated the “Perch” last year’s “Best Ballpark Improvement” (under $1 Million).

The private company, which manages the World Champion Chicago Cubs’ AA affiliate Tennessee Smokies, secured a four-year sponsorship commitment from Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union. It also agreed to make improvements, including the artificial turf infield, an improved training room, a new group sales pavilion, improved and expanded concessions and other improvements.

In May 2016, as players began to arrive in Johnson City, a newly refurbished locker room was finished, complete with new couches, carpet, chairs, counters and other amenities. Parsons called it “one of the nicest locker room facilities in the Appalachian League.”

The City Commission’s agreement with Boyd Sports calls for the city to cover utility costs at baseball games only. The company reimburses the city for utility costs at events it hosts outside the realm of Cardinals baseball.

The agreement also requires the city to pay for lighting upgrades at an estimated cost of $450,000. The time restraint for this improvement is now within four years. But during discussions at a recent capital improvement plan workshop, commissioners pointed to the company’s performance and talked about doing the work sooner rather than later.

Email Gary Gray at [email protected]. Like Gary B. Gray on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp. Follow him on Twitter @ggrayjcpress.

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