Nestled in Kodak, Tennessee, neighboring Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Tennessee Smokies host Southern League opponents in beautiful Smokies Park.
Opened: April 20, 2000
Dimensions: 330L, 400C, 330R
Surface: Bermuda grass
Owner: Sevier County / City of Sevierville
Ticket Prices (2012): Field Level, $10; Bleacher Level, $8.
League: Southern League (Double-A)
Affiliate: Chicago Cubs
Address: 3540 Line Dr., Kodak, TN 37764
Directions: Take I-40 to exit 407, Hwy. 66; the stadium can be found directly upon exiting.
Written By: Jesse Goldberg-Strassler (November 2012)
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The namesake for the ballpark, that evocative Smokies nickname, dates back even farther, to the old Knoxville Smokies of the Class-B South Atlantic Association of 1925. The tradition continued in 1964, the first year of operations for the Class AA Southern League, featuring the Knoxville Smokies as an original franchise.
The nickname had disappeared, however, by the time the franchise partnered with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1980, with the ballclub answering to the Knoxville Blue Jays instead, or, more familiarly, the K-Jays. Thirteen years later, the ownership returned to the nickname of yore. Anchored by such talent as shortstop Alex Gonzalez and catcher Carlos Delgado, the team took the field in 1993 at historic Bill Meyer Stadium as the rechristened Knoxville Smokies.
Right on time for the new millennium, there was another name change -- and a brand new ballpark located 20 miles to the aouth. Meyer Stadium had hosted baseball in Knoxville from 1955-1999; in 2000, the Smokies relocated to Kodak and now represented the entire Volunteer State. On opening night 7,318 fans showed up at Smokies Park to cheer on the brand new Tennessee Smokies on April 20th; the home team didn’t disappoint, outslugging intrastate rival Chattanooga, 10-7. During the field’s inaugural season as a whole, the Smokies drew 256,1414 fans, most in the Southern League’s East Division and far outpacing the previous season’s 119,571 at Meyer Stadium.
The Smokies changed affiliations from the Jays to the Cardinals for a two-year period starting in 2003, grabbed their Southern League title in 26 years in 2004, switched to the Diamondbacks for the 2005 and 2006 campaigns, and have been partnered with the Chicago Cubs since 2007, winning division titles each year from 2009 through 2011.
In 2011, Minor League Baseball honored the franchise with the John H. Johnson President’s Award. It was a first not just for Tennessee, but for the league.
“The Smokies have firmly immersed themselves into the fabric of the Knoxville/Sevierville region through their involvement with many civic organizations and hosting of numerous community events throughout the year,” President of Minor League Baseball Pat O’Conner said in a press release. “They are truly worthy of becoming the first Southern League club to win our highest honor....”
It is commendable, too, that the Smokies have been able to maintain that high attendance number from the first year at their new ballpark. This past season, Tennessee drew 251,112 fans to Smokies Park, the third highest total in the Southern League. This total did not include the 5,406 fans who attended the 2012 SL All-Star Game, the third time in its history that the ballpark hosted the league’s showcase event.
Smokies Park is, upon both first and lasting impression, green. There are three green awnings hanging out over the front entrance, a green roof, deep green seating, green trim, and a setting of green foliage rising up from beyond the outfield wall, with the odd tree rising up even higher above the high-definition videoboard. The seating bowl sweeps around the field, foul line to home plate to foul line, and a comfortable green berm arches the entire way beyond the wall.
In all, the stadium is supremely photogenic, representing a symbol of ease, comfort, and a fantastic location to enjoy the national pastime.
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