Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beating a Dead Horse

About last night...

I didn't blog about the Titans game because I didn't see it. Sorry about that. Besides, it was the first preseason game. Any analysis of it would be meaningless anyway. Also, preseason NFL football is almost as exciting as checking the stats on this blog to see how many of you are actually reading it.

Instead, I was at a company picnic at the Sounds game. We had a great time; perhaps the most pleasant time I've ever had at Greer Stadium. The weather was perfect. The game was good. I was surrounded by friends and co-workers. We had a great time, but it only illustrated to me how much Nashville needs a new baseball park.

I would like to thank the honorable Bill Purcell, former Mayor of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, for sitting on his thumb long enough to let the First Tennessee Field project slip away (even if, had it been built, it would have been completely underwater last May). I understood his priority to focus on Nashville's neighborhoods rather than large capital projects, but the money was there to build the new ballpark, and Purcell wouldn't pull the trigger until the Sounds and the developer proved it. Once the financing agreements were all signed, Purcell finally gave it his blessing, but the economy had begun to falter and the developer backed out the deal.

9,012 people saw the Sounds face Las Vegas on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Sounds changed ownership, and they have taken steps to make Greer as hospitable as possible. The organization built new clubhouses beyond the centerfield wall to help bring the stadium up to Triple-A Baseball standards. But you can only do so much. Even with a nice coat of paint, a dump is still a dump, and Greer is a dump. The stadium was built quickly and on-the-cheap in 1978, and it shows. It wasn't a great stadium then, and it's definitely the worst stadium in Triple-A Baseball now. Last night, for example, the Delta Dental deck partially collapsed during my company's picnic. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but for a moment, it got a little scary out there. We felt the entire deck shake, and then heard screams, but in a moment everyone was laughing. Apparently one of the support beams broke, and part of the deck platform caved-in about 18 inches. Some folks from the Sounds came and roped off that particular portion of the deck, but kept the remainder of it open.

Nashville deserves better. There were 9,012 people in attendance last night. Remember: this was at the exact same time the Titans were playing two miles away to a nearly-full LP Field. The Sounds still have pretty good fan support, and they deserve a new park. The people of Nashville deserve a new park. The future Major Leaguers who make their ways through town deserve a new park. Unfortunately, the current economic state of the nation might not allow for it to be funded privately on bank loans. And, of course, Metro had to spin some numbers correctly to get the financing for the Music City Center, so even if Mayor Dean wants the city to build a new park, Metro probably doesn't have the money to foot the bill. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if Dean wants the Sounds to move downtown. The old Thermal site (where First Tennessee Field would have been built) is still on the list, however, along with other sites such as the north end of The Gulch, and the historic Sulphur Dell site near Bicentennial Mall, which is where professional baseball resided in Nashville from 1870 to 1963.

The clock is ticking. The current Sounds ownership wants a new ballfield and could always move the team to another city with one. The Milwaukee Brewers could choose not to renew its affiliation with the Sounds, and then no other Major League team could pick the Sounds up, allowing for a new Triple-A franchise to emerge elsewhere. Or, less likely, the powers that be in Professional Baseball could declare Greer unfit for baseball and force the Sounds to move elsewhere. These are just a few of the possibilities.

The time is now. Nashville needs a new ballpark, or our town, rich in baseball tradition, risks losing the sport for the first time since 1977.

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