Touring Smokies Stadium
In mid-July 2021, I was very fortunate in being able to tour Smokies Stadium in Kodak TN, home of the Tennessee Smokies. Being able to see the AA affiliate of the Cubs was a great experience, and I can highly recommend the experience to both locals and out of town Cubs fans.
Smokies Stadium is located in Kodak, Tennessee. It is located about an hour east of Knoxville. It opened in 2000, and has a max capacity of 6,412. As the team has been Cubs affiliates since 2007, it has some minor Wrigley feels to it.
My tour guide was Leslie, who is the Media Relations and Merchandising Manager. She joined the team just prior to COVID, so unfortunately has had an atypical job experience so far. That said, she did a great job showing me the grounds and explaining some of the cool nuances of the stadium. Poor Leslie also had to deal with a stalled car just prior to meeting with me, but still remained on her A-game despite the tough curveball.
We began our tour around home plate. Walking out from the main gates, you immediately see the field and everything around it. The symmetrical stadium features a full 360 walkway, so you can literally jog laps around the entire stadium (as I saw one worker doing). There's a very large ring of seats nearby the field, some outfield seating, then an upper deck with private boxes. There's very little seating that's covered, with the covered area being entirely vendors, games, and bathrooms. The concourse beyond the outfield is a nice backdrop of trees, really giving the vibe of the nearby Smoky Mountain range.
In 2008, the Smokies designated a special seat as a sort of monument to POW and MIA soldiers, to declare that their efforts would not be forgotten. It's a prime piece of real estate that offers a fantastic view to the memory of an often overlooked cause.
Due to COVID protocols, we weren't allowed to get too close to certain player areas, but I did get to peek in through a few windows and see a few pictures of them. They were very nice, especially for a minor league facility. It was fairly comparable to Wrigley's facilities before the renovations.
Then it was onto the field. I resisted the urge to run the bases, but got to check things out at ground level. It was a very nice perspective to the park. If I was a player, I'd certainly enjoy my time there.
Then it was on to the media areas. Smokies Stadium's media zone was about three times as large as Myrtle Beach's. They had a full press box area, then sections for home and away media announcers. Their TV production area was also a bit larger as well. At least it seemed larger while empty. When all these chairs get filled I bet it's a bit tighter.
The view from the announcer's booth is always a highlight. And it truly is a fantastic view here in TN as well.
Leslie then showed me some of the private boxes and two group sections. All seats were nice, but the Garza Law terrace above the right field corner features a really cool indoor bar. It can handle up to 150 people. There's a bunch of row seats, several half tables that seat 4, as well as the indoor bar area. When I win the lottery, I'll bring 150 of you there to check it out. It's not named after former Cubs pitcher Matt Garza, but rather a team sponsor.
From there, we moved on to the front office areas. Like most stadiums, the staff work on site. They've got a few office and a few cubicles. My favorite tidbit is their opening day clock. All offseason, there's a countdown to first pitch on opening day, down to the second. I need something like this to count down until 5pm on Fridays in my office.
From there, we scooted around to some of the food sections. Smokies Stadium features a full grill behind the dugout on the third base side. When I say full grill, I mean a full restaurant. Nice tables, full bar, and complete menus. Really, it is like a fantastic sports pub.
And that was that! After about an hour, my adventures touring the stadium were done. I returned the next day for a game of the Smokies vs. the Braves. That was also a great experience.
I'd like to thank Leslie for her time taking me around the stadium. It's a very nice ballpark, which still has new stadium vibes despite being 20 years old. If in Kodak area, it is certainly worth a visit. To Cubs fans from Chicago area, it's very well worth the 9+ hour drive. Check it out!
Here's my full photo dump: