Though the St. Louis Cardinals hold the Johnson City franchise in the Appalachian League, providing coaches and players, they do not manage the local operation. That role has been played since 2004 by the non-profit, charitable-focused Johnson City Sports Foundation, but recent financial challenges and the need to improve the Cardinal Park facility has led to a change in leadership.
The City Commission voted this past week to award a 10-year lease of city-owned Cardinal Park, including control of naming rights, to Boyd Sports LLC of Sevierville, Tennessee. The firm’s head, Randy Boyd, also owns the Double-A Tennessee Smokies, once a Cardinals affiliate, but now aligned with the Chicago Cubs.
Boyd Sports had been in negotiations with the City for months, but the plans seemed off the table when a recent Commission vote was deadlocked.
The private company has pledged more than $350,000 in improvements to bring the facility up to National Association of Professional Baseball standards. Changes ahead include a new artificial turf infield (to be installed during the following off-season), improved training room, new group sales pavilion, expanded concessions facilities and more.
Boyd’s plans to increase revenues from the improved ballpark include booking a higher number of events. A local high school, Science Hill, will also continue to play its home baseball schedule there. The two primary parties will split electricity costs based on the event, with the city committing to fund lighting upgrades within five years at an estimated cost of $450,000.
The naming rights agreement covering Cardinal Park for the next four years has been set between Boyd Sports and TVA Employees Credit Union of Knoxville.
Though no personnel announcements have been made, Boyd Sports has reportedly offered jobs to front office personnel, General Manager Tyler Parsons and Assistant General Manager Zac Clark.
St. Louis has fielded a team in Johnson City longer than any other location, continually since 1975 and earlier from 1938-1955 and in 1961, all as a member of the short-season, rookie-level Appalachian League. The 2016 Johnson City Cardinals will open their home schedule on June 26th.
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