By A.J. Kaufman
A new stadium for the Bristol State Liners baseball team will soon become a reality after the Tennessee side’s city council approved an engineering and design services agreement for the project during a July meeting.
Situated along Highway 394, near Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway, the modern venue will open next year, cost $7 million, and will also serve as the home field for Tennessee High School’s baseball team in 2025.
The City of Bristol, Tenn., plans to pay $5 million of the price tag, with Boyd Sports — under Chris Allen, whose company operates four other local college teams — set to pay around $2 million.
A ceremonial groundbreaking occurred on July 19. Jim Leyland, who began his managerial career in Bristol in 1971 before managing parts of 20 seasons in the Major Leagues, attended and spoke at the event.
Currently city councilmen, like former Bristol Mayor Mahlon Luttrell, have long believed that a newer facility was necessary to keep baseball alive and thriving in Bristol. Now it is happening.
“This is going to be very good for both sides of town. I think we’re going to see future development, businesses moving here,” Luttrell, president and general manager of Bristol Baseball Inc., explained, noting potential economic development benefits for the city, county and region. “We’ve got a lot of new housing that has already started in the area. We just announced a large manufacturing facility down the road that’s coming in. The whole 394 area, I think this is going to be a catalyst to perpetuate additional development in this area.”
Additionally, Luttrell noted that “baseball is also an important economic driver for the community” and pointed to two large housing developments — one right across the street, in front of the racetrack, and another about two miles from it — as evidence of growth.
“That’s close to 500 new homes coming in, so I think that’s going to be very welcomed,” he added. “I think (the possibilities are) going to be unlimited. We know in the past, this area has been underutilized, to some degree, and I think this is going to help.”
President and General Manager of Bristol Motor Speedway Jerry Caldwell discussed opportunity for economic development near the track.
“I think growth in this region, growth in Bristol, is good for everybody, and I think this is a way to create something on this side of town that can be a real benefit and asset for the community,” he said. “Yes, I think there are lots of opportunities for us to work together being such close neighbors now. We love big ideas, so the sky is the limit.”
Mattern & Craig Engineers and Surveyors, with offices in Johnson City and Kingsport, will provide services at Whitetop Creek Park, where the main baseball field will soon be renovated to fit the Appalachian League’s standards.
Updated amenities will include new lighting, new playing turf, 400-foot outfield fences, new clubhouses, ticket sales areas, souvenir stands and more. Reports say field-level suites will also be part of the new stadium.
The city plans to keep the site busy with youth tournaments, concerts and other events at the park as well, which already houses four baseball or softball fields and five soccer fields.
Surveying of the land began in late July and can last several months before actual construction begins. The stadium is expected to be completed in time for the 2024 Appalachian League season, which commences in early June.