In 2006, just before sending my final draft in to Arcadia Publishing for “Baseball in Nashville”, I asked Nashville Sounds general manager Glenn Yeager if the planned ballpark at the thermal site was going to happen. I needed to know, as I wanted to end the book with a rendering of what the proposed stadium was to look like.
So, I did. I wrote, “When the 2008 season begins Nashville will celebrate a new downtown ballpark and stadium that will be the pride of the South Broadway district and Cumberland River business area.”
“The stadium will cost $43 million to build and will be a centerpiece of development in downtown Nashville. Consisting of a mixed-use plan that will include retail and residential development…the ballpark (will) be located on an 11-acre tract and will seat 12,500 fans.”
I found out in my first publishing venture that it’s easier to write about the past than it is to predict the future.
During 2007 it became less clear that the ballpark was a sure thing. Plans soon withered away, and only recently have talks resurrected again – this time with eyes on the Sulphur Dell site as the location for a new ballpark for the Nashville Sounds.
Many questions remain. “When will the new ballpark open?” “Exactly where will it be located?” “What will it be called?” Less often do I hear, “What will become of Greer?”
The story of Greer Stadium begins in the late ‘50s with Herschel Lynn Greer, Sr. a highly-regarded civic leader who was instrumental in forming a company, Vols, Inc., established to purchase the ailing Nashville Vols franchise from T. L. Murray. Greer served as the first president of the corporation.
Sadly, the venture failed with valiant efforts, and after no professional baseball being played in Sulphur Dell in 1962 and a miserable failing of the resurrected club in 1963, the organization sold the ballpark. It was torn down in 1969 after nearly a century of use.
Greer passed away in 1976, but when Nashville’s baseball stadium was built to house the Southern League Nashville Sounds in 1978, Larry Schmittou and the Sounds ownership posthumously honored the avid baseball fan by naming the facility after him. Herschel Greer Stadium, with a capacity of around 10,000, has been home to the Nashville Sounds ever since.
Greer Stadium has seen better days. Each year the Pacific Coast League gives a waiver to the Sounds for minimum stadium requirements. The concourse is small, and if a big crowd shows up it is hard to navigate the food lines.
But the history is there: Don Mattingly, Skeeter Barnes, Willie McGee, Steve Balboni, and Buck Showalter immediately come to mind as players who were heroes for the local ballclub. The New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds and other major league teams have played exhibition games there.
More than a few times Basketball Hall of Fame member Michael Jordan played at Greer for the Birmingham Barons against an orphan team, the Nashville Xpress.
Should Greer be stripped of her seats, should the guitar-shaped scoreboard be carted off to the dump, and should the rest of the structure be imploded to oblivion? What would you suggest?
What was different in 1969 when Sulphur Dell was demolished?