Pigeon Forge officials announced today that construction of the Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge reached its midway point and is on schedule to be completed on December 31, 2015, in time for the planned opening in Spring 2016.
Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge is a $22.5 million, city-owned youth baseball complex that will feature six lighted synthetic turf fields, each based on the design of a well-known professional ballpark, including:
- Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore
- Calfee Park in Pulaski, Va., the oldest park in the Appalachian League
- Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., known as “Little Fenway”
- Engle Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn., a filming location for the “42” movie about Jackie Robinson
- BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, N.C.
- Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, N.M.
The facility will be a destination for 9-and 10-year-old elite youth baseball tournaments.
Pigeon Forge has a 10-year contract with Ripken Baseball to market and manage the facility and baseball Hall of Fame member Cal Ripken Jr. was on hand for the groundbreaking ceremony in November 2014.
About 108 million cubic yards of dirt have been moved in site preparation.
Chris Atkins, project superintendent for Merit Construction, said the two-level 14,000-square-foot clubhouse and a pavilion are at their construction midpoints and two other structures are nearing completion.
Crews are already rolling out synthetic turf on the Camden Yards Field. The turf is perforated and laid over a base layer of gravel to facilitate rainwater drainage.
“Each field requires two acres of turf, meaning crews will lay 261,000 square feet of turf on the six fields,” Atkins said.
Ripken Baseball organized two tournaments this summer at Wear Farm City Park.
“Ripken Baseball already is promoting Pigeon Forge. Its staff is inviting teams from a huge part of the nation to come to Pigeon Forge and the Smokies while we work to finish the fields. Next spring is going to be lots of fun,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.
Ripken Baseball, Inc. is based in Baltimore and represents the business interests of Cal Ripken Jr. and Bill Ripken. The Pigeon Forge location is Ripken Baseball’s third Ripken Experience complex, with the first being in Ripken’s hometown of Aberdeen, Md. and the second in Myrtle Beach, S.C.