The Pulaski Yankees of the Appalachian League furthered their efforts to upgrade Motor Mile Field at Calfee Park this season with the addition of a new party deck that earned the franchise the Best Ballpark Improvement Under $1M Award citation in the annual Ballpark Digest awards.
“It’s very exciting,” Yankees general manager Betsy Haugh said of the award. “We’re very proud of everything that we’ve done in our ballpark over the past couple of years, and to see that culminate in recognition for one of our newest features in the party deck is exciting for us.”
Leading up to the 2019 season, the Yankees completed a round of renovations to Calfee Park, resulting in a new walk-in souvenir store and an expansion of the ballpark down the third-base line with a new concourse, concession areas and seating. A further improvement was the new three-tiered party deck angled toward home plate, which the Yankees created by cutting into foul territory down the left-field line.
Officially named the PSK Party Deck, the result of a multi-year naming rights agreement with local country station 101.7 PSK, the new area taps into current fan experience trends by providing a setting that is more social than traditional fixed seating. Creating a more social atmosphere was an objective the Yankees had in mind as they planned the project.
“The goal was to give fans a new way to enjoy baseball at Calfee Park,” said Haugh. “A party deck is obviously a more social setting, so people can go out there and grab a drink, or they can just sit in a different type of seat, huddled around one of our hi-top tables just talking more conversationally. It’s a different way for fans to enjoy baseball, and I think we really were able to accomplish that.”
For the 2019 season, fans could access the space with any game-day ticket. It proved to be a strong addition to the ballpark, becoming a popular destination throughout the season. “We saw that the party deck was full pretty much every night, which was exciting,” said Haugh.
Along with the benefits of more space and a better social environment, the Yankees were able to leverage the party deck into a refined strategy for beer sales. Adding more beer to the ballpark’s lineup was part of this mix, as was the offering of a 20-ounce mason jar that fans could purchase for $10—with the first pour included in the price—and bring back to Calfee Park throughout the season for $4 beers.
Ultimately, the PSK Party Deck fits into the larger narrative of the resurgence of Calfee Park and Appalachian League baseball in Pulaski. Prior to the 2015 season, uncertainty surrounded the future of professional baseball in Pulaski, but solid ownership and a stable affiliation with New York have been catalysts for turning around the franchise’s fortunes.
The Yankees have since ridden a wave of player-development facility upgrades and improved fan amenities to achieve new attendance success. That trend continued when the Yankees drew a total of 95,897 fans in 2019. This was a new franchise single-season record, the fifth straight season the Yankees have accomplished that feat. The attendance was also an Appalachian League single-season record for the second consecutive season.
The historic ballpark, which opened in 1935 as a Works Progress Administration project, is the oldest ballpark in the Appalachian League and was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Throughout the process of upgrading the facility, the Yankees have tried to keep its historic nature in mind while improving fan amenities and player facilities.
“I think this was just another step in making our ballpark a little bit more modern with some of the amenities that fans are accustomed to in minor league and professional baseball,” said Haugh. “So this was just another step towards us being able to do that, but we still have retained those historical elements that allow the ballpark to keep that small-town feel that we really enjoy as well.”
“I really think that the focus on family-friendly and affordable entertainment is something that is just so key to Minor League Baseball and is really a driver behind the success for so many teams within the industry,” said Haugh. “I mean, we pride ourselves on being one of the most affordable ballparks in the country and our league. We really see that our fans appreciate that, through their comments that say ‘wow, those prices are great,’ or their returning to the park to enjoy the game and visit the concession stands and not wipe out their wallets. I really think that focus on affordability and putting families and fans first is really what helps teams throughout the industry be successful.”
— Minor League Baseball