Before Joe Riley left the mayor’s office, he told the Charleston RiverDogs that plans to enhance the baseball stadium bearing his name should fit into the existing look and feel of the stadium.
“We’ve had quite a few conversations with Mayor Riley during the first 20 years about how to upgrade the facility and try to make it modern and enhance the fans’ experience,” said RiverDogs President and General Manager Dave Echols.
The new level features a reclaimed wood floor and walls of glass overlooking the ballfield on one side and the Ashley River marsh on the other. The level, which has a drink rail for watching baseball games inside the suite and 115 outdoor seats, overlooks first base and was built between the luxury suites and the top of the stadium seating.
Echols said they’re not yet sure who will find the space useful; but he said the size and location, including 200 parking spaces at the venue, fits market demand.
“We’re trying to get functions and meeting space use but because we’re so brand-new and because of the demand for the Charleston downtown market, we’re not truly sure what our niche is going to be yet,” Echols said.
He said a couple of wedding parties have booked the space; and the first business rental came from the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, which recently held a planning meeting and executive retreat at the facility.
As a wedding venue, The Riley Park Club is probably more in line with events surrounding wedding parties, such as rehearsal dinners, he said. The facility has a full commercial kitchen and food and beverage accommodations.
“Having a wedding rehearsal party is different than having a wedding here — but again, if you’re a passionate sports fan, you could get married at home plate and have a ceremony inside,” he said. “Certainly, getting married at a ballpark is not for every bride, so I think we’re probably more in the rehearsal and party aspects tied into the wedding.”
The RiverDogs ownership group has an affiliate ballclub in St. Paul, Minn., and when a new ballpark was built there, a similar event space was part of the construction. It became a popular space outside of the ballgames.
“The success of that event space opened the eyes of the RiverDogs’ ownership, who said, ‘That could work in Charleston,’” Echols said. “So we started looking at how we could incorporate that into the ballpark.”
The RiverDogs have contracted with The Indigo Road hospitality and consulting group to manage The Riley Park Club. Mercantile & Mash is the contract caterer for the venue and will handle event bookings and management.
Graham L. Ervin, director of sales for Mercantile & Mash, said the venue is perfectly suited for an event that needs space for more than 100 but fewer than 200. She said there’s demand for that in the Charleston market.
“We’re actually unique in that,” Ervin said. “Most rehearsal dinner venues in Charleston can only accommodate about up to 50 people. This is kind of like that sweet spot in the middle.”
She said prices range from $1,200 to $5,000 for five hours of time, depending on the day of the week. Food and other amenities are add-ons.
“It’s really whatever the client wants,” Ervin said. “We always kind of talk through what their vision is for the event and price out different options based on what they want.”
During baseball games, the space will be sold as a super luxury suite with accommodations for about 150 people, Echols said.
“The plan is to try to keep enhancing the ballpark so we can make it relevant for the next 20 years and make the fan experience a more enjoyable experience,” Echols said. “In partnering with Mayor Riley and now Mayor (John) Tecklenburg and his staff, we’re trying to discuss ways to do that, and this was the first step in that long vision plan.”
CRDA President and CEO David Ginn called the event venue “quite a home run.”
“It’s a fantastic, affordable meeting spot full of natural light and showcases Charleston’s scenic beauty,” he said. “The marsh view is spectacular, and I predict it will quickly become a go-to spot for numerous functions.”
Echols said that for someone with Ginn’s business experience to see the value and special nature of the new venue spoke to what the RiverDogs had accomplished in inserting a new space in a city with many event options.
“That’s David Ginn saying that,” Echols said. “If we’re impressing somebody of his stature, his business acumen, then you’ve got to think we did something right.”