Regions Field

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The idea of building a new downtown baseball park has been under serious consideration since 2007. Robert Simon of Corporate Realty Development discussed the concept with the press in July 2009, saying that baseball parks have served as successful catalysts for economic development in many cities. A key feature of any new downtown park and would be the likelihood of nearby development accessible to pedestrians.

According to Simon, a number of sites have been considered, in particular a four-block area which includes the Merita Bakery, between I-65 and downtown's Railroad Park, a major public space which opened in September 2010. He held preliminary discussions with Don Logan, owner of the Birmingham Barons, but other than being "open to new ideas", Logan has made no statement of support for the idea of moving the team, which has played in Hoover's 10,000 seat Regions Park since moving out of Rickwood Field in 1988. If it made a bid to move the Barons, Birmingham would likely face a fight from Hoover, which has spent millions of dollars on upgrades to Regions Park.

Then-Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford said in 2009 that if a proposal were made, he would support it "100%". In September 2010 Mayor William Bell proposed raising the city's lodging tax from 3% to 7.5% (on top of state and county lodging taxes, which are currently 9.5%) in order to fund development of a baseball park as well as a Negro Leagues Museum, and the proposed $70 million "Marketplace" hotel and entertainment district at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The Birmingham City Council's Budget and Finance Committee endorsed Bell's proposal. The BJCC Board endorsed the idea two days later.

In talking to the press after the committee meeting, Bell hinted that former Birmingham Black Baron Willie Mays might participate in the project. Stan Logan, when asked for comment on the proposal, told The Birmingham News that he had had no contact with the city, but would listen to any offers made. UAB athletic director Brian Mackin also said he had not talked to Bell, but would welcome a discussion about the UAB Blazers baseball team using a downtown stadium.

Meanwhile, architect Craig Krawczyk has used his own spare time to design and render a personal proposal for a downtown baseball park which he would place on the north side of downtown, near the Civil Rights District, to take advantage of better views to the skyline and existing amenities in the theater district.

References

  • DeButts, Jimmy (July 24, 2009) "Developers pitching downtown ballpark." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Tomberlin, Michael and Val Walton (July 25, 2009) "Developer considers downtown Birmingham park for baseball's Barons." Birmingham News
  • Kent, Dawn (September 9, 2010) "Architect tackles dream to design sports venue, creates vision for downtown Birmingham ballpark." Birmingham News
  • Whitmire, Kyle (September 13, 2010) "Mayor’s office proposes lodging tax hike for new baseball park" Second Front
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (September 14, 2010) "Birmingham council committee endorses hotel, ball park projects near Railroad Park." Birmingham News