Regions Field

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Rendering of proposed downtown ballpark

The downtown baseball park is a planned stadium for the Birmingham Barons in downtown Birmingham. The Barons moved out of the city in 1987 after the City of Hoover constructed a new ballpark and Birmingham leaders declined to invest in major upgrades to Rickwood Field.

The idea of building a new downtown ballpark has been discussed somewhat earnestly since 2007 and was jump-started by Robert Simon of Corporate Realty Development in 2009. CRD commissioned a feasibility and economic impact study, which indicated that such a facility and surrounding development could be a boon to the downtown area. Mayor William Bell pursued the project and proposed increasing the city's lodging tax by 4.5% to fund construction. His funding plan was approved by the Birmingham City Council on October 26, 2010, and the city signed a tentative agreement with Barons owners Don and Stan Logan to relocate the team on November 4.

The site considered most advantageous is a four-block area which includes the Merita Bakery, between I-65 and the Railroad Park, a major public space which opened in September 2010. Bell has proposed making the ballpark a publicly-funded anchor for a major revitalization of the area between the Railroad Park and the Trinity Steel site in Titusville, now a brownfield owned by the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority. The area, which crosses I-65, has been targeted for development of a green corridor paralleling the Railroad Reservation. The larger plan was dubbed the "Parkside District" in Bell's announcement. Private development of mixed-use residential, restaurant and retail space would be supported by master planning work, infrastructure upgrades and economic incentives provided by the city.

Previously, Bell told the council that a Negro Leagues Museum would also be part of the ballpark complex. 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.

It has been said that a new park could open as soon as 2012. Hoover Mayor Tony Petelos told the press that his city had invested $6 million in improvements at Regions Park and would not be amenable to signing a short-term lease with the Barons that would allow the team to move before 2016.


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
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (October 8, 2010) "As Birmingham courts them, Birmingham Barons say trend of downtown ballparks intriguing; Hoover says not so fast." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (October 26, 2010) "Mayor Bell pitches bigger plans for Birmingham baseball stadium." Birmingham News
  • Segrest, Doug (November 4, 2010) "Barons reach agreement with Birmingham to move to proposed downtown ballpark." Birmingham News
  • Segrest, Doug (November 6, 2010) "Birmingham Barons hope to extend Hoover lease on short-term basis." Birmingham News