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. The Barons signed a five-year lease in late 2010.

In mid-December, the City Council approved a commercial property appraisal for the preferred site. Bell disclosed that the Titusville end of the Parkside District was off the table for the ballpark because of the difficulty of connecting it, across I-65, to the Railroad Park in the first phases of redevelopment. The possibility of building the baseball facility near the BJCC was mentioned as an alternative plan.


In July 2011 Bell submitted a package of contracts to the City Council that included a land-swap with UAB to acquire a large parcel between 14th and 16th Streets, just south of the Railroad Park site. The proposal would establish a "Public Athletic Cultural and Entertainment Facilities Board" which would issue $59.8 million in bonds for development of the project, which would include a public parking and possible sites for a future entrance plaza and entertainment district on axis with 15th Street South.

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
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (December 20, 2010) "Birmingham City Council disagrees over baseball park location." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (July 27, 2011) "Site set for downtown Birmingham ball park." Birmingham News
  • "Ballpark vote is postponed 2 weeks by Birmingham council" (August 10, 2011) Birmingham News