Regions Field

From Bhamwiki
Revision as of 12:44, 23 January 2013 by Lkseitz (Talk | contribs)

Jump to: navigation, search
Rendering showing the 14th Street side of Regions Field

Regions Field is a baseball stadium under construction for the Birmingham Barons in downtown Birmingham. The Barons, established in 1885, had 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. $63 million in private placement bonds were secured through BBVA Compass and Citizens Trust Bank in December 2011.

CRD's rendering, included in their feasibility study

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. Plans included a public parking and possible sites for a future entrance plaza and entertainment district on axis with 15th Street South. William Mudd, owner of the B & A Warehouse, objected to the proposed site, which would eradicate his business. He later reached an agreement with Logan to incorporate the business into the design of the stadium.

In November the city won conditional approval for demolition of existing buildings on the site. The B & A Warehouse was spared from demolition, and a preliminary site orientation plan showed an updated layout, with home plate oriented to the northwest, at the corner of 1st Avenue South and 14th Street, where an entrance plaza could face the Railroad Park.

Design

Rendering of the proposed ballpark

Conjectured designs for a downtown ballpark were included in CRD's feasibility study. Other speculative design work was done independently by architect Craig Krawczyk, who chose a site near the Civil Rights District to take advantage of better views to the city's skyline and existing amenities in the theater district.

Once the city's lodging tax increase was passed, the mayor's office contracted GA Studio and former GA architect Creig Hoskins to partner with Dallas, Texas-based HKS Architects on the stadium design. Early site plans given to the press showed home plate in the south corner of the park, giving infield seats a wide view of the financial district skyline, but also leaving a potentially blank outfield wall to face the Railroad Park and requiring development of a new entrance plaza facing midtown. When demolition of existing structures on the site went before the Birmingham Design Review Committee, a revised site plan was shown, indicating that home plate would be on the west corner of the site, with views of downtown on the 1st base side of the stands and views from the 3rd base stands of Southside and Red Mountain.

CRD's Simon indicated that the final architectural design would "pay homage" to the city's industrial heritage and include brick and steel. Architects reportedly drew inspiration from Rickwood Field, Sloss Furnaces and other landmarks. The site plan and exterior design of the park was approved by the Design Review Committee on March 14, 2012. The city's ambitious schedule for construction puts completion in advance of opening day of the 2013 Birmingham Barons season.

Construction

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the park was held on February 2, 2012, with an announcement that Regions Bank would be the facility's title sponsor. Demolition and site work began in earnest shortly thereafter.

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
  • Tomberlin, Michael (September 7, 2011) "Future Birmingham Barons ballpark's orientation to keep fans in mind." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (September 7, 2011) "B&A Warehouse owner: Barons willing to build new Birmingham stadium around his business." Birmingham News
  • Erdreich, Jeremy (November 30, 2011) "Play Ball (2)". Bhamarchitect's Blog
  • Tomberlin, Michael (December 17, 2011) "Downtown Birmingham ballpark: Jefferson County bankruptcy threw city a curve." Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (December 18, 2011) "How the deal for Birmingham's new ballpark was done." Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (December 24, 2011) "Birmingham baseball park design angled for good view." Birmingham News
  • Bryant, Joseph D. (February 2, 2012) "Hundreds gather for Birmingham baseball park groundbreaking." Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (March 15, 2012) "Downtown baseball park has elements of city's past." Birmingham News