In just a few short months, Birmingham will officially welcome back the Birmingham Barons with the opening of their new baseball stadium that cost an estimated $64 million from start to finish.
Regions Field will be located adjacent to Railroad Park in Southside, between 2nd Avenue South and 15th Street South, and is set to open in time for the Barons’ opening day game April 10 against the Mississippi Braves.
Seats within the facility (there’s 8,500 of them) provide fans with multiple views of Birmingham: from a picture-perfect view of the city’s skyline from right field, to the backdrop of Red Mountain from left field. “The seating bowl is sited to enhance the fan experience and provide dramatic views to downtown and Railroad Park,” said Byron Chambers, director of sports design for HKS Sports & Entertainment Group. Berm seating and picnic areas are also available.
One of the main focuses of the facility was to provide a family-friendly atmosphere centered around baseball by including family fun parks, batting cages, and picnic areas. Corporate, church, and social groups can also be catered to with exclusive seating, suites, and banquet halls.
Concession stands are located throughout the facility with Dreamland BBQ, Back Forty Beer Co. and Good People establishing the presence of local businesses. A beer garden just outside the outfield and ice cream shop near the picnic area are being planned as well.
The Barons haven’t called Birmingham their home since they left for Hoover Metropolitan Stadium back in 1987. The groundbreaking ceremony for their new home was held this time last year with plans to have the facility ready for the 2013 season.
“While it may not be easy for us to pick up and move, we’re all very excited,” said Jonathan Nelson, Barons general manager.
The park was designed by a team of firms: HKS Sports & Entertainment Group, Hoskins Architecture, and Giattina Aycock Architecture Studio. Developers include Corporate Realty Development, LLC, Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, and Robins & Morton. Money for the project came mostly from a 3.5 percent increase in the city’s lodging tax.
“When designing the ballpark, we considered the unique heritage of Birmingham, from steel manufacturing to the Civil Rights Movement to the city’s rich baseball heritage. … We designed a ballpark that is distinctly Birmingham. It is not replicated in any other city around the world,” said Chambers.
Nelson said in February 2012 that the field will have references to the team’s home from 1910-86, Rickwood Field. The city’s steel warehouses also receive nods throughout the architecture, including an archway over the first base concourse.
In tandem with the facility, plans are in the works to open a museum nearby that pays tribute to Birmingham’s role in the the history of black baseball, but it won’t be ready for opening day. The project has full funding, but is still in its planning stages as of September 2012.
“As part of the footprint of the park, the Negro League Museum will allow year-round activity on the grounds,” said Chuck Faush, Mayor William Bell’s chief of staff. Faush spoke recently to The Birmingham News about the prospect of bringing a restaurant with an established name into the museum to increase “the overall entertainment value while teaching history.”
Construction hit a minor setback last month when a 100-foot plus sinkhole was found near the entrance of the park on 15th Street and 3rd Avenue. The Birmingham News reported that Mayor Bell has been working with city council to reroute the sewer line. There isn’t expected to be any delay in opening the park.
Even parking plans have been considered in the park’s plan. Agreements have been reached with Children’s Hospital and other private locations for the usage of their lots on game-day. The goal is to have over 3,000 parking spots within a five-minute walking distance. Street and public parking spaces will also be available.
With April approaching soon, the park is in the process is bringing previously promised new part-time jobs to the city. The Barons hosted a job fair Saturday to find candidates to fill positions such as ushers, parking attendants, bat boys and more.
Opening day stadium seating has nearly sold out and is expected to, but some tickets are still available and range $6-14. That will remain the ticket price per-game throughout the season.
“We look forward to the first pitch and a sell-out crowd,” Bell said.