A Birmingham City Council committee today gave preliminary approval to a plan presented by Mayor William Bell that would more than double the city’s hotel tax rate to partially pay for a new ballpark — and move a planned baseball museum away from historic Rickwood Field.
The plan would hike the city’s hotel rate from 3 percent to 6.5 percent, generating $40 million for a new ballpark in the downtown Railroad Park area as well as a new hotel. Details were actually few and far between; the Barons were not discussed, and neither was a hotel vendor. Indeed, the committee pretty much just passed along the proposal with the understanding that a more fleshed-out version would be presented to the full City Council down the line.
One twist that’s sure to raise some objections: funds already pledged for a Birmingham baseball museum at Rickwood Field would be diverted to the new ballpark.
Talk of a new downtown Birmingham ballpark has been floating around for years, but usually driven by developers. This plan is being pushed by the city and will be a city-owned facility.
The new ballpark for the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) could potentially open for the 2012 season if all the pieces fall together, but a more realistic opening date would be the 2013 season. It would be built large enough to accommodate the Barons as well as the SEC baseball tournament.
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