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Birmingham reviewing alternate ballpark sites

Birmingham BaronsThough Mayor William Bell says a proposed downtown Birmingham ballpark site is still in Railroad Park, city officials will begin reviewing other potential ballpark sites, including some city-owned parcels that could bring down the cost of the project.

One such parcel is land near the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Indeed, city officials have already asked convention-center officials about land options there. The city wants to see a domed stadium at the site; the issue is whether there’s enough land there both for a ballpark and a domed stadium. (We’re not so sure we will ever see a domed stadium there: the current financial plan is for someone else to actually pay for it, and as one can see there’s not a long line of investors waiting to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at the project.) 

The cost of land near Railroad Park threatens to scuttle a ballpark location there; shortly after announcing the city’s intention to place a ballpark there the cost of land — as evidenced by demands from existing landowners — soared, much to the surprise of city officials. And some landowners, including the owners of the Merita bakery, flat-out say they don’t want to sell.

The quandary over a ballpark site is pushing back deadlines on the project. Funding for the ballpark has already been approved by the City Council in the form of a raised hotel/motel tax. Originally the plan was to break ground on the ballpark as early as this summer, but with the search for alternate sites expected to last through June, we’re probably looking at a 2012 groundbreaking and perhaps a 2014 opening. The Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) have tentatively agreed to play at the new downtown ballpark; until then the team will continue play at Regions Park.

RELATED STORIES: Birmingham ballpark situation more complicated than anticipated; Barons reach deal to play at new ballpark; Birmingham formally approves downtown ballpark; next up, the Barons; Birmingham approves new downtown ballpark, but second vote needed; New Birmingham ballpark could create $3.8 billion in economic activity: study; Birmingham City Council to vote on new ballpark next week; Birmingham City Council: We support ballpark tax, but we want team first; Birmingham OKs initial ballpark funding plan; Birmingham to discuss downtown ballpark Monday; Downtown ballpark study underway in Birmingham; New ballpark pitched for downtown Birmingham

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