Commissioner Miles Wolff says the independent American Association is interested in placing a team at Regions Park, set to be vacated in 2013 by the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League).
The Barons are set to move to a new downtown ballpark for the 2013 season, assuming construction goes smoothly. That would leave Regions Park, located in suburban Hoover, without a baseball tenant past the SEC tournament. The facility is also used for high-school football.
“Hoover has a great stadium,” Wolff told the Birmingham News. “We would like to explore it.”
Well…it is big (seating 10,800), but not necessarily great. It’s not a very intimate space, and a crowd of 3,000 or so feels pretty lost there. What the ballpark has, really, is location, location, location: Hoover is a pretty affluent part of the Birmingham metro area, and setting the team up purely as a regional draw wouldn’t be the worst strategy.
It’s one thing to take on a Major League team in a Major League market; it’s another thing to take on a Minor League Baseball team in a much smaller market. So far the American Association has avoided any direct competition with an MILB team. Plus, there’s the scheduling issue: Birmingham is some 10 hours from the nearest AA market. Now, geographic proximity probably doesn’t matter as much it should for a league already stretching from Winnipeg to Dallas, but the number-one complaint we hear from AA GMs concerns travel costs, and there’s a general feeling the travel schedules really need to be brought under control.
The timing is pretty bad, though: today is the scheduled groundbreaking for the new downtown ballpark.
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