When city businesspeople and Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League) owners pitched a new ballpark, they estimated it would generate $500 million in new investment. A million fans later, and the economic plan is four years ahead of schedule with cranes dotting the skyline.
The Barons were rolling along at Regions Park — now the Hoover Met — when realtor Robert Simon, president of Corporate Realty, had seen how cities of Birmingham’s size were using MiLB ballparks as an economic tool, and decided the same thing could happen in Birmingham. Team owner Don Logan was quickly on board, and a economic-development analysis was prepared, predicting some $500 million in new development over the next decade or so.
Now, with the ballpark open and a million fans through the Regions Field turnstiles, the area around the ballpark is a boomtown, and the development calendar laid out in the economic-development analysis is running four or so years ahead of plan. It’s a virtuous circle running through the team, the city an developers. From AL.com:
But the impact isn’t just on the baseball field and in the stands. It’s in the space around the park, towering cranes hint at things to come within a few blocks of home plate: apartment developments, more retail space and the Negro League Museum.
“In 2013, when we moved down here, I think people certainly saw it as a sign of great things happening in Birmingham,” Barons General Manager Jonathan Nelson said. “When they came down in 2015 one of the things we promoted was all of the active construction sites within a four or five block radius of Regions Field.”
The growth of the Parkside district was one of the reasons Simon pushed for the ballpark to begin with. His company, Corporate Realty, has had a hand in more developments in the area. They’re currently working to turn the former Merita Bakery building into restaurant and office space.
Meanwhile, the Barons posted their sixth sellout of the season Saturday night with a crow of 8,500.