Funding for a new Madison ballpark was approved last night by the City Council, as the Huntsville (AL) suburb plans on opening the facility in 2020 for the relocating Mobile BayBears (Class AA; Southern League).
The council approved $48 million in spending for a new ballpark as BallCorps LLC — which recently purchased the BayBears — proposed a facility with a capacity of 7,000 in the under-construction Town Madison. The facility would host the BayBears as well as a variety of other events, including concerts, group events and perhaps other sports like pro soccer and high-school football. From AL.com:
Mayor Paul Finley stressed that beyond the 70 dates for baseball games at the stadium each year, other activities would be planned at the facility year round that would generate revenue in addition to baseball.
“We see this venue being used year round,” Finley said during a 20-minute presentation. “It’s not just for 70 games.”…
Finley said of the funding, “Worst-case, it’s going to break even. Best case, it’s going to make us a little bit of money.”
Finley also pointed to a feasibility study conducted on the project that “confirms it will work for an economic success.”
That does get into the area of attendance projections. The city and the team are working off the assumption that the first season of the relocated BayBears in Madison would attract roughly 400,000 fans — which would put the team second in Southern League attendance — and then level off to 350,000 fans per season. The other big assumption is that the team will be a regional draw attracting plenty of fans in the greater Huntsville region. Despite the failure of the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) before the franchised was moved to Biloxi after the 2014 season, there’s plenty of sentiment in Minor League Baseball that Huntsville is a desirable market, based on the demographics and population.
Technically, the Madison City Council approved a lease, license and management agreement with BallCorps LLC. Armed with that, BallCorps LLC can now prepare a relocation application with Minor League Baseball and the Southern League.
The ballpark will be part of the Town Madison development, a large-scale project that will see plenty of retail, commercial space, hotels and residential units.
Meanwhile, the BayBears will prepare for two more seasons in Henry Aaron Stadium. The following statement was issued this morning:
The Mobile BayBears Professional Baseball Club will remain in Mobile for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
After consultation with the Ralph Nelson, CEO of BallCorps, LLC, the new ownership group of the BayBears, it was determined that it is in the best interest of the organization and the Southern League for the team to remain in Mobile through the end of the ’19 season.
Everyone affiliated with the BayBears organization looks forward to staging two more seasons of BayBears baseball in a fun, clean, and family-friendly environment at Hank Aaron Stadium. The home opener for the 2018 season is scheduled for Thursday, April 5.
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