The 2020 season approaches. If you thought 2019 was a great year for new and renovated ballparks—and it was—you’ll be excited about what’s on hand for 2020. We begin our preview of 2020 facilities with some photos of Toyota Field, opening as the home of the Rocket City Trash Pandas (Class AA; Southern League).
This season will see the opening of renovated spring-training homes for the Toronto Blue Jays and San Francisco Giants (a two-year process for the Giants); new MiLB ballparks in Fredericksburg (VA), Kannapolis (NC), Wichita (KS) and Madison (AL); and a new MLB ballpark for the Texas Rangers.
We had a chance to visit Toyota Field during a recent business trip to Madison, AL, and toured the new ballpark with Trash Pandas owner Ralph Nelson. Construction appears to be in fine shape, with many interior spots already punch-listed and exterior finishing work now in the final stages. These shots should give you a good idea of the state of things at the newest Class AA ballpark, which should be ready for use well in advance of the scheduled April 15 opening.
Some things to note:
- The infield will feature a keyhole layout. Nelson spent part of his MLB career with the Arizona Diamondbacks when Chase Field (then known as Bank One Ballpark) opened with a keyhole infield layout.
- The ballpark is part of a larger mixed-use development, with a Margaritaville pool and hotel planned just beyond center field and a food hall/brewery set for the acreage beyond left field. Increasingly ballparks have been pitched as part of bigger economic developments, and that’s the plan with Toyota Field. If the plans come to fruition, there will be some interesting interplays between the hotel and the ballpark.
- There is definitely a multiyear plan in place here; we should see some additional ballpark features online for the 2021 season and beyond.
- There will be an active social space in the right-field corner based on how the Nashville Sounds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) set up their ballpark: naming rights for the Inline Electric Rock Porch bar have already been sold. In addition, there will be plenty of opportunities for other social spaces to pop up thanks to a spacious 360-degree concourse.
Toyota Field is located in Town Madison, a mixed-use development situated along I-565. The arrival of the Trash Pandas and opening of Toyota Field will represent a return of Minor League Baseball to the Huntsville Metropolitan Area, which has been without a team since the Huntsville Stars (Class AA; Southern League) played their final full season at Joe Davis Stadium in 2014. We had a chance to drop by Joe Davis Stadium during this visit; the facility is being cleaned up for professional soccer, with no plans to tear it down.