The $8-million renovation of Joe Davis Stadium, former home of the Huntsville Stars (Double-A; Southern League), seems to be paying off for Huntsville officials, as Nashville SC will be placing a MLS NEXT Pro team there in 2023.
For those who work in the ballpark world or manage facilities on a municipal level, the lesson is clear: pro soccer does represent a viable reuse option. MLS NEXT Pro teams play in a variety of venues, including MiLB ballparks (Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro) and former MLB ballparks (Choctaw Stadium, former home of the Texas Rangers).
Joe Davis Stadium hosted its last full season of Minor League Baseball in 2014 and did any MiLB action since the Biloxi Shuckers used the ballpark for some home games in 2015 while awaiting the completion of MGM Park (the Stars became the Shuckers after relocating to Biloxi). While there was some brief consideration of renovating Joe Davis Stadium to host the Rocket City Trash Pandas (Double-A; Southern League), that notion quickly passed after a tour of the ballpark by architects and some rough cost estimates. Joe Davis Stadium was built on the cheap in a modular fashion, and the assumption was that it would be torn down sooner than later. (Still, there were some great baseball memories created at Joe Davis Stadium; Mark McCarter details them all in Never a Bad Game: Fifty-Plus Years of the Southern League.)
Instead, the city veered course and implemented an $8-million renovation that aimed at soccer, football and lacrosse, hosting state and regional competitions. Smart: the general area around Joe Davis Stadium features several fields and hosts state tournaments as well as regional competitions. Landing the MLS NEXT Pro team is a bonus: the renovation plan and the economic rationale were not based at all on landing pro sports of any kind. Adaptive reuse in play.
RELATED STORIES: Joe Davis Stadium Renovation Plans Move Forward; Proposal Would Revive Joe Davis Stadium; The Declining State of Joe Davis Stadium; Joe Davis Stadium Likely to be Demolished; Joe Davis Stadium’s Future Uncertain; It’s official: Huntsville Stars sold, expected to move to Biloxi in 2015;