Rocket City Trash Pandas are Hiring

MADISON – If you’ve wanted to work for a professional sports team, here is your chance.

The Rocket City Trash Pandas, the Double-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels, are holding a job fair Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Bob Jones High School cafeteria. The school is at 650 Hughes Road in Madison.

“We are building a team of passionate, energetic, and driven individuals to deliver the best experience in Minor League Baseball,” the team said in a statement.

The Trash Pandas will be hiring for more than 100 positions in more than 30 game-day roles. Positions include ticket takers, ushers, servers, bartenders, vendors/hawkers, concessionaires, warehouse, cooks, housekeeping, production room, camera operator, concessions stocker, parking lot attendants, promo team member, game-day runner and more.

Candidates are urged to bring a completed application to the job fair. Applications can be found at

Anyone looking for an internship can also interview at the job fair and are encouraged to bring resumes.

Representatives of the Trash Pandas will be on hand to provide information and answer questions.

The Trash Pandas’ home Opening Day is April 15 against the Mississippi Braves at Toyota Field. Season tickets, mini plans and group outings are on sale now. Visit or call 256-325-1403.

Hotel Indigo Coming to Huntsville’s MidCity District

A truly unique addition to MidCity District will be coming.

Hotel Indigo is joining the growing lineup at the $850 million mixed-use development in Huntsville at the intersection of University Drive and Research Park Boulevard, RCP Companies announced. This is a first-to-market hotel brand for the area and is developed by Chattanooga-based ViaNova Development.

Construction is scheduled to begin this spring and the targeted opening date is mid-2021.

Just as no two places are alike, no two Hotel Indigo properties are the same. Each hotel draws inspiration from the local neighborhood, culture and popular trends in food, drink and design to create a warm and vibrant atmosphere.

The Hotel Indigo Huntsville – MidCity will be the first Hotel Indigo property in North Alabama. With more than 100 hotels across 19 countries, Hotel Indigo is a branded boutique from InterContinental Hotels Group.

Every hotel is uniquely designed to capture the essence of the neighborhood with curated artwork and seasonal menus reflecting the local character and culture.

“Hotel Indigo offers guests an immersive experience that is truly reflective of the local community,” said Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies. “By celebrating local art, music and food, Hotel Indigo delivers a genuine boutique hotel.

“Hotel Indigo’s commitment to the local culture is truly aligned with the MidCity District mission.”

Located along Nunnuhsae Park Drive, the 120-room five-story Hotel Indigo will provide guests with expansive views of the 40-acre public park and adjacency to Topgolf and the 8,500-capacity amphitheater.

In addition to the boutique hotel, the property will feature a restaurant offering locally sourced options, a comprehensive craft/beer cocktail menu, and indoor and outdoor spaces for gathering.

“ViaNova Development is extremely pleased about the opportunity to become one of the cornerstones of such an exiting and dynamic development,” said Vyomesh Desai, managing partner. “The growth in Huntsville has been amazing and we are proud to join the community …

“We are looking forward to bringing a truly boutique experience that embodies the cultural assets of the ‘Rocket City’ to the MidCity development.”

Recently ranked as the fourth-largest commercial real estate project in the U.S., MidCity Huntsville features first-to-market concepts in retail, dining, entertainment, residential and hospitality, including Topgolf, REI Co-op, Dave & Buster’s, High Point Climbing & the Adrenaline Zone, Wahlburgers, and world-class music venues.

Project XYZ to Purchase Jamie Cooper Television

ATHENS — A Huntsville-based technical solutions company is planning to purchase the area’s only locally owned television station.

Project XYZ is purchasing Athens-based Jamie Cooper Television, a Class A station broadcast on WTZT-TV.

Kim and Larry Lewis own Project XYZ, which provides expertise in the research, design, development, integration, and sustainment of innovative solutions in engineering, logistics, information technology, and alternative energy.

Gloria and Jamie Cooper have co-owned the station since 2003. Founded Nov. 2, 1988, the station is known under the branding ZTV-11 with the slogan “Local and lovin’ it!” and can be seen on numerous cable systems. The long-running morning show, “Cooper & Company,” will continue to air as well as the “Country Rover Classics.”

“We want to share what’s truly happening in the community, and we see a need for more local programming in this area,” said Kim Lewis. “We want to help meet that need.”

Gloria Cooper said she is looking forward to working with Project XYZ as they grow the station.

“We feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to work with Kim and Larry Lewis as they grow ZTV-11 to new heights,” said Gloria Cooper.  “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and we’re all staying ‘local and lovin’ it’.” 

 WTZT will continue to broadcast local programming, as well as programming from COZI TV, a division of NBCUniversal. The network airs classic television series from the 1950s to the 2000s.

The new ownership agreement is pending approval by the Federal Communications Commission.

Jim Parker Tribute is Saturday at Hobbs Island Pit Stop

During his senior year of high school in Amarillo, Texas, in 1961, Jim Parker met his future.

Jerry Gilmer, who led the band Fireballs in that era, was trying to teach Parker’s sister how to play the theme from the television show “Peter Gunn” on the guitar. Gilmer gave her brother a guitar.

“I bought some Black Diamond strings and played until my fingers bled,’’ Parker said. “I haven’t stopped.’’

Songwriter enthusiasts will want to circle this Saturday, Dec. 21, on their holiday calendar.

Parker, one of Huntsville’s most influential musicians, will be celebrated at Hobbs Island Pit Stop on what owner Pat Nickel has dubbed “Jim Parker Day.’’ From noon until 4 p.m., other area musicians will pay tribute to Parker, who will also play and sing. Nickel, also a longtime figure on the local music scene, will also perform.

Nickel called the event a “meet and greet.’’

“Jim will play for at least an hour,’’ Nickel said. “His friends will play and I’ll likely play, too.’’

Parker was part of 1960s’ bands The Illusions and The Kitchen Cinq. He transitioned into country music and co-wrote songs recorded by John Anderson, including the award-winning “I’ve Got a Feeling’’ as well as “Chicken Truck.’’

He moved to Alabama in 1985 when his uncle, the late Charles Pierce, said he’d build a house for Parker and his wife of now 43 years, Lisa. Parker entered the real estate business but never left music behind.

“(Anderson) got real successful,’’ Parker said, “and I got into real estate.’’

The Pit Stop is an eclectic convenience store on Hobbs Island. In addition to assorted food, soft drink, beer, fishing tackle and the like, the store offers pool, darts, live music, music lessons and sells local art.

Parker, who will turn 77 Saturday, lives in Madison. He founded the Huntsville sub-chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International and has hosted the dinner theater-style “Jim Parker’s Songwriters Series’’ at the Von Braun Center Playhouse for 15 years.

The Series’ first 2020 show will feature Ricky Ray, Alan Rhody, and Dark Waters Project on Jan. 10.

“He’s been an influence here, Nashville, Muscle Shoals and the area for a long time,’’ Nickel said. “I think we’ll have a big turnout. We hope to have a lot of influential musicians.’’

Local renowned artist Don Howard will be among the special guests.

Following the singer/songwriter event and as darkness closes in, there will be a bonfire and “drum circle’’ in the Pit Stop’s courtyard behind the store. The circle, a hands, drum and percussion jam session of sorts, will be led by another former 1960s local icon — Ivy Joe Milan of Ivy Joe and The Snowballs fame.

As for his birthday celebration at the Pit Stop, Parker said, “I always enjoy another year (on earth) moving around the sun.’’


New MidCity Theater to Have Largest Screen in Alabama

There are big things going on in Huntsville’s MidCity District.

And the latest is a story right out of Hollywood.

Well, maybe not right out of Hollywood, but it is all about movies.

The new Touchstar Luxury Cinemas MidCity is expected to open in summer 2021.

Touchstar Cinemas has announced plans for a flagship location at MidCity.

A new 50,000 square-foot movie theater will feature the largest screen in Alabama as part of its state-of-the-art premium experience featuring 14 wall-to-wall screens, 4k laser projection with 3D viewing, as well as Dolby Atmos and DTX immersive sound.

Touchstar currently operates the Touchstar Cinemas Madison Square facility that was originally an outparcel to the former Madison Square Mall. That theater will remain open while the new Touchstar Luxury Cinemas MidCity is being built. The closing of the current movie theater will be planned simultaneously with the opening of the new location.

Touchstar Cinemas MidCity will feature in-theater dining and VIP Suites with a private lounge and full-service bar. The seating in the 21+ VIP Suites will consist of movie pods – pairs of luxurious heated reclining seats with a privacy enclosure and push button call service. The VIP Suites will be available for private or corporate events.

“We will still have traditional concessions, an expanded dining menu, and the food delivery service that we currently provide at Madison Square,” said Karishma Dattani, CEO of Touchstar Cinemas. “Established in 2001, Touchstar Cinemas was the first to bring recliners to Alabama, and the comfort of these well-known fully reclining large seats and spacious daybeds will continue in the new theater.

“We are proud to bring the first theater of this caliber to the Huntsville and Madison communities, This opportunity allows us to expand our local presence and continue to be part of the revitalization and growth of North Alabama.”

Located adjacent to the hotels and entertainment core at the terminus of MidCity Drive, the theater plans to open by summer 2021. 

“Touchstar complements the culture-forward entertainment destination we are developing at MidCity,” said Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies, the developer of MidCity District, “The new Touchstar theater will offer visitors and residents an elevated cinematic option that fits well with our commitment to create great experiences in every aspect of MidCity.”

Once complete, MidCity will include 350,000 square feet of retail, dining, and entertainment space; approximately 400,000 square feet of high-tech office space; 1,400 residential units; and approximately 650 hotel rooms.




Rocket City Trash Pandas Offer 23-game Ticket Plans

MADISON — By popular demand, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have announced the sale of partial-season ticket mini-plans for 2020.

“As our fanbase knows, the Trash Pandas have been overwhelmed by sales of full season tickets, far beyond what we had anticipated; with more than 1,600 sold, there are fewer than 200 remaining,” said team President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “We are also well aware many of our fans can’t commit to attend 70 home games.

“Our fans constantly ask about partial-season ticket plans. We’ve heard them, and in response to those requests, we are offering three varied 23-game mini-plans.”

Each mini-plan consists of 23 home games, but none include Opening Day. Only full-season ticket holders are guaranteed a seat for Opening Day.

The mini-plans are for box seats only, and include these benefits:

  • Just a single-year commitment
  • 10 percent discount at the Trash Pandas Junkyard and Emporium team stores
  • 20 percent off parking

“These mini-plans make the perfect Christmas gift for all the baseball fans in your family,” Nelson said.

The three mini-plans are named Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and each has its own specialty. Specific dates for each plan are available on the team’s website

The Mercury Plan is the All-American plan, including Memorial Day and the big 3rd of July game and spectacular fireworks show.

The Gemini Plan is perfect for families with 5 Sunday games and 4 Saturday games, as well as the final home game of the season.

The Apollo Plan is a weekend special with the most weekend games of the three plans. It also includes the second home game of the season.

Each mini-plan is priced at $345 per seat. All three plans are available for sale at the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street Town Centre, also by calling 256-325-1403, fans can email or visit

Von Braun Center Unveils LED Lighting System in Propst Arena

It was an event fit for a king.

Or, as in this case, fit for the reigning Southern Professional Hockey League champion Huntsville Havoc.

In last Friday night’s home debut for the Havoc, the Von Braun Center unveiled its LED lighting system in the Propst Arena.

The upgraded lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

“Over time, the previous lighting system became less efficient with bulbs requiring frequent replacement, as well as producing a noticeable background noise during events,” said VBC Executive Director Steve Maples.  “Additionally, the previous fixtures were extremely limited in the special effects and production capabilities compared to newer, sophisticated lighting systems.”

The upgraded lighting system enhanced Friday’s hockey game with strobing light effects, and full-red lighting to coincide with the team’s colors.  The lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

The new LED lighting system brightens the arena, further enhancing the fans’ experience.

Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting manufactured the LED system that also features 12 new LED video panels manufactured by Daktronics.

The scope of the new lighting system included the installation of 86 fixtures with programmable color-changing capabilities.  The system is estimated to deliver an annual energy savings of $45,132, along with a reduction of approximately $8,923 in annual arena lighting maintenance costs.  The $340,000 lighting upgrade is being paid for through the VBC’s capital funding.

The system features full color-tuning fixtures to enhance events with colorful light shows and other lighting experiences.  With this upgrade, the options for a completely integrated lighting system for events is unlimited and will result in an enhanced fan experience, as well as improved viewing opportunities of both live and televised events.

The new lighting system activates instantly and takes less time to become fully operational as compared to the previous metal halide fixtures. Also, the programmable controls allow operators the ability to immediately change lighting schemes.

The new LED lighting system offers a wide range of adjustable color temperatures, and consistent lighting capabilities giving VBC staff and performers out-of-the-box opportunities for creating captivating visual moments.

Welcome to Mars: VBC’s New Out of This World Music Hall

Rendering shows the interior of Mars Music Hall.

Welcome to Huntsville, Rocket City USA and home to all things related to space.

What better way to ring in the New Year than with a grand opening of a music venue with a name to match?

Introducing the Von Braun Center’s newest gem: Mars Music Hall.

It’s been just a little over a year since the August 2018 groundbreaking and progress has been right on target.

Held at the VBC’s Propst Arena, the special name reveal event Tuesday night had a tie in with the season’s introduction of the Huntsville Havoc hockey team.

“We’re getting really close to opening,” VBC Executive Director Steve Maples said of Mars. “It’s an exciting time to be in Huntsville.

A new LED lighting system in Propst Arena was unveiled. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“The City of Huntsville is developing at a rapid pace and is constantly attracting out-of-market visitors and enhancing the quality of life for local residents.  Adding this size and type of music venue to the heart of the city is an important step in continuing that growth.”

VBC Executive Director Steve Maples (Photo/Steve Babin)

Along with meeting the team and viewing a demonstration of the newly installed LED lights; the crowd was shown a video presentation and sampling of the 2020 concert lineup.

The video featured updated renderings by Matheny Goldmon of Rhythm on Monroe – a full-service restaurant and rooftop bar connected to Mars that will open in the spring.

“Rhythm will be the perfect spot for a pre-show dinner, after-show cocktails, or just a great dining spot without attending an event,” said Maples.

Rhythm, aptly named for the different types of musical performances hosted at the VBC on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street, will serve locally sourced ingredients and provide fresh urban fare.

It will feature craft brews, a curated wine list, and handmade cocktails that guests will be able to enjoy while sitting near fire pits at the rooftop bar overlooking Big Spring Park.

Street view rendering shows entrance to Mars and Rhythm. (Matheny Goldmon)

Mars Music Hall will open its doors Jan. 3 with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The event is predicted to be a sellout. With a 1,575-person capacity, this intimate setting will offer great acoustics for a variety of events ranging from concerts to comedy acts and everything in between.

Among the acts announced for the concert lineup will be Black Jacket Symphony, Tig Notaro, Chris Janson, Graham Nash, Jo Dee Messina and many others.  To see the full lineup of announced performances and to learn about purchasing tickets, visit

“I’m excited about this music hall,” said Maples. “Huntsville needs this music hall. The venue is so cool and has an intimate feeling.

“Nashville is excited about the music hall and is sending us a lot of bands.”





Cirque du Soleil ‘Axel’ Balances Artistry, Athleticism and Logistics

Cirque du Soleil has single handedly reinvented the concept of circus arts.

‘Axel’ combines music, skating and gymnastics. (Photo/Lori Connors)

Starting out as a group of 20 street performers in 1984, the company eventually blossomed into the Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.

And, for the past 35 years, Cirque du Soleil has been taking its show on the road throughout Canada and the U.S. There are also permanent Cirque du Soleil productions in Las Vegas and Walt Disney World.

Needless to say, organizing a Cirque road production is no easy feat.

With a cast of 90 traveling to a different city each week, significant capital and logistic strategy is a must.

Expenditures, in the form of salaries, as well as promotion and other budgetary items can add up quickly. Recouping the initial investment naturally depends on ticket and merchandise sales.

“Axel,” Cirque’s 48th original production recently made its way through Huntsville at the Von Braun Center. The show focuses on Axel, a young artist-musician finding his place in the world through his art and music.

Performers rehearse their high-flying skating acrobatics. (Photo/Steve Babin)

With songs seamlessly interwoven with an original score, “Axel” is a feast for the eyes and ears; ice-skating acrobatic expertise that combines technical skill with impeccable grace and agility. The lighting and real-time videography seductively draws the audience into Axel’s world of color and sound.

One reviewer likened it to “Ice Capades on steroids.”

After debuting in Cornwall, Ont., this month, “Axel” crossed the U.S. border into New York for a stop in Syracuse.

“ ‘Axel’ is just getting started,” said Casey Echols, regional publicist for Cirque du Soleil. “This (Huntsville) is the second stop in the US; the next stop will be Pensacola.”

For senior publicity manager Julie Desmarais, she is just getting started on her fourth tour.

“ ‘Axel’ is my fourth tour,” said Julie Desmarais, who has been working with Cirque for the past nine years. “We will be touring up to 40 cities; ‘Axel’ will be touring the U.S. for the next two years.”

And, production starts with the creation team; developing a concept and bringing it to life.

“There are many hours, many people involved,” said Desmarais. “There’s the producer, director of creation that puts together a team. That team includes the stage director, writer, music composer, video, lights, and sound crew. There are seven months of developing a story, sketching out the costumes, composing the music, casting, rehearsing

It takes a special touch to meld fire and ice and not yield water. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“A lot of training goes into it, during the staging and validation period, there’s eight hours of training daily. Each performer has their own schedule and routine. Staging and validation is where speed and heights are checked, validating cues that they’ll be performing. Training ends roughly three hours before the show begins, after everything has been validated.”

There’s also the logistics of traveling cross country with cast members and trucks filled with stage and sound equipment, and costumes. There are 90 people on the tour and the group represents 22 nationalities. There are 41 people in the performing cast, including five musicians and Axel who sings and plays guitar.

After 25 years working in London’s West End, Julia O’Brien has spent the past eight years as the head of wardrobe with Cirque du Soleil.

Although the costumes are made elsewhere, the team of four in wardrobe is responsible for repairing and maintaining the costumes, so they are fresh and ready to go for each performance.

Trapeze artists rehearse their routine above the VBC ice. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The costumes also have a unique feature.

“Each costume is fitted with a spotlight tracking system with two channels, one installed in each shoulder of the performer’s costume,” said O’Brien. “Somewhere above the ice, there’s an infrared light that ‘magically’ follows each skater. Skaters move so fast.

“It’s definitely easier to have the tracking system than having a human keeping up with the skaters.”

The plusses and minuses of the job are one and the same, according to O’Brien. She loves the travel, but it’s also physically demanding,

“We move every single week,” she said. “We have 16 trucks to load and unload. Working in different venues every week, there’s a different challenge.”

Some of those challenges included working in older facilities that haven’t been upgraded; or repurposed facilities that may not have been originally designed for large-scale performances.

“I’ve always wanted a job where I could combine traveling with working,” said Desmarais. “Cirque du Soleil is a company I’ve always wanted to work for. “The performers are passionate, very dedicated. It makes everything a lot more fun when you’re away from home.

“It’s not a myth to say my family is here; we are like family. With so many different cultures, it’s fun to learn from everybody.”


‘Dingo’ Back in the Fold at WDRM; Joins ‘Dan and Josie Morning Show’

If you tuned into WDRM FM this week and thought you heard a familiar voice, your ears did not deceive you.

Brent “Dingo” Crank has returned to the country music station and joined the “Dan and Josie Morning Show,” which broadcasts weekday mornings from 5-10 a.m. and Saturdays from 6-10 a.m.

Dingo joins veteran show host Dan McClain and his partner, Josie Lane, to help listeners kick-start their mornings. Consistently rated No.1 in the market, the show focuses on family, patriotism, humor and the very best country music as well as the latest news, traffic and weather updates.

“I had the pleasure of working with Dingo when he was first hired at 102.1 WDRM, so I know first-hand his passion for the station, listeners and the country music format,” said Carmelita Palmer, market president for iHeartMedia Huntsville. “He made such an impact here that, even though he’s been gone from the market for more than eight years, I continue to have listeners request that we ‘bring back Dingo.’

“I’m thrilled that we are able to honor their request.”

Dingo returns to the Huntsville market from Louisville, where he most recently served as the morning show host on WQNU. Before Louisville, Dingo hosted morning shows in Phoenix, Myrtle Beach and Destin. He began his radio career at 102.1 WDRM and is a graduate of the University of South Alabama.

“I’ve had a blast doing radio all over the country – I’ve seen some amazing things, met some wonderful people, but nothing ever compares to home,” said Dingo. “It’s great to be back in the Tennessee Valley and back where it all started for me on 102.1 WDRM.”

With Dingo in the lineup, the station puts itself in a position to continue its hold on the important morning drive market.

“Dan and Josie have been dominating this market for years, but to add a new element like Dingo to the show puts us in a position to grow the WDRM morning show,” said Erich West, senior vice president of programming for iHeartMedia Huntsville. “I know listeners will enjoy Dingo’s upbeat energy and chemistry that he has with Dan and Josie.”

iHeartMedia Huntsville owns and operates WDRM-FM, WTAK-FM, WQRV-FM, WBHP/WHOS AM and FM, KISS-FM 106.5 and ALT 92.9.