Rocket City Trash Pandas Announce Partnership with Pepsi

MADISON – If you want a soft drink while watching the Rocket City Trash Pandas, all you will have to do is say, “Pepsi, please.”

The Trash Pandas and Buffalo Rock Company-Pepsi announced a long- term strategic partnership to include non-alcoholic beverage exclusivity and stadium sponsorships. The Trash Pandas have Pepsi, as the exclusive non-alcoholic provider of beverages for their new stadium opening in April 2020.

“Buffalo Rock-Pepsi is a company that aligns perfectly with our values and approach to deliver a fun, affordable family experience,” said Ralph Nelson, Trash Pandas CEO/managing partner. “We have been so impressed with the entire leadership team at Buffalo Rock-Pepsi and they’ve been with us at every major BallCorps event, long before this partnership was formalized.

“With over 35 years serving North Alabama, Buffalo Rock has consistently demonstrated their commitment to this community, so we are so happy to be their partners.”

As part of the agreement, Buffalo Rock Company-Pepsi has been named a Founding Partner of the Trash Pandas and the new stadium. The Pepsi brand and logo will be prominently featured throughout the stadium, and the main entry gate where over 500,000 annual visitors will enter the venue will be known as Pepsi Gate.

“The community’s excitement as evidence in the Rocket City Trash Panda’s success in branding and merchandise sales, fuels our confidence in this being a great opportunity for both parties” said Matthew Dent, president/COO for Buffalo Rock Company-Pepsi. “Our company is known for keeping families and community its focus. And, by becoming a strategic partner with a team bringing baseball back to North Alabama, we will be able to continue fulfilling our mission in the community for years to come.”

For Trash Pandas season ticket information, visit www.trashpandasbaseball.com.

Tourism/Travel Creates Record-Setting $1.4B Economic Impact Here

The Huntsville-Madison County area continues to be a major tourism and travel attraction with 2018 setting another record.

According to figures released by the Huntsville/Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Alabama Tourism Department, the economic impact of travel and tourism to Madison County reached its highest levels ever.

About 3.4 million people visited Madison County last year, supporting more than 17,200 jobs and creating an economic impact of $1.4 billion – a 7.6 percent increase in spending on hotels, restaurants, shopping and transportation.

“Travel and tourism in Madison County is thriving,” said CVB President/CEO Judy Ryals. “More people
than ever are coming to see all the amazing things we have to offer as a community; they’re experiencing our arts scene and our incredible dining options, they’re witnessing first-hand how Huntsville built the U.S. space program and sent man to the moon. One
thing is for sure – once people visit Huntsville, we know they’ll be back. We are proud of how the travel and tourism industry supports local jobs, and we are honored to create a better quality of life for locals and our visitors.”

This year is also expected to be record-setting with celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing and the state bicentennial on tap.

The moon landing anniversary has garnered international media attention for Huntsville, landing the city a spot in The New York Times’ coveted “52 Places to Go in 2019” list.

Stovehouse Grand Opening Set for May 24

What do Huntsville neighborhood pools and the Stovehouse have in common?

On May 24, they will be open to the public, garnering much fanfare; kicking off the Memorial Day weekend and all that comes with endless summer evenings.

The Martin Stovehouse, circa 1929, has been totally reconfigured and reimagined to create an enticing and eclectic variety of restaurants, cocktail bars, coffee houses, boutique and unique retailing, collaborative workspaces, event and entertainment venues, courtyards, play spaces, greenspaces, and more.

The assortment of restaurants offers something for just about every taste.

Built on the foundational bricks of a bygone era, the Stovehouse is Huntsville’s largest “work-play-eat-drink” and events space. The lines are decidedly blurred between worktime and playtime here, as well as the merging of the modern with historic.

The Stovehouse delivers the charm of small-town culture fused with high-tech urban energy.

With ample parking on both sides of the building, there’ll be plenty of room for everyone. There’s a street and a footpath in development that will connect the Stovehouse with Campus 805, thus enhancing the potential for jointly hosted conferencing and special event bookings.

In any case, the convenient location will allow for people to participate in several events on the same evening, without having to move their car.

Recently at the Stovehouse’s recent “soft opening,” guests had the opportunity to “dip their toes into the water.” – quite literally, as it was pouring down rain for the entire event.

Despite the deluge, the place was packed with the crowd checking out the newly configured property, to experience the Pourhouse and check out the rooftop bar while listening to the sounds of Spectrum Jazz.

The funky and very eclectic Company Store was also open for the event, complete with unique offerings of craft sodas, lemonade, and candy.

The store is truly a paradise for kids and nostalgic adults.

A Food Hall of Kitchens, Breweries and Food Trucks Coming to Town Madison

MADISON — At his State of the City Address in March, Madison Mayor Paul Finley told the audience to buckle up for some big announcements coming out of the new Town Madison development this spring. Today, the Breland Companies delivered a big one!

Rendering shows layout of Town Madison around the baseball stadium and Food Hall

The latest addition is a sprawling Food Hall of 18 kitchens curated by local and regional chefs, two breweries, and several stationary food trucks in an outdoor dining area. A central bar with indoor/outdoor seating will serve as an anchor, and developers are talking to several local and regional restaurants about joining the unique dining lineup. 

The Food Hall can be seen to the right in this rendering.

Designed by Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart, an international design firm based in Atlanta, the Food Hall will feature a large outdoor event space and covered stage area for a variety of events including a showcase for songwriters, concerts and big screen showings of various sporting events.

“Town Madison is taking another step toward our goal to provide a new experience in North Alabama living,” said Louis Breland. “We toured some of the finest food halls in the country looking for the right concept. A great food hall becomes a central gathering spot and brings unique energy to a community.

“Along with the (Rocket City) Trash Pandas stadium, the Food Hall and plaza area will become the place to be before a game or any time people want to meet with friends and share new experiences.”

The Food Hall, a partnership between Breland and Fuqua Development of Atlanta, joins the growing roster of tenants at Town Madison including the baseball stadium; several hotels including the avid Hotel, Home2 Suites and Margaritaville Resort Hotel; restaurants; national retailers such as Duluth Trading Co.; luxury apartments and residential communities.

Construction on the Food Hall begins this summer and tenants will be announced by the end of the year.

It is slated to open next spring – in time for the first pitch.

The Poppy and The Mercantile: Pub, Music Venue Add to Downtown Vibe

Imagine if one could travel back in time to post-World War I Great Britain. What would it be like to sit at the bar in one of those cozy neighborhood pubs? PBD Holdings principals, Paul Daigle, Brian Peoples, and David Clarke think it would be something like their newest venture, The Poppy, which is slated for opening this month.

When it came to project support, “Things literally fell into place,” said Clarke.

With a few introductions made on PBD’s behalf, it didn’t take long before community influencers such as Chris Russell at Cadence Bank, Chad Emerson at Downtown Huntsville, Margaret Anne Goldsmith, and several others came on board.

“It was very well-received,” said Clarke. “Huntsville is very business friendly. We were the first to admit that we needed to build a team, one with good business acumen.

“People we could trust, and we listened. So many people have helped get to this venture going, they’ve been incredible.”

The pub’s name was inspired by the John McCrae’s 1915 poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

“We didn’t want it to be cliché or cheesy to the point that it would alienate non-veterans, but we wanted to honor the ‘Great War’ – World War I,” Clarke said.

When it came to develop the pub theme, Shane Brown, PBD program manager, stepped in to help. He was so impressed with the venture, he invested as a minority owner. A native of Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England, Shane is a true subject matter expert on pub authenticity.

Inspired by Old No. 7, Brown’s hometown pub in Barnsley, the interior is 1,400 square feet of history recreated.

“We wanted to maintain a conversational atmosphere with a laid back, neighborhood pub vibe,” Clarke said. “A place where folks can indulge in really good beers, English beers, cask beers, a niche that’s been overlooked.” In addition to English beers, there will also be English ciders.

With a 40-foot bar, said Clarke, “We’re really excited about the bar layout, taps on either end, beer engines in the center, it’s a very traditional set-up.”

For those unfamiliar with a beer engine, Clarke said, “There’s a different texture of beer with a beer engine, flavor profiles are easier to discern, smoother.”

The décor will be red oak, stained black, dark red leather, cast brass footrails, and stamped tin ceilings.

Pieces from artist Jacqueline Hurley’s “War Poppy” collection will also adorn the walls.

By the time The Poppy is up and running, The Mercantile will follow suit in late June. Destined to be a space conducive to larger music acts, and hosting special events, such as wedding receptions, The Mercantile promises to be that stop along the way between Birmingham and Nashville, where a national touring act can stop for the night; play gig, grab a meal, do some laundry, and get a decent night’s rest.

The designated music “consigliere,” Jake Peters, Quantaphonics guitarist, said, “Huntsville doesn’t have a venue quite like this. The Mercantile is the perfect space to comfortably accommodate 700-750 people.”

Like spokes on a wheel, Huntsville is geographically central to Nashville, Atlanta, and Birmingham, those bigger cities that are usually on a band’s touring itinerary. The plan isn’t to reinvent Crossroads, that’s not the objective.

“The idea is to create a space that puts Huntsville on the map for major events,” said Clarke.

As a venue “Built by Musicians for Musicians,” there will be significant investment in state-of-the-art sound, light, and stage, to encourage national acts into making a stop in Huntsville, on their way to their next big gig.

For special events, there will be a catering kitchen with lots of electrical capacity. When securing a venue for the October fundraiser, “Chili for Charity,” event co-chair Pam Bouska said, “The Mercantile is the one event space in town that can safely accommodate 35 crockpots of chili without blowing fuses.”

“We are giving back, working with local community foundations, and providing space to nonprofits for special events,” said Clarke. “We are building good long-term relationships and providing something that the community can have as their own.”

Now, There are Two Days to Experience the Best of Madison Shopping, Food and Music

MADISON — Two of Madison’s most popular spring events will be on separate days this year to accommodate the participation of more restaurants, pubs and breweries, according to the Madison Chamber of Commerce.

The events – Madison Market and Bites & Brews Food & Beer Tasting – are known as Taste the Spirit of Madison and have been an all-day shopping experience followed by an evening of food, beverage and music.

This year, however, Madison Market will be this Saturday, April 6, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Insanity Complex on Hughes Road.

Bites & Brews will be Tuesday, April 9, from 6-9 at Insanity.

“It is difficult for local restaurants to juggle staff and food preparation on one of their busiest nights of the week, Saturday, with a separate offsite event,” said Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. “In order to increase participation, we decided to move the Bites & Brews event to Tuesday night.

“If the uptick in food and beverage participation this year is any indication, we expect it to be a successful change for everyone.”

Hosted by the Madison Chamber and sponsored by Madison Hospital, more than 60 local retail businesses will set up booths at Madison Market, offering shoppers a wide variety of goods and services from martial arts to custom teas.

Madison Market is free and will feature health and wellness screenings, compliments of Madison Hospital; discounts on skating, mini-golf, and climbing; and karate, dance and futbol demonstrations. A New Leash on Life will be onsite with shelter dogs looking for forever homes. The LifeSouth Bloodmobile will be available for blood donors.

And, of course, there will be plenty of food trucks offering choices from ice cream to barbecue.

On Tuesday night, more than 25 restaurants and breweries are on display at Bites & Brews, sponsored by Mangia Italian Restaurant.

Attendees can sample coffee and beignets to local craft beer and scrumptious desserts. There will be Greek, Italian, Asian, and pure Americana including popular New Orleans, Texan, urban, and good ol’ Southern cuisine.

Local band, Groove will provide music and there will also be a silent auction.

Tickets for Bites & Brews Food and Beer Tasting are $20 per person in advance and $25 at the door. You must be 21 years or older to sample the brews and an ID and wristband will be required.

“The Spirit of the Taste of Madison offers residents and visitors two days and two ways to experience our amazing City,” said Honeycutt. “We consider it a celebration of everything Madison!”

For tickets, contact the Madison Chamber of Commerce or call Honeycutt at 256-325-8317 ext. 1; or email pam@madisonalchamber.com.

Neither rain, nor more rain, nor even more rain can slow the progress at MidCity Huntsville

While constant rain, some heavy enough to cause flooding, has been a seemingly daily companion to the Tennessee Valley community, the wet conditions haven’t slowed progress at MidCity Huntsville.

“We only had three good days in December,’’ said Nadia Niakossary, project coordinator for developer RCP Companies. “But we figured that into the time frame. We’re still on schedule.’’

The multi-use MidCity campus occupies the former Madison Square Mall property and surrounding area. Ground was broken in 2017, the first business on site opened in August and completion date is 2022.

Dave & Buster’s is nearing completion and scheduled to open this summer

Niakossary said work was proceeding on current projects despite weather delays.

“We are diligently working on the construction of the University Drive-facing retail blocks,’’ she said. “When visiting MidCity today, you’ll see five vertical buildings. Top Golf and The Camp with Alchemy Coffee are open for business.

“The Camp just reopened (in March) for springtime, with the food trucks and bar open Thursday through Sunday and the coffee shop open seven days a week. We have a diverse lineup of live music and unique events happening there every weekend.’’

High Point Climbing and Fitness is nearing completion in the center of the frontage and anticipates an opening this spring, Niakossary said. In front of High Point, REI Co-op’s foundation has been set and steel frames are going up.

The opening for REI Co-op, an outdoors store, will be the first for the company in Alabama.

Also, the Dave & Buster’s building is also nearing completion on the west side of MidCity, near Old Monrovia Road. Dave & Buster’s is on schedule to open this Summer.

Construction continues on the REI Co-op store, the first in Alabama

Meanwhile, Niakossary said Pies & Pints is under construction and the building that houses Wahlburgers and other commercial uses has site work complete in preparation for the foundation.

“We are in the design process for the $30 million Aloft Hotel, The Point and Jake’s Mews,’’ she said. “We are also in preliminary stages of the $75 million, 300-unit multi-family residential (complex) over the retail block in the center of the project. We’re also working on a $20 million mixed-use, office-over-retail building.’’

According to the MidCity website, when completed, the campus will include a total of 350,000 square feet of specialty retail, 150,000 of high-tech office space, a wide range of dining options, the 100-plis room hotel, and 560 amenity-rich residential units.

AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown Open for Business

The AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown, the first AC Hotels by Marriott in Alabama, is officially open to guests.

Adjacent to the Von Braun Center and across the street from Big Spring Park, the hotel includes six levels and 120 guest rooms, as well as co-working spaces, event space for up to 200 and multiple beverage and food experiences.

Combining elements of Huntsville’s historic past and contemporary European design to create a modern but comfortable look and feel, the hotel allows guests to co-work by day, and relax and socialize by night.

“We are delighted to introduce the AC Hotels brand to the Rocket City,” said Srinath Yedla, president and CEO of Yedla Management Co., which will manage the property. “AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown remains true to the brand’s philosophy and centers on a frictionless experience for on-the-go guests.”

Developed by Doradus Partners in partnership with RCP Cos., the hotel was the 10th U.S. location for AC Hotels, a global joint venture with Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan.

The hotel’s three flexible meeting rooms are named after the city’s historic mills — Lincoln, Lowe and Merrimack. Combined, they make up The Gallery at Big Spring Park — an event space for up to 200 guests that overlooks the downtown park and is perfect for wedding receptions.

Attached to the event space is The Veranda — the hotel’s second-story terrace bar overlooking Big Spring Park. The Veranda is set to open this summer.

Atlanta chef and restaurateur Marc Taft was tapped to develop the hotel’s signature cocktail — “The Starry Night,” which is a nod to Huntsville’s integral role Huntsville in America’s space program as well as its burgeoning arts scene.

The AC Kitchen serves a European-inspired continental breakfast selection of flaky croissants, savory egg tarts and Nespresso coffee. A signature piece in all AC Hotels is the Berkel slicer, offering visitors hand-cut meats including prosciutto.

AC Hotel Huntsville Downtown is the first tenant for CityCentre at Big Spring, a $100 million, mixed-use development. City Centre includes 30,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 277 upscale apartment units and an artisanal food hall.

Popular Madison Lunch Spot Main Street Cafe Now Open for Dinner

MADISON — For those who don’t know, the City of Madison was once called Madison Station and it grew up around the Madison Train Depot. Sitting alongside the train tracks that still sees two trains per day, in the 1950s the building held the original City Hall and a two-cell jail.

Tony and Cindy Sensenberger renovated the depot building in 2000 and opened what has become one of Madison’s favorite lunch spots – the Main Street Café. They added a kitchen and outdoor dining area. The jail cells? Private dining rooms!

“From day one when I came here in September, some of the very first questions I got was ‘When are you guys going to open for dinner?’” said co-owner Tammy Hall. She and her husband John bought into the Main Street Café last October. “We finally got the logistics worked out and we are thankful for everyone who helped us take this journey.

Main Street Café is known for its lunch menu of salads, sandwiches, and quiche, as well as yummy chicken, pork, and fish entrees, and even an Italian flair. The new evening menu will reprise some of the lunch entrée favorites but will also feature steaks and fresh recipes for fish and pasta.

The café is also famous for its strawberry pretzel salad, which mixes layers of sweet and salty into a concoction suitable more for dessert than a salad.

“With the expansion of downtown Madison, the new Avenue Madison, the baseball team and all the people it will draw into downtown, the city wants a vibrant downtown nightlife,” said Hall. “Expanding our hours to include dinner is part of the agreement.”

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, Madison Mayor Paul Finley applauded the Main Street Café owners for their vision of downtown.

“Thank you for making the Main Street Café a place people can enjoy both day and night,” he said.

The new hours are 5-8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 5-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations for parties of more than five people are accepted, too.

‘Tis Time for the Wearin’ o’ the Green and the Spendin’ of It …

If all you know about St. Patrick’s Day is shamrocks, leprechauns, and Lucky Charms breakfast cereal, you might be surprised to learn there is an economic message wrapped up in all that ádh mór coming your way March 17.

This year, the 42nd annual Ellen McAnelly Memorial St. Patrick’s Day Parade will draw 1,500 participants and more than 40,000 onlookers along the downtown Huntsville route, bringing a lot of “green” to merchants in its path!

May your pockets be heavy, and your heart be light, may good luck pursue you each morning and night – Irish Proverb

Luck is an integral part of life and prosperity in the Irish tradition but the phrase “Luck of the Irish” is an American expression and not an Irish one.

According to Edward T. O’Donnell, an author and professor of history at Holy Cross College, the phrase took hold during the California Gold Rush in the second half of the 19th century when many of the most successful and famous gold and silver miners were of Irish and American Irish descent.

There is little doubt that at least a little bit of luck has been involved in growing St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and Huntsville’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade into one of the city’s most popular holiday celebrations over the years.

Ellen McAnelly moved to Huntsville in 1977 from Galway, Ireland. Wanting to introduce authentic Irish tradition, culture, food, and hospitality to North Alabama, she opened Huntsville’s first Irish restaurant – Finnegan’s Pub – at 3310 South Memorial Parkway and the following year, she started what was known for many years as the Huntsville St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The short route followed a southerly path along the west side frontage road of Memorial Parkway, ending at Finnegan’s.

McAnelly died in 2009 and, shortly thereafter, the parade moved to downtown where it was renamed in her honor.

“The Huntsville community really lost a landmark when Finnegan’s closed in 2013,” said Anya Douglas, president of the Irish Society of North Alabama and the parade director. “A lot of people met their spouses there, accepted marriage proposals, and conceived children after a night of fun at Finnegan’s.

“The original patrons recall many special occasions and events occurring at the original Finnegan’s Pub.”

May the road rise up to meet you; may the wind be always at your back Irish Blessing

“That first year, there were 18 people in the parade and almost no audience,” said Sonnie Hereford, one of the first and only remaining parade coordinators from 1978. “There are only 17 people in the picture taken for the newspaper that day because one of the participants had skipped work and he was afraid if he showed up in a picture in the paper, he would get fired!

 “The funny thing about the history of the parade is that it grew in popularity and size almost exclusively because it had been mocked as the smallest St. Patrick’s Day Parade ever.”

The parade took another big hit just days before the 1997 event when then-Huntsville Mayor Loretta Spencer denied the group a permit because of a series of fender benders in 1996 allegedly caused by drivers on the Parkway gazing down on the parade marching along the frontage road.

At the last minute, they received an invitation to move the parade to downtown Madison where it had its largest participation and audience yet. For that one year, it was called the Madison County St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day Anonymous Irish Saying

“The parade is community inclusive even if you are not Irish,” said Douglas. “It is free to participate and free to attend but it brings a tremendous amount of business to the downtown area including shopping, dining, and entertainment.”

The most anticipated parade event is the Blessing of the Flags at St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church on Jefferson Street. 

“When Father Bill (William M. Kelly, S.D.S.) performs the blessing ceremony over the Irish and American flags, it really has special meaning for the American Irish community and leaves everyone, Irish or not, with a ‘Wow’ feeling,” said Douglas.

Another popular attraction at the parade is the Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ float.

Father Jeremiah F. Trecy moved to Huntsville in 1860 because of health problems and established a parish here. The church was built of native stone from Monte Sano Mountain, but construction was halted during the Civil War while the Hibernians prepared hospital facilities and tended to the wounded on both sides of the conflict.

‘Tis better to spend money like there’s no tomorrow than to spend tonight like there’s no money!Anonymous

Since it isn’t St. Patrick’s Day without some libation and food, many pubs and shops along the parade route will be offering St. Patrick’s Day specials.

The parade’s main sponsor Straight to Ale, Keegan’s Public House (who bought Finnegan’s and moved it downtown), and the Jefferson Street Pub are all opening at 6 a.m. serving an authentic Kegs & Eggs Irish Breakfast prior to the parade, which starts at 11:30. Green Bluff’s Brewery, Pints & Pixels, and The Marini Bar & Bistro will offer all-day live Irish music and $1 green beer along the parade route.

While you’re there, be sure and lift a glass in a famous Irish toast: Here’s to a long life and a merry one. A quick death and an easy one. A pretty girl and an honest one. A cold pint and another one!