Trash Pandas Offered 10-year Affiliation Contract with Angels

MADISON  – The Rocket City Trash Pandas have received a Professional Development License offer as the Double-A Minor League Baseball affiliate for the Los Angeles Angels in Major League Baseball’s new player development structure.

“When we started talks to purchase the Mobile BayBears and move them to Rocket City, one of the most attractive aspects of the deal was their affiliation with the Angels, an organization I have admired as long as I’ve been in baseball,” said Trash Pandas President & CEO Ralph Nelson. “We were excited to extend that relationship for four years following the 2018 season and equally thrilled to know it will now last even longer.”

The Professional Development License from the Angels is offered as a 10-year contract, which will run through 2030. This will position the Trash Pandas as one of the 120 affiliated teams in the restructured Minor League Baseball organization. Each Major League Baseball team will now have four affiliates – Triple-A, Double-A, High A, and Low A – and MiLB operations will be handled out of the MLB headquarters in New York.

The Trash Pandas are set to play their inaugural season at the new, state-of-the-art Toyota Field in 2021.

 “The Angels have one of the elite player development systems in our game and the Trash Pandas are proud to be members of the family,” said Nelson.

Newly Revitalized Marriott is in the City and of the City

The newly renovated Marriott is ready for the post-pandemic business and leisure traveler.

While the hotel industry was bombarded by COVID-19 incoming all year, the Huntsville Marriott at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center took advantage of the hunker-down time to renovate its aging hotel property located along I-565 at the city’s iconic Saturn V rocket.

Built in 1986, the Marriott was the place to be for travelers visiting Marshall Space Flight Center, Redstone Arsenal, the Space & Rocket Center Museum, Space Camp, and the NASA training facility.

According to the hotel’s new general manager, Brian Woolever, growing trends and feedback from their guests show that travelers have different priorities today than they did 30 years ago. Acknowledging that, the revitalization has been focused on making the Huntsville Marriott the place to be in 2021.

The rooms feature hardwood floors and a more formal, stylish design.

“We replaced carpeting in the rooms with hardwood floors that are much easier to keep clean and introduced a more formal, stylish design that is more along the lines of what a person would put in their homes,” said Woolever. “We decided to go with only an outdoor swimming pool and tripled the size of the fitness center because working out while on the road is the current trend.”

While the Huntsville Marriott, like many other hotels, took a big hit the first couple of months of the pandemic, Woolever expects the newly revitalized Marriott to take off like the famous Saturn rocket next year as the new design will meet the needs of the post-pandemic business and leisure traveler.  

“You can feel the business travel industry biting at the bit,” he said. “It is ready to move, especially once the vaccine hits and our hotel will not be the run-of-the-mill hotel of the past. We have the right concepts and the right leadership in place to take it to the next level.

The Marriott management team: (l-r) General Manager Brian Woolever; Garien Shelby, Food & Beverage director; and Paul Romero, director of Sales and Marketing.

“We want to be a Marriott hotel that is in the city, and of the city.”

Woolever isn’t the only new management leader at the Huntsville Marriott. Paul Romero is the new director of Sales and Marketing and Garien Shelby has joined the team as Food & Beverage Director.

Our focus has been putting ourselves in a position to be the best we can be when that travel light switch turns back on,” Romero said. “We put the key players in place so when we get back normal travel again, we will be the best travel experience possible. 

The Barrel Room Bar has been rebranded with a laid-back vibe, offering a variety of high-end bourbons and hand-crafted southern cocktail favorites.

“Everything from our suites and our new restaurant concept, Southern Chop, which is Garien’s creation; to the newly designed and rebranded Barrel Room Bar; we will provide a hotel experience that is A-plus across the board.”

Shelby said the new restaurant is grateful to be a part of the Marriott, but he believes Southern Chop will be a favorite among locals that can compete with the best of the best restaurants in Huntsville and Madison. 

“Southern Chop will showcase Alabama southern cuisine, grandma’s classics and food we grew up on in the South like southern braised greens, pinto beans, cornbread, and pimento cheese,” said Shelby. “We put a spin on it by adding hand-cut steaks or fresh seafood from the Gulf Coast, and as much local produce as we can find.”

The renovations include elevated meeting and group space.

The Barrel Room Bar is no longer just a lobby bar, but completely rebranded with a laid-back vibe, offering a variety of high-end bourbons and hand-crafted southern cocktail favorites.

Other renovations feature elevated meeting and group space, including 16 event rooms and more than 20,000 square feet of total event space.

The Huntsville Marriott design concepts are managed and developed by Ascent Hospitality. The company will begin construction on a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel in downtown Huntsville in the coming months.

Brooklyn’s Hummus & Pita Co. Opens in Huntsville

The Hummus & Pita Co. is bringing its Mediterranean fare to the Rocket City.

The Brooklyn-based, fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant is opening Thursday at Times Plaza, 2137 South Memorial Parkway.

The Hummus & Pita Co. is welcoming all first responders to eat for free at the restaurant’s soft-opening on Wednesday. And, to celebrate the grand opening, the restaurant will be giving away meals to the first 50 customers on Thursday’s opening day.

“We’re excited to be expanding The Hummus & Pita Co. further into the Southeast with the Huntsville opening,” said co-founder Dave Pesso. “The popularity of Mediterranean cuisine is rapidly growing in the Southeast and we look forward to introducing our fresh, innovative, and flavorful meals to this region.”

The opening is a part of a five-location deal with franchise company, Premier King, Inc. This location will be join the Atlanta restaurant that opened in November and a store in Montgomery is slated to open before year’s end.

Since 2011, the Brooklyn-born Hummus & Pita Co. has been delivering guilt-free, homemade cuisine to the masses. The concept has taken the best dishes from all over the Mediterranean region, including recipes that have been passed down generation to generation, and built a menu that works for all taste and dietary preferences.

All menu items are made from scratch on the premises at each location, using only the freshest ingredients available to ensure high-quality, flavor-focused eats for every guest. There are gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan items on the menu, as well.

The restaurant is known for its freshly-baked pita and laffa breads, wide variety of innovative vegetarian and vegan dishes, meats cooked in a traditional taboon oven. Its  signature hummus-based dessert offerings such as the Chickpea Chiller have been recognized by media outlets including ABC’s “The Chew,” People magazine, Business Insider, PopSugar, and more.

The Hummus & Pita Co. will be open daily from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. and will offer dine-in, curbside, takeout, and delivery via third-party partners. Customers can download The Hummus & Pita Co. app for advanced ordering and other loyalty features, through the Apple Store and Google Play. The restaurant will offer catering services to accommodate events or parties of any size. Visit hummusandpitas.com.

Limited Edition Huntsville-themed Holiday Cards Return for 2020

Back by popular demand, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau has released limited edition Huntsville holiday cards.

The response from visitors and locals was so great in 2019, the CVB is offering them again for the 2020 holiday season.

“The cards were a big hit in 2019, likely because they’re so uniquely Huntsville – they’re perfect as a card, a souvenir, or even a gift,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the CVB. “In a year where a seasonal greeting card may be taking the place of in-person celebrations for so many, we wanted to offer these as a way to add a special ‘Rocket City’ touch to this holiday tradition.”

The designs, which were created by local graphic artist Crisy Meschieri, feature Huntsville points of interest including Alabama Constitution Hall Historic Park & Museum, Big Spring International Park, the Galaxy of Lights at Huntsville Botanical Garden, Temple B’nai Sholom, and of course, the Saturn V rocket.

The cards are sold in sets of four for $6, including a combination set of four designs. They are sold at the Downtown Huntsville Visitor Center and online at www.rocketcityshop.org.

The Visitor Center is at 500 Church Street in downtown Huntsville and is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 3 p.m.

Prelude to Tokyo: Team USA Rolls into 2021 Paralympic Cycling Season in Huntsville

The Rocket City is quickly becoming a city of elite athletic events.

The latest jewel in Huntsville’s crown is the Huntsville Paralympic Cycling Open – a stepping-stone event for the 2021 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

After a year of postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Tommy Battle announced Huntsville, in partnership with the U.S. Paralympics Cycling Committee and presenting sponsor Toyota, will open the 2021 Paralympic Cycling’s national calendar here next spring. 

Battle has long said Huntsville is quickly becoming the location of choice for athletic events and with more than 100 elite Paralympic athletes competing April 17-18, 2021, the elite U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team will not disappoint. Huntsville Paralympic Cycling Open is a key stop for cyclists looking to make it to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics next year.

“At a time when our country and world is dealing with a pandemic and unease around the future of sports, this event can inspire us and unite us,” said Battle. “The event requires a lot of planning and Medalist Sports has been working with Toyota, the City of Huntsville, the Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce, Cummings Research Park, and the Huntsville Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau for several months to make the event happen.

“The event has been in the works a long time, ever since the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Committee representatives visited Huntsville in October 2019 to scout a venue that would work well for this event. They really liked what they found in Cummings Research Park.”

He said Cummings Research Park has hosted several 5k and cycling events and that played a large part in the decision. It is also relatively calm on weekends in terms of traffic. 

“The Paralympic Committee is continuing to work with Toyota and our local leaders to make sure things go smoothly for the race planners, athletes, families, and the sports teams,” said Battle.

Team USA athletes have continued their training throughout 2020, despite the pandemic, to stay in top shape as they get ready to compete again and qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics. 

Ian Lawless: “We expect to see many of the same names in Huntsville, later competing in Tokyo.”

“The Huntsville Paralympic Cycling Open is not only our domestic road cycling season opener for our Paralympic athletes, but it will be their first major return to competition on the road after we have reset things due to the pandemic in 2020,” said Ian Lawless, director of Paralympic Cycling. “We have had no road events either domestic or internationally this year, so Huntsville will be an opportunity for 100 Paralympic cycling athletes to compete in a beautiful venue, as part of their road to Tokyo.”

The Paralympic athletes will be competing in Europe in May 2021 to earn final spots for the Tokyo games. The roster will be comprised of winners from the Huntsville Open, making it a crucial event to the athletes’ path to Tokyo.

“We are super excited and of course we will be working with the CDC and the Paralympic sports medicine team and Paralympic Committee to put on an event that is safe for our athletes and for the community, and we will be working with local authorities in Huntsville to do so,” said Lawless.

“We appreciate all the folks involved in the local organizing committee, Mayor Battle and our partner with both Toyota Alabama and Toyota nationally for their support, not only of this event, but the Paralympic cycling program at the U.S. Olympics and the Paralympic committee.”

As the presenting sponsor, Battle said this is another example of how Toyota is so supportive of our community and will be active in helping make this event a reality.

Visually impaired athletes ride in tandem with a sighted pilot on the front.

“As a longstanding partner with the city of Huntsville and with the Chamber, it is truly an honor for Toyota to present this wonderful opportunity for our community and for the Toyota Alabama team members to show the world what Huntsville has to offer,” said Kim Ogle, manager of Corporate Communications for Toyota Alabama. This partnership further identifies our commitment to sustainable societies through mobility and to reiterate that no matter the challenge, when a person is free to move, anything is really possible, and no one knows this better than the amazing athletes who will compete at the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Open. 

“They have fought against adversity throughout their lives, yet they never gave up the dream of representing their country at the highest level … this campaign truly reflects the Olympic and Paralympics spirit of encouragement, challenge and progress and aims to inspire our employees, our partners, and our customers to dream the impossible dream. And in this spirit, we look forward to welcoming Team USA athletes as they go for the gold.”

Lawless said fans should expect to see an exciting event with high stakes, and athletes competing at a world-class level.

“We expect to see many of the same names in Huntsville, later competing in Tokyo,” said Lawless.

The event begins with individual time trials on Saturday, April 17. The athletes will compete within their categories, all day against the clock on a 15 km course. 

On Sunday, there will be a road race with about 12 different races throughout the day where athletes within their categories race varying distances on a 12km course. Those races consist of men’s and women’s road races and hand cycling team relays with multiple laps depending on their category.

“In Paralympic cycling there are races in different categories for people of varying disabilities based on their level of function and the type of bikes they ride, whether they ride a handcycle or a 2-wheel bike with or without an adaptation, or a tandem for visually impaired riders,” said Lawless. “They participate with a sighted pilot on the front.”

He said they also have athletes with neurologic impairments compete on a 3-wheel upright trike.

“It is a mass start race, but I think most importantly, what you’ll see is athletes returning to competition for the first time on the road since September 2019,” said Lawless. “That is a long time for our athletes to be off from competition domestically and internationally.”

The event will feature the best Paralympic athletes in the nation can show not only the local community, but the world what they can do, and how elite they are in terms of their athletic ability. 

Oz Sanchez: “Huntsville will be thoroughly pleased with the caliber of athletes they see here.”

Oz Sanchez, a three-time Paralympian champion who competed in the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Games, is also a six-time Paralympic medalist. 

“I am absolutely looking forward to our first race in Huntsville next year where I will most definitely plan on competing,” he said. “It’s going to be the benchmark for what we are going to look like the rest of the season, and hopefully a good indicator of the fit and feel of the rest of the season.

“An event like this one really gives us that ‘shaking off the cobwebs’ (after a year off in 2020) and seeing what our fitness is like. There is nothing that really replicates the actual feel of a competitive day of racing – the nerves, the edge, the mindset, the psyche – so if we don’t have these sorts of opportunities to dry run the process of competing at a top level, it sets us up for less than ideal or less than desirable performance.”

“I will likely be keeping my campaign head down, remain on-throttle. It will be a benchmark temperament check in Huntsville,” said Sanchez. “I keep my mind and my eye on the prize – Tokyo – that is where it all ends, and Huntsville will be thoroughly pleased with the caliber of athletes they see here. Huntsville will be like a miniature championship as far as I’m concerned.”

There is no charge for admission or tickets required to attend any of the events.

“The beauty of roadside cycling worldwide is that it is available to the general public and to the community to come out and watch,” said Lawless. “If you have seen professional cycling like the Tour de France on TV for example, traditionally there are thousands of fans on the side of the road.

“In 2020, the Paralympic Committee worked hard to figure out how to run outdoor professional cycling events in a safe way.  They have been recognized for setting the bar high and coming up with new standards on how to run a road cycling competition that is still open and free and available to the public in a way that protects the athletes, protects staff working on the event, and protects the community and spectators all in attendance.” 

He said that is the standard they will be following in working with the city, the state, and national authorities, as well as the CDC and their sports medicine team, to ensure protocols and parameters are in place to keep everyone safe.

“We are excited about having a host community and local organizing committee who is investing a lot into this event, as well as great support from Toyota,” said Lawless.

Google Fiber Brings 2 Gig Internet Service to Huntsville

It’s not unusual for Huntsville to be on the forefront of technology breakthroughs.

And now, it’s Google Fiber’s 2 Gig service.

With thousands of Huntsvillians working from home and students taking online classes, Google Fiber has announced that 2 Gig service is available in the Rocket City.

In August, Google Fiber announced its plan to test 2 Gig service here and Nashville and the tests and responses have proven successful.

“I’m especially excited to be able to share 2 Gig with our customers,” said Amanda Peterson, Product Marketing Manager. “Over the last few months, my family has been testing 2 Gig in our home. And what made 2 Gig right for us was how everything we could do with 1 Gig is now faster, wired and wireless, even when we’re doing a lot — which is pretty much all the time in our house.

“With 2 Gig, I’ve never worried about massive file downloads, even while I’m on a video call with my boss and my husband is on a Zoom call in the next room, and then, all of the sudden, our home music system asks for an update. I know we can easily handle it all at once.”

New and existing Google Fiber customers can choose between the 1 Gig service for $70 a month and 2 Gig for $100 a month — ready for power users, the latest devices, and advanced smart homes that use lots of Internet. The 2 Gig services comes with the Google Fiber Multi-Gig Router, which uses Wi-Fi 6, the latest Wi-Fi standard.

The company said a subscriber can download an entire movie in less than 2 minutes and a 10GB game in about 45 seconds.

“As an occasional gamer, I love that when I do get time to play, I’m not waiting for massive system updates to finish or worried about network lag, but just trying to hold my own competitively,” Peterson said. “Even my house gets in on 2 Gig. Our smart lights, Wi-Fi speakers, 4K TVs, sprinkler system, and Wi-Fi-connected pellet smoker are staying connected without competing with us or each other for bandwidth.

“And we’ve got the peace of mind that there won’t be any data caps to stop us from doing even more.”

Vaccine on Horizon, but COVID-19 Pandemic is Straining Front-Line Personnel

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials have sounded the alarm that there would be a second or even third wave.

They were right.

While cases are surging nationwide, including Alabama, there is hope two vaccines will be available as soon as mid-December.

But there won’t be a magic bullet. The general public might not be able to get a vaccine until summer as health care workers and high-risk elderly are first in line.

Also, the surge currently underway will likely rise as the weather cools and a Thanksgiving spike is expected to last throughout the holidays.

Officials at the weekly virus update provided a grim outlook for the near future as hospitalizations are trending up at an “alarming rate’’ and straining front-line workers.

“Our issue is not going to be space,’’ said Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers. “We’ve got a lot of big facilities and we’ve got a lot of places to put people.

“Our issue is going to be staff.’’

According to Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, there are currently 235 health care providers out “because they’ve either contracted COVID or they’re displaying symptoms.’’

As of Thursday morning there were a total of 260,359 confirmed virus cases and  3,766 deaths in the state. Those numbers stood at 14,253 and 153 in Madison County.

Huntsville Hospital facilities in Decatur and Marshall County are running out of space and elective surgeries have once again been suspended.

“Our physicians, our nurses, the folks that are keeping our hospitals clean are doing a phenomenal job,’’ Strong said. “But I’m telling you right now — we’re not to the end of this road, and we want to be sure not to scare the public, but this is real.

“This is the most real situation of our generation. We’ve got to take it seriously.”

Spillers said about 12 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 die, which could create a morbid situation if the toll of deaths spikes. Huntsville Hospital’s morgue holds 10 bodies and, if necessary, a makeshift morgue might have to be added outside the building.

“The funeral homes cannot process people quickly enough so you create a bottleneck and when you create a bottleneck it’s just like a traffic jam,’’ he said. 

“It’s a terrible thing to happen, but at the rate we’re going it could likely happen here.’’

One positive is Huntsville Hospital has the refrigeration equipment needed to store the vaccines, which require Arctic-like temperatures. But when the vaccines start arriving, the virus won’t suddenly disappear.

“The two vaccines that we’re made aware of right now are two-dose vaccines,” Huntsville-Madison County Emergency Management Agency Director Jeff Birdwell said. “You take the first dose, then it’s 21 days later that you take the second dose.

“Then there’s a period of time where even after that second dose that immunity has to take place through that process. So just that process, you’re looking at over a month for just that person. So it’s not going to happen quickly.”

Who Needs a Parade? Madison Promises Plenty of Socially Distanced Christmas Cheer

MADISON — The City of Madison canceled the annual Christmas parade this year due to COVID-19, but it has been replaced with safe, socially distanced events that promise plenty of holiday cheer.

Among those events is the first “Cars Under the Stars Christmas Movie Event” at the Madison Stadium; the second annual Christmas Capers, which will be held virtually; several walking tours of the historic homes on Church, Arnett, Front and Maple streets; and a Christmas Eve Jingle Some Joy bell ringing event along the Polar Express Christmas Tree Trail.

Offered as an alternative holiday opportunity for the Madison community that observes social distancing requirements while providing seasonal enjoyment for families amid the pandemic, the “Cars Under the Stars Christmas Movie” event on Dec. 12 will be a double feature: “The Grinch” at 5 p.m. and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” at 7 p.m. at the city’s stadium. 

Hosted by the Madison Parks and Recreation Department, admission is free with a canned good donation for the local food bank. The gates open at 4 p.m. and there will be food vendors on site. 

To help pay for the event and support future endeavors involving family-friendly programming and events during the pandemic, Madison Parks & Recreation is offering holiday sponsorship opportunities for local businesses.

Gold sponsorships are $500 and Platinum sponsorships are $1,000. Both packages include a vendor booth at the Cars Under the Stars and one other event in the coming months.

To pre-register for the “Cars Under the Stars Christmas Movie”, click here.  For corporate sponsorships, contact Chris.Lund@madisonal.gov.

The second annual Christmas Capers is a virtual rendition of last year’s Chicken Capers, introduced during the 2019 Madison Business Expo & Kids Day. 

It follows the true story of “Doc” Hughes who, during the Great Depression, started a holiday tradition known as Christmas Chicken Capers.

On Christmas Eve, Hughes tossed live chickens from the roof of his store with prize tags attached to their legs. Residents chased the chickens down, redeemed the prizes at Hughes’ store, and took the chicken home to cook for Christmas dinner.

In a variation of the event ol’ Doc Hughes could never have imagined, rubber chickens will be tossed from the roof of Hughes Hardware and the event will be live streamed on Facebook. Community members can submit their names and contact information to the Historical Society at MSHPSociety@gmail.com for a chance to win a “prized chicken.”

No chasing chickens through the streets of downtown Madison this year, but socially distanced patrons in small groups can “jingle some joy” with Christmas bells for two minutes this Christmas Eve to showcase the spirit of the season along Main and Front Street. The bells ring in hope and joy for 2021 and start at 6 p.m., Dec. 24.

New Restaurant on the Block: Wahlburgers to Open Its Doors in MidCity District This Month

Wahlburgers will feature a chef-inspired menu of its signature lineup of burgers.

Coming along “step by step,” Wahlburgers will be opening its doors this month at Huntsville’s MidCity District.

The Wahlburgers Huntsville team is putting the finishing touches on the restaurant, taking all necessary precautions to ensure the well-being of guests in accordance with Alabama’s restaurant regulations, and is looking forward to safely welcoming guests for dine-in and takeout before the end of the year.

“At Wahlburgers, our mission has always been about delivering an exceptional experience and welcoming guests like they are family,” said Executive Chef Paul Wahlberg. “We are thrilled to be joining this wonderful community and look forward to opening the doors in Huntsville for guests to come dine with us this holiday season.”

The popular, casual-dining concept founded by brothers Mark, Donnie, and Paul Wahlberg, and subject of A&E Network’s Emmy-nominated reality show for 10 seasons, will feature a chef-inspired menu of its signature lineup of burgers along with new starters, entrée salads, sandwiches, and more.  Diners will also have a wide selection of wines, beers, and craft cocktails including the locally inspired Alabama Slammer, to pair with their meal from the restaurants’ full bar.

The restaurant will be open daily for lunch and dinner Monday-Wednesday from 11a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday-Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Takeout will also be available with the Wahlburgers App or wahltogo.com. The restaurant is still hiring staff; those interested in joining the team can apply at wahlburgers.com.

“Wahlburgers is a wonderful addition to the MidCity District. Delicious menu items, top-notch sourcing, and the incredible staff at Wahlburgers will undoubtedly ‘wow’ the Tennessee Valley,” said Lindsey Pattillo Keane, director of Marketing and Property Activation, MidCity District. “It’s clear the Wahlburgers Huntsville team is passionate about offering a memorable and safe dining experience.

“We proudly welcome Wahlburgers to North Alabama.”

Booz Allen Innovation Center at Stovehouse Will Put Technology on Display

Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson: The innovation center “is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent.”

This winter, visitors to the historic Stovehouse will be able to watch innovation in progress through the glass “storefront” of the new Booz Allen Innovation Center overlooking the grassy courtyard of the reimagined factory. On display will be the company’s vast 3D printing capabilities and other additive manufacturing technologies.

Plans for the innovation center were first announced in June, but a live groundbreaking event followed by a virtual tour of the renovated 6,400 square-foot facility was recently carried on Facebook with Mayor Tommy Battle; Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce Chair Kevin Burns; City Councilman Bill Kling; the Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager Emily Jones; and Booz Allen Huntsville Senior Vice President Lincoln Hudson.

“This new innovation center is a celebration of one of Huntsville’s longtime investors, and a key member of the Huntsville regional growth initiative,” said Burns.

The 3D printing space will act like a “storefront” in front of the windows overlooking the Stovehouse courtyard. Guest office space will be on the right.

“It’s a really big day for Booz Allen, opening this innovation center,” said Hudson. “We have been a part of Huntsville, really from the very beginning when Wernher von Braun was still a director at MDA (Missile Defense Agency). He reached out to Booz Allen to try and figure out how to get the funding to kick off the U.S. missile program here.

“We have grown as a company supporting MDA and NASA since then and grown into the huge company, we are today because of it, and more recently, because of our support for the DoD (Department of Defense) as well.”

The innovation center is a way for Booz Allen to showcase its engineering expertise in a customer and community collaborative environment. The center will feature a reconfigurable layout based on client work and technology requirements, including additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

“Huntsville’s newest innovation space is well on its way to being finished,” said Kling. “Booz Allen’s Innovation Center will provide a cutting edge and a welcoming environment in support of Booz Allen and their customers here in Huntsville.

Taking part in a “groundbreaking ceremony” are Kevin Burns, 2020 Chair Huntsville Madison County Chamber of Commerce; City Councilman Bill Kling; Emily Jones, Booz Allen Innovation Center Program Manager; Lincoln Hudson, senior vice president, Booz Allen Huntsville; and Mayor Tommy Battle

“It will definitely have some very cool features.”

Hudson said the goal is to change as little as possible of the original factory space, while making it as flexible as possible to meet the company’s needs.

Entering the building from the Stovehouse courtyard, Booz Allen customers and Stovehouse guests will find the space open and conducive to social distancing.

The 3D printing space is in front of the windows and on full display. Across from it are guest offices for Booz Allen customers already using that technology.

Off to the right is a large, reconfigurable open space that can be used for multiple purposes and events with desks and tables and chairs.

In the far right corner is a main conference room that includes a soundproof, video-quality environment for customers and clients.

This multi-purpose open space is reconfigurable and will include a main conference room with a soundproof, video quality environment.

“Everything behind the front pillar as you enter the building will be on wheels,” said Hudson. “We will have some carts and toolboxes for light integration work, a lot of work with training in virtual environments such as cockpit controls. We manufacture some training environments and will definitely be demonstrating how we integrate technologies into those different virtual environments.”

They will also have a recruiting area and will hold staffing events.

“It is a chance to show off some of our extraordinary talent,” said Hudson.

Booz Allen plans to be open in time for a February leadership meeting scheduled at the Innovation Center.

“Innovation is what has made Huntsville what it is today,” said Battle “On behalf of the 205,000 people in the city of Huntsville, I thank you for making Huntsville part of your home.

“As we continue to grow, we are proud this is happening here in our community.”