Trash Pandas to Light Up the Area with Drive-Through Christmas Spectacular

MADISON — The home of the Rocket City’s “boys of summer” has been transformed into a “Winter Wonderland.”

Hundreds of thousands of lights will be on display when the Rocket City Christmas Spectacular comes to Toyota Field this Friday through Jan. 3.

Guests can drive through the magical “Santa’s Mountain” themed light show around Toyota Field for just $25 per car. The festivities will begin at 5 p.m. nightly. Visitors will be able to simply tune into their vehicle’s radio and experience a spectacular synchronization of music and lights. Tickets can be purchased online at reserve.imclutch.com/trashpandas, or on the day of the event – credit cards and mobile pay are encouraged.

“We want to turn Toyota Field into the best holiday destination in North Alabama for years to come,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Our plan is to expand and improve our Winter Wonderland year after year.”

Guests can also park their car after driving through the lights and enter the Winter Wonderland within the stadium at no additional cost. There will be holiday activities for all ages, including hot chocolate stations, cookie decorating, s’mores making, character visits, shopping, and more. The Winter Wonderland will be open through Dec. 24 during the Christmas Spectacular and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

CDC and Madison County health guidelines will be followed at the Rocket City Christmas Spectacular.

Construction Begins on Alabama A&M Event Center and Arena

There’s some hoopla happening on The Hill!

After years of anticipation and planning, construction has begun on Alabama A&M’s 132,000-square-foot event center and arena, Turner Construction’s Huntsville office announced Thursday.

The new Alabama A&M University event center/arena will host sporting events, commencement exercises and other campus activities.

The new space will include an arena with a 6,000-person capacity, locker rooms, training rooms, an Alabama A&M athletic Hall of Fame, and a kitchen with the capability to provide meals for all events on campus.

The arena will host sporting events such as basketball and volleyball games, commencement exercises, and other university functions.

“The center will provide the university with a much-needed facility where we can host major functions, such as commencements, convocations, our annual scholarship gala, and athletic events,” said A&M President Andrew Hugine Jr. “It will be a state-of-the-art facility just off of North Memorial Parkway, and we are thrilled to be making this addition for our students and the community, which will transform the landscape of North Huntsville.”

The Alabama A&M University Athletics Hall of Fame will have a home in the new facility.

Turner is the construction management agent for the project. Under the CMa approach, the construction manager serves as an extension of the project owner’s staff and is responsible for construction management services, including advising, coordinating, and inspecting project design and construction, and competitively bidding the various construction components to trade contractors.

Turner will work with architecture firm Nola Van Peursem and engineering firms Moody Nolan (arena consultant); The EE Group (electrical engineer); Mims Engineering (mechanical/plumbing/fire protection); Johnson and Associates (civil engineer); LBYD (structural engineer); Camacho (food service); and Bostick Landscape Architects. The project is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.

“We are excited to partner with Alabama A&M on our fourth project together,” said Tyce Hudson, project executive at Turner Construction Company in Huntsville. “We have experienced a lot of success together and there is no doubt that this is going to be the best project yet.

“It is going to be an excellent facility for Alabama A&M University and the community.”

City Council Approves Funding for Amphitheater

Huntsville’s ascent into the global music circuit took another step forward with City Council approval to proceed with plans to build a new 8,000-plus seat amphitheater.

Council voted 3-1​ Thursday to authorize the city’s Public Building Authority to move into the construction phase to build a classic Roman-style forum within a municipal park near the MidCity development.

The amphitheater project has been under development for the past several years, garnering public interest and support through the Mayor’s Music Initiative and citywide music audit in 2018. The amphitheater is being designed with amenities to support top talent and to showcase community events such as farmer’s markets, a food hall, craft fairs, educational events and the like. By locating the venue in a new City park, the forum will be accessible to the public year-round.

“This facility will help us grow our music and culture economy,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “It will allow us to become a community of curators, where we can develop our own creative content, unique to Huntsville, that we can share globally.

“In addition to arts festivals, markets, and world-famous musicians, we’ll be able to incubate our own talent, showing that our next great entrepreneurs don’t all have to be in space and missile defense.”

To manage the amphitheater and develop its programming, the city retained the Huntsville Venue Group, a global entertainment and hospitality partner with operations in London, Austin and New York.  The organization is led by Ben Lovett of the British band Mumford & Sons, in partnership with industry veterans Mike Luba, Don Sullivan, Jeff Kicklighter and Al Santos.

“It is, by far, one of the greatest milestones in my professional career to be such an integral part of this amazing project for the City of Huntsville,” said Ryan Murphy, president of HVG. “By design and execution, the Huntsville Amphitheater is going to help write the future of Huntsville, not only in terms of music, arts and culture, but also in its ability to create such tremendous creative and communal space that is inclusive, diverse, progressive and inspiring … this is just the beginning.”

The amphitheater is expected to open in early 2022. The estimated $40 million construction budget will be funded through the city’s capital plan and a percentage of future lodging taxes.

“Huntsville’s Amphitheater will set the stage to spotlight our city, our culture, and our talent on a global level,” said City Council President Devyn Keith. “I have full confidence in the Huntsville Venue Group and their commitment to ensure the Huntsville community and spirit is integrated into the DNA of the facility. From community programming to opportunities for local artists, this is a space that will be created for all of Huntsville.

“Moving forward with construction is a clear signal of Huntsville’s strong economy as we ensure we’re laying the groundwork for workforce recruitment, quality of life and job opportunity for our citizens for years to come.”

Huntsville Named Inaugural Cohort of Tennessee RiverTowns Program

Huntsville is one of 15 Tennessee River communities selected for the Tennessee RiverTowns Program. The program is part of the Tennessee RiverLine, a new regional trail system featuring paddling, hiking and bicycling along the river’s more than 650 miles.

Huntsville applied to be a part of the Tennessee RiverTowns Program to emphasize the enjoyment of the Tennessee River. The program offers an opportunity for visitors and residents to seek out activities in communities and towns along the Tennessee River, including Huntsville.

“As Huntsville’s gateway to the Tennessee River, Ditto Landing is always encouraging residents and visitors to enjoy the river whenever they can,” said Quick. “The Tennessee RiverTowns Program will enhance this effort by providing access to activities and events in cities, towns, and communities along the river, while also encouraging visitation to Huntsville.”

Through its participation, Huntsville will leverage the program’s geographic reach and national visibility to position itself as a premier destination for outdoor tourism, recreation, and watersports.

“Outdoor recreation is one of the top tourism drivers to our area, and our access to the pristine Tennessee River at Ditto Landing is a jewel in the crown of our community’s outdoor offerings,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We’re proud to be selected for this opportunity, and look forward to working with Ditto Landing and the RiverTowns initiative to grow our city’s reputation as a top-of-mind destination for relaxation and adventure.”