Chattanooga Lookouts to Host Carbon-Neutral Game

CHATTANOOGA ― The Chattanooga Lookouts will become the first Minor League Baseball team to host a game that is 100 percent carbon-neutral.

The Green Power Night home game against Montgomery will be Aug. 23 and is being powered through locally generated solar energy credits provided by EPB of Chattanooga in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

To celebrate this historic partnership, the Lookouts will be wearing special green jerseys.

EPB’s Solar Share, Chattanooga’s only community solar installation, is powering the game. Solar Share panels along Holtzclaw Avenue will provide solar energy credits to generate the 2,500 kilowatt hours needed to power a game and support operations. This solar energy credit is equivalent to 1.98 tons of carbon.

EPB is a municipally owned utility that provides energy and connectivity solutions in the Chattanooga area. EPB serves more than 170,000 homes and businesses.

TVA coordinated the partnership.

“TVA was founded on renewable energy from hydro dams 86 years ago, and today nearly 60 percent of the electricity we make is carbon-free,” said Doug Perry, TVA vice president of Commercial Energy Solutions. “We continue to grow and evolve our green power programs, and this game is a great example of the renewable energy solutions TVA makes available across our region to make businesses more competitive and better environmental stewards.”

 

Trash Pandas Name Fahrmann VP/GM

Veteran baseball executive Garrett Fahrmann has been named Vice President and General Manager of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, CEO Ralph Nelson announced Thursday.

The Trash Pandas, which begin Southern League play in April 2020, announced several other key front office appointments, including Chuck Domino as Special Advisor to the CEO, and Elaine Ballew as Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer.

Fahrmann, who joined the Trash Pandas in June as Vice President of Ballpark and Baseball Operations, assumes the GM title immediately and reports directly to Nelson. His baseball career includes Director of Operations for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and Senior Vice President of Operations for the Fresno Grizzlies. The IronPigs are the Triple-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Grizzlies were the Triple-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants when Garrett was there.

He earned a master’s degree in sports management from Slippery Rock University and a bachelor’s in business management from Concord University.

“Garrett comes to North Alabama with a solid baseball management background from two of the marquee Triple-A organizations in our industry,” Nelson said. “He adds strength to our executive team as we continue to assemble an extraordinary front office. With Garrett, Elaine, Chuck and David Bier, our staff will have unparalleled leadership that will deliver North Alabama an unparalleled baseball experience.”

Domino, Chief Executive of the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels, is a 37-year veteran of the baseball business. President of Domino Management and Consulting, Chuck is a consultant for eight Minor League Baseball teams and has worked with the Trash Pandas since their inception.

Nelson also announced Elaine Ballew has been named the club’s Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer and David Bier has been promoted to Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer.

“Elaine brings an incredible business and financial background, along with astonishing energy to our organization,” Nelson said. “There are few professionals more respected in the North Alabama business community than Elaine Ballew. With her unmatched community connections and impeccable reputation, we are beyond excited to have her on board.”

Ballew started with the Trash Pandas July 1, and her first order of business has been to finalize corporate partnerships for the team and their new stadium. Elaine was most recently State Director of Corporate Partnerships for the Alabama Media Group/This Is Alabama. She is also former Executive Director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce.

“The introduction of the Trash Pandas is one of the most exciting things to have happened in the Huntsville-Madison area in quite some time,” Ballew said. “I am very excited to join this special team of professionals and, especially, to introduce so many of the corporate connections I’ve made throughout the years to the amazing things the Trash Pandas are doing for our region.”

Bier joined the Trash Pandas in January as Senior Vice President, Operations. His responsibilities include oversight of all business operations for the Trash Pandas organization and the new stadium in Town Madison. He is the former Vice President of Operations and Operating Partner for Monaco Entertainment, LLC.

Other personnel moves announced by the Trash Pandas include: Gayle Milam, Director, Stadium Events. Previously served 26 years as Event and Volunteer Coordinator for the City of Madison; Mojo Jones, Director of Game Entertainment. Will also remain as morning host of the “Mojo Radio Show” on Cumulus Broadcasting’s WZYP in Huntsville; Ricky Fernandez, Manager, Game Entertainment. Will also remain as morning show producer on Cumulus Broadcasting’s WZYP in Huntsville; Nate Leaser, Manager, Box Office Operations. Previously worked for Tickets.com as on- site field technician for the San Diego Padres; Mareca Watson, Director, Customer Experience. Previously worked for Forty-2 Property Management where she was a corporate trainer and oversaw investor relations;

Corey Ausderau, Senior Account Executive. Previously Director of Group Sales for the Birmingham Barons; Charlie Weaver, Groundskeeper. Previously groundskeeper for the Hoover Met Stadium; Brennan Patrick, Account Executive. Previously an intern for the Nashville Sounds; Bud McLaughlin, Manager, Public Relations. Currently Editor of the Huntsville Business Journal. Previous Sports Information Director at Alabama A&M University; Elizabeth Cornett, Manager, Online Store and Merchandise Operations. Previously worked part-time for BallCorps, beginning when Trash Pandas merchandise was introduced Oct. 27; Ivory Snow, Manager Retail Stores. Previously served 20 years in retail operations in the Huntsville area including positions at Belk and Michael Kors.

War Dawgs Bring Pro Basketball Back to the Rocket City

When Timothy Jones moved to Huntsville last October, he found a lot to love about the city. He also saw opportunity.

“Love the city,’’ he said, “love the vibe.’’

He saw not only a community with a thriving economy but one with a lively professional sports scene.

There’s the two-time champion Huntsville Havoc annually leading attendance among teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League.

And the Rocket City Trash Pandas have taken the area by storm with Minor League Baseball record-setting merchandise sales as professional baseball prepares to make its Tennessee Valley return in 2020.

But, he also noticed there was no pro basketball option for hoops fans.

“I thought it would be a wonderful place to have a basketball team,’’ he said.

Jones soon teamed with Chris Burge as founders and co-owners of the North Alabama War Dawgs. The team will play in the semi-pro American Basketball Association this fall.

The team is holding tryouts Saturday and Sunday from noon-3 p.m. at Jemison High School in Huntsville, where the War Dawgs will play home games. There is a $75 registration fee. There will be dance team tryouts Aug. 17-18 at Jemison. There is a $35 registration fee.

To create an account and for more information on both teams’ tryouts, contact Jones at timothyjones.oner@wardawgsbball.com.

Jones is a 1991 graduate of Gadsden High School. He retired from the Navy after 20 years in 2012 and worked for three years at Northrup-Grumman. He “linked up” with Burge, formerly of the minor league basketball Huntsville Force, and decided to give the ABA a try.

“The ABA is a very competitive league,” Jones said. “We’re looking to have a competitive team.”

The co-owners reached out to Force players to form the nucleus of the War Dawgs.

“They didn’t get a lot of press, but they had some great players,” Jones said. “Some of the guys have international experience.”

The ABA bills itself as the largest sports league in the world with more than 100 teams, including one from Japan that plays all games on the road. The league had four teams who played in Alabama last season — the Atlanta Raptors and the Port City Tornados, who both play home games at Vigor High in Prichard; the Magic City Surge, who play out of Birmingham’s Daniel Payne Middle School; and the River Region Generals, who call Montgomery’s True Divine Baptist Church home.

The city touts its community service and work with local youths. Jones said the club has reached out to civic leaders, groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and has developed a close relationship with the Jemison High School administration.

“A lot of people are showing us a lot of love right now,” he said, “But, it will be an uphill battle getting started and finding sponsorships.”

Burgeoning Regional Economy Ensures Everyone a More Valuable Slice of the Pie

Envision Huntsville as an average size pie.

Standing at city center, look outward in all directions toward the far edges of the pie crust – north toward the state line where visitors from Tennessee get their first glimpse of the city. South where many Huntsville businesses draw daily commuters. East across the mountain, west from neighboring communities and all points in between.

For Huntsville and Madison city leaders, this vision of the pie’s edge does not represent boundaries but, instead, corridors of growth.

“That’s always been our vision for Huntsville’s future and the basis for our regional economic strategy,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “The first part of revitalizing your city is to take the center point, known as the living room of your city, and revitalize it to make it economically viable. Get one area going and stretch it out to other areas.

“Year after year, we have pinpointed growth corridors that help us grow both economically and residentially. The result is an economic revival like what you have been seeing in Huntsville and Madison the past 10 years.”

Private investment land developers have that vision too. During the 1990s, brothers Jim and John Hays and their nephew Jeff Enfinger of Enfinger Development opened a growth corridor to the southeast in Hampton Cove and the Hays Nature Preserve.

In 2000, that development led to the expansion of a residential growth corridor along Taylor Lane in Big Cove, and, by 2010, it had extended into the Goldsmith-Schiffman community.

Also during the 1990s, Huntsville opened a residential growth corridor off Zierdt Road in the Edgewater and Mountain Brook communities southwest of the city. In 2010, it expanded into the Williams community further south.

Battle said that by looking at the local economy like a pie, you will see their strategy unfolding.

“Instead of dividing the pie into fifteen different pieces that get smaller the more users you add, we made the whole pie bigger so we could divide it up differently with more restaurants, entertainment and activity venues, more places to spend retail dollars,” he said. “With a bigger pie, each slice is more valuable.”

The Western Corridor

The Town Madison development along I-565 between Zierdt Road and Wall-Triana Highway in Madison will open a gateway to the city.

Anchored by the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium, the development is surrounded by residential, retail, commercial, and entertainment components that have thrown open a west side growth corridor that never existed.

“The location off I-565 is perfect catchment for a broad audience across the Southeast,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “As the interchanges off the highway are completed, you can expect ease of traffic getting to and from the area.

“If people come for a game or event, we hope they stay and experience all that Madison has to offer, including our historic downtown that offers livability with local boutique shopping and dining.”

Finley also believes Madison’s central geography in North Alabama positions it perfectly to feel the positive impact from economic development in the whole state as well as southern Tennessee.

“Madison benefits from Huntsville’s growth with the FBI and other tech development workforce to our east, as well as from the Mazda-Toyota plant to our west. We look to collaborate with Limestone, Morgan and Marshall counties,” said Finley.

The development is envisioned to become a regional destination.

“Right on the interstate, convenient if you are coming from Cullman or Decatur, and where everybody who passes by can see it,” said Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison. “We are creating a regional destination with baseball, a food hall, and resort style hotels, similar to, but more diverse than Chattanooga.”

Open Southern Border

Recently, Enfinger and his uncles who are also developing McMullen Cove, announced the development of a multi-use Hays Farm development in South Huntsville that will replace the old Haysland Square and turn a 500-plus acre swath of undeveloped land into a new growth corridor to the south that will draw retailers and residents from Airport Road south to the river and beyond.

“There will be a commercial center all the way up to the Enfinger Building on South Parkway with a Village of Providence-type entertainment district surrounded by a city park, a ballfield, and 500-acre Hays Green with a passive walking park,” said Enfinger. “We’d like to maintain the natural green spaces. The Hays Nature Preserve in Hampton Cove has been a regional draw for a lot of people.”

In many ways, Ceci believes that with population growth and so many people commuting here to work every day from other counties, we already have an active regional economy at work.

“You see workers buying groceries, going out to eat and shopping during the workweek, even if they live outside the city,” he said. “I think there is some pent-up demand for some of the development that is occurring.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who has developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre and developing MidCity on the old Madison Square Mall property, has been watching those employee migration patterns into Huntsville for more than a decade.

“We see the regional trade area as about 50 miles and incorporates the 14-county commuter hubs from which Redstone Arsenal and Cummings Research Park draw its employment,” said Grelier. “As a result, Huntsville has become the region’s primary center for healthcare, civic, cultural, shopping, and dining activity.”

Annexation of Morgan & Limestone counties

Add to all this, the annexation of a small portion of Morgan County to the southwest and a huge chunk of Limestone County due west of city center, and you can see the pie expanding!

“Yes, this annexation is a game-changer because it results in the ability to get infrastructure to certain areas and thus create major employment opportunities,” said Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty. His company has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue in downtown Huntsville, and is building a sister community, The Avenue Madison. “These new jobs will be an economic driver for the economy and create an incredible multiplier effect.”

The annexation is a precursor to the economic development that follows it, said Grelier.

“Annexing was necessary for the economic development of the Mazda-Toyota plant and other larger manufacturers,” he said. “It’s also helpful in attracting investment into commercial real estate projects across the metro area.”

“We’ve only made a foray into Morgan County,” said Battle, “The annexation of Limestone County where Mazda Toyota made a $2 billion land investment has seriously expanded our metro and opened an industrial growth corridor that is a win-win for both parties.”

City funds, thanks to Huntsville’s AAA credit rating from the S&P and Moody’s Investment Services, have pulled their share of the weight. With the power to borrow $85 million for city and countywide projects, of that, Huntsville will allot $25 million for the Mazda Toyota project infrastructure; and another $55 million for capital plans and schools.

Northern Exposure

Included is the revitalization of North Memorial Parkway. Since widening the well-worn highway into a viable parkway traffic corridor, it has encroached on many properties there, making them less viable.

“They don’t have enough depth to sustain retail, so we’ve taken them out and we’re turning that area into a park with greenways and walking trails,” said Battle. “Perception becomes reality.

“Instead of seeing boarded-up buildings when you enter from the north, you see it more as an entryway into North Huntsville – an economically viable area to move into and to be a part of.”

Among the projects is the upgrading of parks that will be instrumental in bringing in sports teams from all over the Southeast, including recreational rugby fields and soccer fields that can also be used for lacrosse.

“We are putting money into the tennis center and into the golf course, which now has cross-country running and mountain bike trails. All of these things tie back to what we call ‘quality of life’ for our residents and activities for our guests,” said Battle. “Travel sports bring people and their families to our area from all over, where they compete, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, and shop in our stores.”

Quality of Life

Town Madison’s $12 million Pro Player Park project with 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields, the $22 million Huntsville Aquatic Center, and the expanding Huntsville Tennis Center are already national attractions for travel sports competitions and events.

“To have a viable and growing economy, we have to offer a ‘quality-of-life’ that attracts people to the area, and quite frankly, we have a lot of jobs on the table too,” Battle said. “To recruit highly-skilled, higher income workers requires a quality of life that is equal to or higher than where they are moving from.”

Battle said “quality-of-life” is found in Lowe Mill, in craft beer, in a vast array of recreation facilities, disc golf, pickleball, art museums and public parks.

“But we still have work to do because people are coming from around the world to work for companies like Blue Origin, Facebook, Aerojet Rocketdyne, and Mazda Toyotas,” said Battle.

Finley is ready for whatever challenges lay ahead for Madison.

“As Madison grows our focus is making sure we are responsible with our citizen’s tax dollars by improving infrastructure and providing a good quality of life in every district of our community,” said Finley. “While areas to the West are experiencing booming growth and increased traffic, we need to not only keep pace with growth but foresee areas that will need improvements down the line.”

Huntsville is also adding hotels, apartments, and homesites as more people move into the city. With a goal of adding 1,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Von Braun Center, Battle said it will help draw larger conventions and business meetings.

“Part of the strategy for building smaller hotels instead of one big convention center hotel is to prevent people from living inside the hotel the whole time they are here,” said the mayor. “We want people to experience our city, eat in our restaurants, visit our museums, and shop in our stores.”

Enfinger believes that as we become a more affluent society, people’s wants, and expectations become more demanding.

“It looks like we are evolving in unison with the rest of the country as far as the type shopping we do and the kind of developments we build,” said Enfinger. “Our growth rate is higher than most cities, but I think we follow a national trend in the type developments we can sustain.”

Private Investment is Leading the Way

Private investment must still lead the way and developers such as Breland, RCP, Sealy, and Enfinger are leading the charge.

“When the City can support infrastructure needs or improvements, private investment can take those dollars further,” said Mayor Finley. “This is a win/win for both the City and for the investors. Ultimately, our citizens also reap the benefits of this growth and development.”

“Buy-in is good so far, but much harder than it may seem,” said Grelier. “Huntsville has a great story to tell, but many larger institutional investors are not aware of it or view the market as too small.

“Our team spends most of our time discussing and selling the regional market rather than the immediate project. A big part of Huntsville’s growth moving forward will be how the region is branded to compete for private investment and workforce internationally. It’s a regional story that should include our sister communities.”

He would also like to see the Gen Y & Z workforce move to the area because it’s a cool, fun place to live, and then find a job once they get here rather than moving here for the great job.

“Once this trend reverses, larger private investment and more economic development will follow quickly,” Grelier said.

From the city’s perspective though, Huntsville’s first mixed-use/multi-purpose development at Twickenham Square in 2014 has been a driver in enlarging the pie.

Join us for Part 2 of our series on Huntsville’s growing regional economy in the September issue of the Huntsville Business Journal as we investigate how multi-purpose/mixed-use developments are helping build Huntsville’s regional economy.

 

Trash Pandas, SportsMed, Crestwood Announce Long-Term Partnership

 

MADISON – The Rocket City Trash Pandas, SportsMED Orthopedic and Spine Center, and Crestwood Medical Center have announced a multi-year corporate partnership, which will include naming rights to the Stadium Club in the Trash Pandas’ new ballpark in Madison.

It was also announced that orthopedic surgeon Dr. Troy Layton has been named by the Los Angeles Angels to be the Trash Pandas’ team physician. The Trash Pandas are the Double-A affiliate of the Angels.

“SportsMED has long been associated with athletics in this area – from high school to college, and the pro level,” said Ralph Nelson, CEO of the Trash Pandas. “We welcome the experienced staffs at Crestwood and SportsMED, and are thrilled to have Dr. Layton – who also served the Huntsville Stars – as the Trash Pandas’ team physician.

“With the outstanding facilities at Crestwood Medical Center, combined with Dr. Layton’s amazing experience, the Trash Pandas’ players will be in excellent hands. We are excited and gratified to be partners with SportsMED and Crestwood.”

“Crestwood is proud to continue our support of the North Alabama community by partnering with the Rocket City Trash Pandas as its hospital provider,” said Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson. “Baseball is back in our area for families to enjoy and we are honored to be a part of this exciting community asset.”

The Crestwood and SportsMED brands and logos will also be prominently featured throughout the ballpark. The club on the suite level will be named the SportsMED Stadium Club.

“We are excited and honored to be a part of this organization,” said SportsMED CEO Blake Bentley. “We visited the stadium this week and it is unbelievable; everything is first class. We’ve had a long relationship with baseball in the region and we’re glad it’s back in the Rocket City.”

The Trash Pandas will open their inaugural season next year with their home debut set for April 15 at 6:35 p.m. against the Mississippi Braves at the new ballpark in Town Madison.

Trash Pandas Release Inaugural Season Schedule

MADISON – The cry of “Play ball!” will return to the area April 15 when the Rocket City Trash Pandas make their debut.

The Trash Pandas will host the Mississippi Braves in a five-game series April 15-19 to open their 70-game home schedule.

They will open their inaugural season April 9 at the Birmingham Barons.

“After so many fantastic events leading to actual baseball – from the naming contest, the logo and uniform reveals, season ticket holder parties, and the great days bonding with fans in our store – it is amazing to think we’ll be playing ball in just over eight months,” said Trash Pandas CEO Ralph Nelson. “I’ve said it repeatedly: no community has ever embraced a team like North Alabama has the Trash Pandas.

“We cannot wait to show our fans what we have planned for them at the ballpark.”

Nelson said the first pitch will be 6:35 p.m.

The regular season Southern League schedule will include Midweek Businessperson/Student Specials on April 29 and July 14 at 12:05 p.m.; a Memorial Day Salute to the Military on May 24; and an Independence Day Fireworks Extravaganza on July 3.

Game times are 6:35 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 7:05 p.m. for Friday games; and 6:05 p.m. for Saturday games. Sunday games in April-June start at 2:05 p.m. and, to help avoid the summer heat, the first pitch for Sunday games in July and August is 5:05 p.m.

The Trash Pandas will be in the Southern League North Division, joining the Barons, Jackson Generals, Chattanooga Lookouts and Tennessee Smokies.

The team will announce a full promotional schedule early next year; it will include fireworks shows and giveaways on every homestand.

Uniforms to include “Inaugural Mission” patch and “Inaugural Season” logo

The Inaugural Mission patch will be worn on all player uniforms throughout 2020, as well as authentic jerseys purchased by the public.

Both logos will be featured on merchandise and other ballpark items sold throughout the 2020 season.

 

 

Below is the Trash Pandas 2020 home schedule (game times are subject to change):

April 15 – 6:35 p.m. vs Mississippi; April 16 – 6:35 p.m. vs Mississippi; April 17 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Mississippi; April 18 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Mississippi; April 19 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Mississippi. April 25 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 26 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 27 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 28 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Montgomery; April 29 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Montgomery.

May 6 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 7 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 8 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 9 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola; May 10 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola. May 16 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 17 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 18 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 19 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 20 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; May 21 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 22 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 23 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 24 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi; May 25 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Biloxi.

June 1 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 2 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 3 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 4 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; June 5 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee. June 17 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 18 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 19 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 20 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; June 21 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Jackson.

June 22-24 All-Star Break

June 30 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; July 1 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; July 2 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; July 3 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham. July 10 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 11 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 12– 5:05 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 13 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jackson; July 14 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Jackson. July 21 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 22 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 23 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 24 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 25 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee; July 26 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Tennessee.

Aug. 6 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 7 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 8 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 9 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 10 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Birmingham; Aug. 11 – Off Day; Aug. 12 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 13 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 14 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 15 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 16 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Jacksonville; Aug. 23 – 5:05 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 24 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 25 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 26 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola; Aug. 27 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Pensacola.

Sept. 3 – 6:35 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 4 – 7:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 5 – 6:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 6 – 2:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga; Sept. 7 – 12:05 p.m. vs. Chattanooga.

For season ticket and other information, visit trashpandasbaseball.com.

 

Out of this World: USTA Clay Court Championships a Net Gain for Rocket City

Celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the July 20, 1969 moon landing are in full stride in Huntsville.

Plans to honor man’s walk on the lunar surface this year have included a Guinness world record-setting attempt for simultaneous rocket launches, a celebration car show, an Apollo Homecoming Dinner and something city residents did when Huntsville-built rockets took men to the moon — dancing in the streets at the Courthouse Square.

Simultaneously, and in a more Earthly endeavor, some 350 top players from around the country are chasing USTA Girls 16-and-under National Clay Court Championships at the Athletic Club Alabama.

Play began last weekend and was scheduled to conclude this Saturday. Matches are at the ACA on Leeman Ferry Road and the city-operated Huntsville Tennis Center at John Hunt Park.

“One thing that struck me was when I drove through the parking lot at Athletic Club Alabama, I counted license plates from 18 different states – from Nevada to North Dakota,” said Mark McCarter, convention sales manager with the Huntsville-Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

McCarter said tournament estimates for city coffers is $600,000.

But, “frankly,” he said. “I feel it’ll be a lot larger than that. We’ve got 350 players and only two are from Alabama.”

The tournament had been at a Memphis club but, when it pulled out, bids were taken for a host city and Huntsville won over seven other finalists.

Local professional and Huntsville native Eddie Jacques, a former U18 National Clay Court Champion and All-Southeastern Conference player at Georgia, and Kelly Haynes, general manager at ACA, approached city officials to see if there was support for the event.

There was.

“It was kind of last minute and they reached out to see what help we could provide,” McCarter said.

The city worked with the pair to help with lodging taxes, meals and use of the Huntsville Tennis Center.

“It’s a really good partnership with the city of Huntsville,” he said.

And there have been chances to showcase the Rocket City.

One of the competitors held a Sweet 16 birthday party at a local establishment and the 20 tournament referees have hit a different eatery every night – two examples McCarter said of the tournament being a “great event to show off Huntsville to those who have never been here.”

There’s also the space angle.

“A cool thing was one of the girls told her mom no matter when she lost, she wanted to stay all the way to the end,” McCarter said. “That was because her two brothers were coming to Huntsville to attend Space Camp.”

Trash Pandas Announce Retail Store Relocation, Expansion

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas are on the move.

The minor league baseball team that begins play next season is relocating its retail store at Bridge Street Town Centre, effective July 29. The Trash Pandas Emporium will be adjacent to the bridge in the former Michael Kors store, next to Moe’s Southwest Grill.

In the wake of substantial growth and record-breaking merchandise sales, the relocation provides double the amount of square footage, team CEO Ralph Nelson said.

The Trash Pandas Emporium will open in the former Michael Kors store July 29 with a Grand Re-Opening Celebration.

“The Trash Pandas Emporium has achieved more than $1.25 million in sales since opening at Bridge Street last November,” Nelson said. “If we hear one constant comment, it has been that the store is always crowded.

“The new location should ease that problem in plenty of time for back-to-school shopping and the holiday season.”

The team will hold a day-long Grand Re-Opening Celebration on July 29 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with music, temporary Trash Pandas tattoos for children, merchandise giveaways, and more.

The first 300 people to attend the celebration will receive an official Rocket City Trash Pandas lanyard. Door prizes of Trash Pandas merchandise will be awarded every two hours.

Also, a limited number of Trash Pandas Authentic Jersey Experience packages will be available in the store at a special celebration discount price. The Experience offers fans the opportunity to purchase authentic inaugural season jerseys cut from the same cloth as team uniforms. The package includes a personalized jersey, a locker for the day in the Trash Pandas team locker room, the opportunity to take batting practice on the field, and a post-game meal for participants and two guests in the Stadium Club.

Official licensed merchandise is also available at trashpandasbaseball.com.

The Rocket City Trash Pandas is the Double-A Minor League Baseball affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. Opening Day is set for April 15, 2020 at the Trash Pandas Stadium at Town Madison.

Trash Pandas to Reveal Jerseys, Offer an Experience for Fans

MADISON — When it comes to baseball, particularly the Rocket City Trash Pandas, Ralph Nelson believes in going big.

In fact, there’s nothing minor about the baseball team that set all sorts of Minor League Baseball merchandise records and recently passed the $1 million mark in sales.

And the Trash Pandas don’t even play until next April.

In the meantime, the team will unveil its five – yes, five – inaugural season uniforms and offer fans the chance to take the field in official, personalized jerseys.

The uniform reveal will be Thursday night in a big bash at Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville. It all starts at 6 p.m. and local television personalities will model the full official uniforms, including the Salute to Military Sunday/Holiday uniform, modeled by Redstone Arsenal Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Billy Counts.

“We are going to tip our hats to the military every Sunday,” said Nelson, the team’s CEO and managing partner. “If we have games on Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, we’ll wear them then, too.”

Replica jerseys will go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. at the Trash Pandas Emporium in the Bridge Street Town Centre, next to the Apple Store.

Also in Thursday’s lineup are food trucks, music, “bouncy houses,” T-shirt giveaways …  and more, as Nelson hits another home run.

Nelson and his staff engineered a ground-breaking ceremony last year that drew hundreds of people, a team name release party that packed a local craft brewery and a logo/team colors celebration-fireworks gala that packed Madison’s Dublin Park.

So, naturally, this isn’t going to be your standard uniform unveiling – if there is such a thing.

“We decided to turn it into an ‘experience,’” he said. “It’s also another chance for us to integrate with the community.”

So, continuing its mission of fan involvement, the team is offering fans a chance to purchase authentic inaugural season jerseys and take part in the Authentic Jersey Experience.

“We are really excited about the Authentic Jersey Experience,” Nelson said. “The fans who take part will get their jerseys (next March) in the team locker room and go out onto the field before the players do.

“If you’re a baseball fan, this is what it’s all about.”

The package includes a Rawlings authentic Trash Pandas jersey and a ballpark/locker room experience featuring the use of a player’s locker, batting practice on the field, and a post-game “spread” in the players’ lounge, all courtesy of the Trash Pandas clubhouse manager. The jerseys will be custom made for each fan, including size, name and number.

The Experience will be available for purchase for $199 Thursday night through June 30. It can be purchased online or at the Trash Pandas Emporium after Thursday’s event. On July 1, the cost goes up to $249 and wraps up at the end of the year.

“Rather than just box up the jerseys (for the fans who bought them), we decided to offer them this experience,” Nelson said.

Yep, imagine that, Nelson thinking outside the box.

Havoc Owner Keith Jeffries Credits Golden Rule for Team’s Success

The man behind the hottest ticket in town last month entered professional minor league sports with no experience in the field and no grand plans on how to make his venture a success.

But Keith Jeffries, owner of the back-to-back and three-time Southern Professional Hockey League champion Huntsville Havoc, also didn’t jump in with eyes closed and without a guiding light.

Havoc owner Keith Jeffries, surrounded by players, addresses the crowd during the presentation of the Southern Professional Hockey League championship President’s Cup outside Propst Arena.

He leaned on a principle that can be found in the name of his former business — Golden Rule Printing.

“It goes back to when I went into business early in life, when I was in my early 20s,’’ Jeffries said. “My dad told me the key has always been good customer service. The name we had was Golden Rule and it came from the idea of how to treat people, whether they were customers or employees, to try to treat people the way you’d want to be treated as a customer or employee.

“We try to do the same thing here. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better. If I was a fan or season ticket holder — how would I want to be treated? Some things are out of our control, but we still do the best with what we have.’’

That best resulted in four straight seasons where the Havoc set SPHL attendance records. Sellouts are common, and the team defeated the Birmingham Bulls at a packed, raucous VBC Propst Arena on April 27 to add to previous titles in 2010 and 2018.

Winning certainly helps drive attendance. So does cozy relations with the VBC’s Steve Maples and Mike Vojticek. Concession sales have soared at the renovated Propst Arena.

But a major part of the Havoc’s successful formula is Jeffries.

Ashley Balch, the team president, would know. He’s been with the franchise since its inception 15 years ago when the team played for one year as the Channel Cats. And he was there when the Havoc won 11 games in 2014-15, then set its first attendance record the following season.

Havoc President Ashley Balch welcomes fans to celebration.

“(The key) is commitment from ownership, the commitment from Keith and Becky Jeffries,’’ Balch said. “Keith doesn’t own any other business. They’re not doing this just for fun. This has become their life.

“They’ve made my family part of their family. The way they treat their employees makes you want to make them proud. You want to do a good job for them.’’

It certainly doesn’t hurt the Havoc’s bottom line that the city and area has transplants from hockey-crazed regions and an ever-growing population. And the team returns the favor by giving the city yet another reason for the growth.

“Keith does a great show and it’s been a great year for the team,’’ said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “It’s something most people don’t expect when they come here. The interesting thing is people come here and you’ve got to have something to draw people to downtown and keep people downtown.

“It’s just part of your draw for the VBC and the downtown area. It all blends together into something that makes a community.’’

Before the puck dropped on the inaugural 2004-05 season Jeffries did some homework. He talked to Ron Evans, the former VBC director, and others. He listened and heard what worked and what didn’t as minor league professional teams from hockey, basketball and, eventually, indoor football came and went.

“A lot of the business models of the past were maybe — flawed a little?’’ Jeffries said. “The thing that helped us from the very beginning and continues to help us is the partnership we have with the (VBC). How many owners and buildings have a love-hate relationship and compete? By co-promoting this (team) with the building, we both make money when we put people in the building.’’

Jeffries’ game plan for business success has evolved over 15 years. He said he “obviously’’ spends no money on newspaper advertising since there is no daily newspaper in Huntsville and spends “very little’’ on television and radio spots. The Havoc focus is on social media and reaching out to those who already know the team.

“We spend more time interacting with people who come to our games,’’ he said. “We know they like it and might bring somebody with them.’’

It should be noted that in the SPHL, unlike minor league baseball clubs affiliated with Major League teams, coaches and players are not paid by the big league club.

Jeffries said he doesn’t have a lot of money to open his pockets for charity, since the Havoc is a mom-and-pop operation, but is proud the franchise can give back to the community and charities in different ways because of its profile.

“It’s what keeps me going,’’ he said.