Madison ballpark: They haven’t built it, but hundreds did come

MADISON – If the line of cars on Zierdt Road and the hundreds of people who showed up for a groundbreaking ceremony were any indication, baseball has definitely returned to North Alabama.

Close to 1,000 future fans of the yet-t0-be-named minor league baseball team turned out Saturday as BallCorps Inc. and the city of Madison broke ground for a $46 million baseball/multi-use facility. Fans received commemorative baseballs as well as free hot dogs and soft drinks.

The official groundbreaking ceremony for the new Madison baseball facility was held Saturday. Photo by Marianne Higgins

The groundbreaking event took place at the site of the facility  – a “barren field,” as Madison Mayor Paul Finley put it – along Interstate 565 and Zierdt Road.

It is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019 and the complex will include a Hotel Margaritaville. Plans are for the facility to hold other events, outside the 70 regular season baseball games.

“There will be movies in the park, car shows, Scouting events; companies can hold events at the facility,” Finley said. “This venue will make a difference in the quality of life” in Madison.

Ralph Nelson, the managing partner and CEO of BallCorps – the team’s owner, was emotional as he spoke.

“I have just two words: thank you,” he said. “Thank you for inviting us into your community and thank you for welcoming us into your community.”

Then, Nelson, who has been involved in professional baseball for a quarter of a century, paused.

“This is the best day in my baseball career,” he said. “In 675 days (June 19, 2020), we’re going to be playing ball in Madison.”

Artist’s rendering shows Madison’s new baseball stadium with a swimming pool behind the centerfield scoreboard.