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Rain Delays Opening Multi-Sports Venue at Site of Former Becky Peirce Golf Course

Huntsvillians hoping to check out the new multi-sports complex at the old Becky Peirce Municipal Golf Course before summer turns to fall might need to do a reverse rain dance.

Ongoing rain that left the city soaked for much of last fall and this past spring has delayed progress at the venue. While some contractors have reported they still plan to meet target dates, the massive amount of dirt being moved at the old course at the corner of Airport Road and South Memorial Parkway has left a quagmire of sorts that has substantially slowed development.

“If we didn’t have any rain, we’d be through,’’ said Steve Ivey, director of the City of Huntsville Parks and Recreation. “As it is, we’re about six weeks behind, and that’s being kind to the contractors. If we got out there with heavy trucks, we’d tear things up and have to start over.’’

Ivey said a target opening date is somewhere in the middle of summer.

“If you can promise me it won’t rain, I could give you a date,’’ he said.

The landmark rocket stands guard over the work at the new multisports complex

Plans are for the complex to feature a cross-country course, paved walking trail, dirt bike trail, disc golf courses, sand volleyball courts, golf driving range and a dog park.

For now, William Bell, the facility project coordinator, said the focus is on getting the grass-covered cross-country course and the walking trail ready for use. Next on his priority list is the dirt bike circuit, which is still in designing stages.

He said the cross-country course and walking trails are 75 to 80 percent complete.

“The biggest thing right now is getting a retaining wall around pond No. 1, and we’ve got three ponds,” he said. “The Lord has taken care of us pretty well up to this point. It could have been worse. We’re doing all we can.”

The cross-country course sod was placed late last month.

The Huntsville Sports Commission is charged with bringing events to the city.

“We’re going to schedule a lot of things there,’’ said Commission Director Ralph Stone. “Our role will be to identify and recruit events to pay for the thing.’’

A main attraction the sports commission will focus on right away is the cross-country course, which Stone said will be “world class.’’

“There will be opportunities for several sports there once it gets rolling,’’ he said.

Town Madison’s $12M Pro Player Park Brings Even More Baseball to Area

MADISON — Ever since Madison Mayor Paul Finley announced the building of a new concept at Town Madison called Pro Player Park, it provoked visions of a stylized Ernest Lawrence Thayer: Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell; It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell; It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat, For Finley, mighty Finley was advancing to the bat.

Now we know Finley’s statement, which came in January’s State of the City Address, will bring a much happier result for local residents than those of Mudville!

The $12 million Pro Player Park project is supported solely by private investment and consists of 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields – six championship size and the other six are configured so the fences can be pulled in to accommodate softball. The project also includes batting cages, a pro shop, a small café and vending area, and an indoor soccer field. Statistics show that Pro Player Park should generate about 300,000 visitors a year, which yields about 40,000 room nights per year.

Currently more than halfway through the design phase, the Breland Properties project is situated in Town Madison on the old Intergraph campus. They will break ground in late spring or early summer with expectations for opening about the same time as the Trash Pandas’ stadium next spring. The first year will be a soft opening year before shooting for home runs in 2021.

“Pro Player Park was not conceived alongside the acquisition of the Rocket City Trash Pandas or their new stadium,” said Joey Ceci, president of Breland Properties. “However, once that project was underway, one of our associates here at Breland, whose son is involved in tournament travel ball, complained that he was always having to drive somewhere else on weekends to watch his son play in these regional tournaments.

“He noted that he was spending his money in all these different locations that did not have any of the attractions and accommodations available in Huntsville. We saw an opportunity to fill that void.”

Ceci said Pro Player Park has undergone more than six months of rigorous due diligence, market feasibility studies, and they have had dozens of serious discussions among all the appropriate people including Mark McCarter, convention sales manager at the Huntsville/Madison Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Huntsville Sports Commission Executive Director Ralph Stone. They are both excited about it because it opens up baseball and softball tournament opportunities the city of Huntsville has never had the facilities to support.

Furthermore, they consulted with one of their partners, Tim Dulin, who has built similar facilities to Pro Player Park and has contacts with travel ball teams as a coach and a mentor. He is already working with McCarter to start pitching Huntsville for these types of tournaments, and to get on their schedules for when the park opens.

“Both travel baseball and softball are increasing in popularity, but there has always been a hole in this region for having the facilities to support them,” said Ceci. “The traveling tournament teams we are looking at are primarily regional or at least within driving distance, but some of the championship series could bring in people from Puerto Rico and Latin America where baseball is a very popular sport, as well as all over the U.S. at some point.

“Because the fields are synthetic – that is, the dirt and the grass are synthetic – they are more or less plug-and-play and can even be configured to support lacrosse,” Ceci said. “These teams can’t really afford rainouts so, with synthetic fields, when the rain is over, you don’t have a soggy field or muddy infield to worry about because they drain quickly, and therefore play can resume relatively quickly.”

Ceci said the closest similar facilities are in Southaven, Miss.; Memphis and Atlanta.

“Nashville gets some teams, but they don’t have a single facility where they play the entire week,” said Ceci. “They use a variety of high school fields, some which are not very high quality, and they are spread out all over Nashville. For instance, they may play a game in Gallatin one day, a game in Brentwood the next day, and a third game in downtown Nashville. The logistics are difficult.”

He said these teams really come with the intent of playing high-caliber, competitive ball and they like to play in places where there are likely to be major league and college scouts on-hand to see their kids play. 

“There is nowhere where the logistics make sense for pro and college scouts who may want to watch a potential catcher play in Smyrna while another player they are interested in is playing across town at the same time in downtown Nashville,” he said.

“The way Pro Player Park will be designed, we will be able to situate scout towers adjacent to four fields at a time, so they can watch players on all four fields from a single location.”

There are hundreds of travel teams who begin the season in late February/early March and run through October. During school, they play these tournaments mostly on weekends but, when school lets out, they may play for three to five days.

“It’s a great generator for us from a business point of view and as a developer, it’s another great project,” Ceci said. “For several days at a time, you will have visitors spending money shopping at Town Madison or Bridge Street; dining; renting hotel rooms; attending ballgames; and visiting our attractions like the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. That is quite the attractive package.”

Alabama State Games are gold for Huntsville

 

Thousands of athletes are racing to the Rocket City this weekend for a chance to win gold.

Meanwhile, Huntsville stands to reap some gold of its own – or green – through the economic impact from the  Alabama State Games XXXVI.

The city is hosting more than 5,000 athletes competing in 25 sports throughout the Huntsville-Madison County area in the state’s version of the Olympics.

“This is the largest State Games in the number of sports,” said Judy Ryals, president/CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Vistors Bureau. “It will bring a $1.5 million economic impact and is a showcase for Huntsville’s venues.” 

The 36th annual event was also known as the Alabama Sports Festival when it was created and through its first few years.

“The Alabama State Games created a ‘sports festival,’ ” said Anthony Terling, vice president of external affairs for the ASF Foundation. “There are 25 sports and it’s not just a youth games. There is competition for adults, seniors and Miracle League.

“All types of individuals can compete.”

Some sports have on-site registration while team sports have already registered. For information, visit asffoundation.org/alabama-state-games and www.alagames.com.

Also, it’s not only about sports, Terling said. “We’ve given away $300,000 in scholarships.”

Huntsville is hosting for the first time since 2003-04 and will play host this year and next, with an option for a third year.

Ryals said it took teamwork by state, county and city officials to bring the games back to Huntsville, after Dothan hosted last year.

“Sen. Arthur Orr asked why we can’t have the Games,” Ryals said. “So, Mayor (Tommy) Battle and (Madison County) Chairman Dale Strong came to me and said ‘Let’s make it happen.’

“The whole team at the CVB, Huntsville Sports Commission, Parks and Recreation did make it happen. The city and county school systems offered their assistance, too.”

The State Games start Friday with Opening Ceremonies at the Von Braun Center. The ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. and are open to the public. They will also be televised statewide over Alabama Public Television.

“The Opening Ceremonies are going to be spectacular,” Ryals said. “The athletes will march in and we will be honoring first responders.

“It’s really nice to honor that group and give them recognition.”

https://www.asffoundation.org/alabama-state-games

Venue Map and Schedule