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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.

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.

 

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.

Rocket City Trash Pandas Announce Partnership with Pepsi

MADISON – If you want a soft drink while watching the Rocket City Trash Pandas, all you will have to do is say, “Pepsi, please.”

The Trash Pandas and Buffalo Rock Company-Pepsi announced a long- term strategic partnership to include non-alcoholic beverage exclusivity and stadium sponsorships. The Trash Pandas have Pepsi, as the exclusive non-alcoholic provider of beverages for their new stadium opening in April 2020.

“Buffalo Rock-Pepsi is a company that aligns perfectly with our values and approach to deliver a fun, affordable family experience,” said Ralph Nelson, Trash Pandas CEO/managing partner. “We have been so impressed with the entire leadership team at Buffalo Rock-Pepsi and they’ve been with us at every major BallCorps event, long before this partnership was formalized.

“With over 35 years serving North Alabama, Buffalo Rock has consistently demonstrated their commitment to this community, so we are so happy to be their partners.”

As part of the agreement, Buffalo Rock Company-Pepsi has been named a Founding Partner of the Trash Pandas and the new stadium. The Pepsi brand and logo will be prominently featured throughout the stadium, and the main entry gate where over 500,000 annual visitors will enter the venue will be known as Pepsi Gate.

“The community’s excitement as evidence in the Rocket City Trash Panda’s success in branding and merchandise sales, fuels our confidence in this being a great opportunity for both parties” said Matthew Dent, president/COO for Buffalo Rock Company-Pepsi. “Our company is known for keeping families and community its focus. And, by becoming a strategic partner with a team bringing baseball back to North Alabama, we will be able to continue fulfilling our mission in the community for years to come.”

For Trash Pandas season ticket information, visit www.trashpandasbaseball.com.

A Food Hall of Kitchens, Breweries and Food Trucks Coming to Town Madison

MADISON — At his State of the City Address in March, Madison Mayor Paul Finley told the audience to buckle up for some big announcements coming out of the new Town Madison development this spring. Today, the Breland Companies delivered a big one!

Rendering shows layout of Town Madison around the baseball stadium and Food Hall

The latest addition is a sprawling Food Hall of 18 kitchens curated by local and regional chefs, two breweries, and several stationary food trucks in an outdoor dining area. A central bar with indoor/outdoor seating will serve as an anchor, and developers are talking to several local and regional restaurants about joining the unique dining lineup. 

The Food Hall can be seen to the right in this rendering.

Designed by Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart, an international design firm based in Atlanta, the Food Hall will feature a large outdoor event space and covered stage area for a variety of events including a showcase for songwriters, concerts and big screen showings of various sporting events.

“Town Madison is taking another step toward our goal to provide a new experience in North Alabama living,” said Louis Breland. “We toured some of the finest food halls in the country looking for the right concept. A great food hall becomes a central gathering spot and brings unique energy to a community.

“Along with the (Rocket City) Trash Pandas stadium, the Food Hall and plaza area will become the place to be before a game or any time people want to meet with friends and share new experiences.”

The Food Hall, a partnership between Breland and Fuqua Development of Atlanta, joins the growing roster of tenants at Town Madison including the baseball stadium; several hotels including the avid Hotel, Home2 Suites and Margaritaville Resort Hotel; restaurants; national retailers such as Duluth Trading Co.; luxury apartments and residential communities.

Construction on the Food Hall begins this summer and tenants will be announced by the end of the year.

It is slated to open next spring – in time for the first pitch.

Trash Pandas, Cumulus Announce Broadcast Partnership

MADISON — Against a backdrop of the new ballpark under construction, the Rocket City Trash Pandas and Cumulus Media announced an expansive three-year partnership, which will bring live radio broadcasts of the team’s 140 games on WUMP 103.9 FM/730 AM.

Calling the play-by-play will be Josh Caray, the grandson of legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Caray and son of the late Atlanta Braves broadcaster Skip Caray. Josh’s brother, Chip, is the current Braves’ play-by-play announcer.

From left, Ralph Nelson, CEO/managing partner of the Trash Pandas; Cumulus Vice President/Market Manager John Lewis; abd play-by-play announcer Josh Caray

“This is a special day for our organization,” said Ralph Nelson, Trash Pandas CEO/managing partner. “To have Josh Caray as our voice is yet another huge win for the amazing Trash Pandas fan base – they’re going to be blown away by his big-league style.”

Caray most recently served as the football and men’s basketball radio play-by-play broadcaster at Stony Brook University on Long Island. He also called baseball games for Yale University and the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League and will finish his duties with the Renegades this season before joining the Trash Pandas.

He grew up in the Atlanta area and also worked for the Braves’ Rome and Gwinnett affiliates. Caray related taking his job with the Trash Pandas to former Alabama Head Football Coach Bear Bryant on his return to Tuscaloosa to coach the Crimson Tide.

“When Mama calls, you’ve got to listen,” Caray said. “Mama called me and I’m coming home.”

At Monday’s press conference, Caray said he was excited about the opportunity to join the team.

“I am beyond surprised at the number of people out today,” he said. “This shows me that what is being built behind me” will be an exciting place.

Nelson said though the team chose Cumulus and Cumulus staff for game broadcasts and gameday activities, the Trash Pandas will be working with the other radio stations across north Alabama.

“Regarding our larger partnership… there are so many great stations in this region, and we intend to continue working with all of them,” he said. “We chose Cumulus because of its extensive reach across a variety of market segments. Cumulus offered us an unprecedented opportunity to share the Trash Pandas experience with the most fans possible.”

Mojo, of WZYP’s “The Mojo Radio Show”, will be gameday master of ceremonies, engaging fans and emceeing between-inning promotions, contests, and more. “Tricky Ricky” Fernandez of WUMP’s “The Bullpen,” will oversee in-stadium music, video and sound effects, and his “Bullpen” co-host Antonio “Tony Mac” MacBeath will be the public address announcer.

“This is a win-win …,” said John Lewis, vice president and market manager for Cumulus. “We are thrilled with this partnership; the Trash Pandas are already a world-class baseball franchise … we have 700,000 listeners to help them fully engage their extensive fan base.

“We’re also excited about the cross-promotional opportunities, so Trash Pandas fans can discover what so many already know – that Cumulus offers top-notch programming with great personalities, across a variety of platforms.”

For information, visit trashpandasbaseball.com, umpsports.com and cumulusmedia.com.

Million-Dollar Mark: Trash Pandas Do Minor League in a Big League Way

MADISON — When the Rocket City Trash Pandas announced their team name, several hundred people packed a local microbrewery.

When the team held a logo unveiling with fireworks and a band, Madison’s Dublin Park was jammed.

So, why should it surprise anyone that the team – which will not play a game for another 11 months – is setting all sorts of records?

What kind of records? Sales of merchandise.

Shirts, caps, hoodies, sweatshirts bearing one or all of the team’s logos have been seen and photographed around the world.

The team shattered Minor League Baseball records for online and overall merchandise sales and now are about to hit another milestone: $1 million in sales. The Trash Pandas have a store in Bridge Street Town Centre, next to the Apple store, and also sell online at trashpandasbaseball.com.

“I don’t know of any team that has sold $1 million of merchandise 10 months before the first pitch,” Ralph Nelson, the team’s CEO and managing partner, said Tuesday.

Nelson and the team had another big league move Tuesday when they announced that Josh Caray would be the team’s play-by-play broadcaster.

Yes, Caray. As in Chip, Skip and, of course, Harry.

“He has got a lineage radio announcers dream of,” said Nelson. “He’s as talented as I have heard …”

So, what’s next?

Well, the Trash Pandas’ next big play will be in June when they unveil the team uniforms in a big ceremony in Big Spring Park.