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Huntsville Has A Lot to Offer in Off-the-Wall Christmas Gift Ideas

Deck the halls and walls and fill the stockings while you’re at it. Make the lists, check them twice, and shop local. No disputing it, Huntsville is rife with retail and the local treasures listed below barely scratch a dent into what the Rocket City has to offer.

For those of you who are stumped for gift-giving ideas, here’s a good starting point. From traditional “family and friend” presents to “Dirty Santa” and “White Elephant” gifts, there’s something for everyone.

Lewter’s Hardware

222 Washington St NE, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 539-5777

Hours: Mon-Fri: 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat: 7:30 a.m.-noon

Lewter’s time-honored motto, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it” still holds true. The shelves at Lewter’s are filled with an infinite selection of tools, home improvement, and pretty much anything known to mankind to embellish one’s nest. Spoiler alert: Lewter’s also carries toys; a very quirky selection, at that.

Looking for a scatologically inspired stocking stuffer? Lewter’s has a can of Big Foot Scat for only $5.99. It’s a great way to keep the young’uns giggling and entertained for a spell.

What better way to pass the time – or gas for that matter? Windbreaking, as it’s referred to in polite circles, has taken on a life of its own in Toyland. As part of the “Fartist Club,” Ripping Randy and his pals, Farty Flip, Munchy Max, and Windy Wendy are here to show you how it’s done. All that’s required is $10.99 and 2 AAA batteries to get that office Dirty Santa party started.

“This is the first time we’ve had these,” said Dianne Douglas, merchandise buyer for Lewter’s. “Sometimes, the guys tease me when things like this come in.”

Railroad Station Antiques

https://www.railroadstationantiques.com

315 Jefferson St N, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 533-6550

Hours: Mon-Fri: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun: 1-5 p.m.

Railroad Station has a dynamic assortment of merchandise. There are Gurgle Pots and Chirpy Tops for home entertaining. Unique items such as decorative concrete crosses, dragonfly tiffany lamps, and many other one-of-a kind items fill up the three stories of vendor space.

 

Turkish Treasures & Inspired at Cyn Shea’s

https://turkishtreasures.com/

https://cynsheas.com › inspired-gifts

415 Church St NW Suite E-5

Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 527-2488

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10am-3pm

Inspired

Located in Cyn Shea’s, Inspired is filled with an enticing collection of unique gifts from local, regional, and global artisans.

Turkish Treasures is a store within a store. A retail version of a nesting doll, if you will. Turkish Treasures features handmade gifts from Turkey and Central Asia.

Both Inspired and Turkish Treasures feature sustainable products made by artisans and companies that “give back” to their local communities.

Little Green Store

https://thelittlegreenstore.net

820 Monte Sano Blvd SE, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 539-9699

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Open Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas

The Little Green Store and Gallery features a dazzling assortment of locally created art, pottery, and handmade jewelry. They also carry products by the socially conscious company Blue Q, makers of quirky socks, potholders, and more.

A solid collection of Houston Ilew’s “Spirtiles” are also available. The glass on copper enameled collectibles are beautifully designed; each “tile” has a theme with an accompanying phrase.

Art & Soul Inspired Home

2313 Whitesburg Drive, Huntsville, AL 35801

(256) 270-7363

Hours: Mon-Thur: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Fri-Sat: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Looking for gifts for that special guy? Art & Soul carries Duke Cannon Supply Company men’s products. With eye-catching names like “Mr. Perfect” Grooming Kit, “Bloody Knuckles” hand repair balm, and “Offensively Large” lip balm, the goods are guaranteed to deliver quality, along with a chuckle.

Along with men’s grooming goods, rock the holidays in style! Art & Soul also has a collection of quippy door tags that will ring in the season with a big laugh.

Green Pea Press/The Pea Pod at Lowe Mill

http://greenpeapress.com/

2211 Seminole Dr SW, Huntsville, AL 35805, Studios 111-122

(256) 679-7288

Hours: Wed-Thur: Noon-6 p.m.; Fri: Noon-8 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Green Pea Press embraces the quirky, whimsical side of Huntsville . The group’s collective imagination makes for interestingly designed wearing apparel and products that celebrate our city, our state, and the denizens who inhabit it. Be an ambassador! The apparel makes a great gift for out-of-town family and friends.

 

Vertical House Records

theverticalhouse.com

2211 Seminole Drive, SW, Huntsville, AL 35805

(256) 658-2976

Hours: Weds-Fri: Noon-8 p.m.; Sat: Noon-5 p.m.

News Flash! Vinyl has never really disappeared and it’s back with a vengeance. Vertical House offers a wide selection of 33 1/3 playable discs; from Bobby Sherman to Alice Cooper and all points in between. Don’t have anything to play them on? There’s an assortment of turntables in stock, as well.

Located in the Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment Center, Green Pea Press/The Pea Pod and Vertical House Records are two of the many local artisan-retailers in the collective. Be sure to check out the other Lowe Mill artists while checking off your holiday gift list.

Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment

www.lowemill.net

2211 Seminole Drive, SW, Huntsville, AL 35805

(256) 533-0399

Hours: Weds: Noon-6 p.m.; Thurs: Noon-6 p.m.; Fri: Noon-8 p.m.; Sat: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Trash Pandas Emporium

https://www.milb.com/rocket-city

365 The Bridge Street, Huntsville, AL 35806

(256) 325-1413

Hours: Mon-Sat: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun: Noon-6 p.m.

Baseball bling is in, especially when the mascot is a raccoon with an attitude! Haters can hate, but quirky team names are here to stay. Just a thought: it sure beats a name like “Wind Surge.”

All team name grousing aside, the Emporium has an assortment of goodies from the big-ticket jerseys and hats to stocking stuffers like nail files, clippers, and decals. There’s even a stuffed unicorn!

Gifts from the Trash Panda Emporium will delight those rabid baseball fans, who are eagerly counting the days until the season opener.

 

Rocket City Trash Pandas Offer 23-game Ticket Plans

MADISON — By popular demand, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have announced the sale of partial-season ticket mini-plans for 2020.

“As our fanbase knows, the Trash Pandas have been overwhelmed by sales of full season tickets, far beyond what we had anticipated; with more than 1,600 sold, there are fewer than 200 remaining,” said team President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “We are also well aware many of our fans can’t commit to attend 70 home games.

“Our fans constantly ask about partial-season ticket plans. We’ve heard them, and in response to those requests, we are offering three varied 23-game mini-plans.”

Each mini-plan consists of 23 home games, but none include Opening Day. Only full-season ticket holders are guaranteed a seat for Opening Day.

The mini-plans are for box seats only, and include these benefits:

  • Just a single-year commitment
  • 10 percent discount at the Trash Pandas Junkyard and Emporium team stores
  • 20 percent off parking

“These mini-plans make the perfect Christmas gift for all the baseball fans in your family,” Nelson said.

The three mini-plans are named Mercury, Gemini and Apollo and each has its own specialty. Specific dates for each plan are available on the team’s website www.TrashPandasBaseball.com.

The Mercury Plan is the All-American plan, including Memorial Day and the big 3rd of July game and spectacular fireworks show.

The Gemini Plan is perfect for families with 5 Sunday games and 4 Saturday games, as well as the final home game of the season.

The Apollo Plan is a weekend special with the most weekend games of the three plans. It also includes the second home game of the season.

Each mini-plan is priced at $345 per seat. All three plans are available for sale at the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street Town Centre, also by calling 256-325-1403, fans can email seasontickets@trashpandasbaseball.com or visit www.TrashPandasBaseball.com.

Rocket City Trash Pandas Mascot to Make Debut at Bridge Street Christmas Tree-Lighting

A long-awaited moment will arrive Nov. 22, when the Rocket City Trash Pandas’ mascot makes its public debut with none other than Santa Claus in the 12th annual “Lights Up!” Christmas tree-lighting ceremony at Bridge Street Town Centre.

The 12th annual Bridge Street Town Centre Christmas Tree-lighting will be Nov. 22.

“The Rocket City Trash Pandas are truly honored to take part in this North Alabama holiday tradition,” said President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “As our gift to the community, we are presenting … or should I say, ‘unwrapping’ our mascot.”

For more than a decade, residents have visited Bridge Street for the ceremony marking the traditional start of the holiday season. Festivities run from 4:30-7 p.m., with the tree-lighting at 6:15. The mascot will be revealed just prior to the lighting – and Santa has asked if the Trash Panda can assist lighting the tree.

 

Name the Mascot Contest

The Trash Pandas are now holding a “Name the Mascot Contest.”

Over the next two weeks, season ticket holders and other Trash Pandas Nation members will receive a ballot via email to vote for one of six names: Apollo; Buzz; Cosmo; Crash; Jetson; and Sprocket.

The Trash Pandas Nation includes customers who have purchased Trash Pandas licensed merchandise at the Trash Pandas Emporium at Bridge Street and in the Trash Pandas online store. Fans who wish to vote but do not receive an email ballot can receive one by signing up for the Trash Pandas Nation online at www.TrashPandasBaseball.com.

“After the success of the fans’ voting on the name of our team, I can’t wait to see what name they choose for our mascot,” Nelson said.

Following the tree-lighting ceremony, the mascot will sign autographs in the Trash Pandas Emporium, the official store of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, at the foot of the bridge.

Fans have bought more than $1.7 million in licensed Trash Pandas merchandise in 12 1⁄2 months, setting Minor League Baseball sales records. The Emporium, which follows Bridge Street’s holiday schedule, is also the official outlet for season tickets. Less than 250 full season tickets remain.

Bridge Street Town Centre’s “Lights Up!” event is filled with festivities for the entire family. The crowd will enjoy live music from local band Big Daddy Kingfish, the Christmas tree lighting, Santa Claus, and fireworks. It’s a spectacular event that will help everyone get into the Christmas spirit.

The Trash Pandas mascot and costume was designed by San Diego-based Brandiose and created by Custom Characters of Glendale, Calif.

Brandiose designed the iconic logos and brand for the Trash Pandas which has captured national and international attention. Custom Characters’ client list includes The Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks Animation, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., among others.

Rocket City Trash Pandas, Inline Electric Announce Partnership

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas and Inline Electric have announced a long- term strategic partnership to include naming rights for the Inline Electric Rock Porch bar.

The Inline Electric Rock Porch will offer a unique view of the action in Toyota Field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“We are excited to have Inline Lighting and Electrical Supply join the Trash Pandas family,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Inline Electric is a home-grown business that has been known throughout our region for their quality products and customer service for three decades. Since we designed the Rock Porch, I have always felt it will become everybody’s favorite spot in the ballpark. We are thrilled that Inline Electric, a North Alabama business institution, has elected to sponsor it.


“The Inline Electric Rock Porch will be providing our fans with the most unique vantage point in Minor League Baseball.”

As part of the agreement, Inline Lighting & Electrical Supply has been named a Founding Partner of the Trash Pandas and Toyota Field. The Inline Electric brand and logo will be prominently featured throughout the stadium, including the Inline Electric Rock Porch bar overlooking right field.

“Inline Lighting and Electrical Supply is proud to be a sponsor of the Rocket City Trash Pandas new venture in North Alabama,” said Bruce Summerville, President of Inline Lighting and Electrical Supply. “Our customers in Huntsville, Athens, Sheffield, Cullman and Albertville are certainly excited to participate with
in making this a huge success for all of North Alabama.”

Rocket City Trash Pandas Name Food & Beverage VP, Executive Chef

The Rocket City Trash Pandas have announced the appointment of a veteran culinary director and award-winning Executive Chef to lead the team’s food and beverage operations.

Mary Nixon, who has worked with several Minor League Baseball teams as a food service consultant and catering director, has been named Vice President and Executive Director of BallCorps Food and Beverage, LLC.

Ryan Curry, whose skills have been recognized in local, national and international media, will be Toyota Field’s Executive Chef & Assistant Director, Food and Beverage Operations.

Ryan Curry and Mary Nixon have some exciting food plans in store for Trash Pandas fans.

“In every aspect of our operation we have strived to build a unique, Major League-type experience,” said Ralph Nelson, Trash Pandas President & CEO. “Today, fans are expecting more than just popcorn and hot dogs; food and beverage is an essential component of the fan experience.

“I am certain Mary and Ryan will provide an unforgettable culinary experience for our fans.”

Curry was most recently Executive Chef with the Albuquerque Isotopes of the Pacific Coast League, where his Tumbleweed Burger (a cotton candy-topped burger) was named by the international publication VenuesNow as Best New Concessions Food Item in 2019. His Green Chile Peach Flambé was runner-up for the same award in 2018.

A native of Sacramento, Calif., Curry graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. With 24 years’ experience as a professional chef, Curry has worked for Major League and Minor League teams, as well as restaurants, country clubs, resorts and hotels on the West Coast from California to Alaska. As Executive Chef with the Sacramento River Cats in 2010, his work was recognized by SI.com as one of the 10 best in Minor League Baseball.

“Minor League Baseball is such an amazing experience to be a part of,” Curry said. “Fans are here for great baseball, which the Trash Pandas will no doubt deliver. But, it’s my responsibility to make sure the food delivers a memorable experience as well.

“Stadium food offerings can no longer be plain hot dogs and hamburgers. Fans want fresh and creative offerings…menu items that motivate them to go to work the next day and ask a co-worker if they’ve tried the ‘such and such food item at Toyota Field’ and, if they haven’t, they need to go check it out.”

Nixon comes to the Trash Pandas from Richmond, Va., and has also worked with Minor League Baseball teams in Hartford, Conn..; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Lehigh Valley, Pa.

“I am excited to join the Trash Pandas and provide an extraordinary food and beverage experience to our fans,” Nixon said. “We undertook an extensive nationwide search for an executive chef, and Ryan was – hands-down – the choice. Our fans will be amazed by his creations.”

“Baseball is the main show at Toyota Field, but when fans are trying our food, I want them to forget for just a moment that they’re at a baseball game,” Curry said. “Then I’ve done my job.”

Naming of Toyota Field was a Two-Year Drive in the Making

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, TMMAL President David Finch and Trash Pandas President/CEO Ralph Nelson. (Photo/Steve Babin)

MADISON — On a sunny, let’s-play-three day that begged for baseball, even though the calendar had turned mostly toward football and beyond, the Rocket City Trash Pandas got a name for their new home yard hard on the Huntsville-Madison city limit lines.

Toyota Field will usher in the inaugural season of the Double-A Southern League team in April 2020.

Toyota Field is a name for that’s been in the works basically as long as the team, and stadium, have been an idea.

Team President and CEO Ralph Nelson, along with local dignitaries, announced the name on Columbus Day at the stadium that is still under construction.

But the ship of what the stadium would be named, however, set sail about two years ago.

“The day after Thanksgiving in 2017 my wife, Lisa, and I were driving in the hills of Vermont to cut down a Christmas tree,” Nelson said.

The phone rang and it was David Fernandez, then the president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“In the first minute, he said, ‘Let ‘s figure out a way to put Toyota’s name on your ballpark.’”

They did, and, after two years of crossing t’s and dotting i’s and other legal discussions, Toyota Field was born and became official with the announcement.

Rendering shows the Toyota Field name on the video board neat the Rock Porch in right field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“It’s incredibly rare for a global corporation to acquire the rights to a minor league stadium,” Nelson said. “But as I’ve said so many times, this is not the minors. This community expects and deserves a major league operation. Toyota Field is very major league.

“In that first call, David told me he wanted Toyota team members to look with pride at their company name on a prominent community landmark. I told him unless he can buy the rights to that rocket ship (at the Space and Rocket Center), he’s come to the right place.’’

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama employs 1,400 workers in Huntsville and is expected to add 400 more in the near future.

Among those speaking at the naming ceremony were Madison Mayor Paul Finley, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong and David Finch, current president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“Toyota Field is the new centerpiece of the region that showcases economic development, job growth and quality of life,’’ Finch said.

A “fence” of huge concrete baseballs greet visitors to Toyota Field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The field’s entrance on the first base side will feature an area overlooking the park and will be called Bill Penney Toyota Plaza. Below is a grassy berm where fans can sit and watch the game. The stadium is ringed with roughly 5,000 seats with a capacity of 7,500. There’s a picnic area down the left-field line and VIP suites above the general seating.

Toyota is planning a showcase of its local products in center field.

“To see the project come to life has been amazing and the energy from the community is contagious,” Finch said.

 

Trash Pandas Stadium to be Named Toyota Field

MADISON — They have a name, they have a logo, they have a home.

And, now, the Rocket City Trash Pandas have a name for their home.

Toyota Field.

In a press conference today, Ballcorps, the owner of the baseball team; the City of Madison; and Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Alabama announced an agreement for the naming rights to the club’s new $46 million stadium and multi-use venue, now officially called Toyota Field.

“The Rocket City Trash Pandas are thrilled to be a member of this partnership and the myriad of benefits it will bring to the ball club, Toyota, the City of Madison and the entire North Alabama community,” said Trash Pandas President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Discussions began more than two years ago, well before stadium plans were finalized, and today’s announcement reflects Toyota’s commitment to our region and the unwavering support they have shown the Trash Pandas since day one.

“I believe this community deserves a major league operation with our minor league team, and this significant partnership with Toyota, a company representing excellence and superior quality on a global scale, demonstrates exactly that.”

The Toyota brand will be prominent throughout the stadium, including the Toyota Outfield Experience, to be located beyond the centerfield fence. Fans will see advanced engines from the Huntsville plant, interact with digital displays, learn what it’s like to work at Toyota, and how to apply for jobs at the Huntsville plant, which currently builds engines for the popular Toyota Camry, RAV4, Corolla, Highlander, Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia.

“North Alabama is a great place to live, work and play,” said David Finch, president of TMMAL. “Toyota Field is the new centerpiece for the region, promoting economic development, job creation and quality of life. The Toyota Outfield Experience will showcase our world-class engine manufacturing plant and   create a touchpoint to connect job seekers to the 400 upcoming available job opportunities at TMMAL. We see this contact with the community as an important step in securing our workforce of the future.”

Revenue from the naming rights will be divided evenly between the City of Madison and the Trash Pandas.

“Toyota continues to be an amazing community partner and we are beyond excited to call the ball park Toyota Field,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “We are extremely appreciative of BallCorps’ diligence in securing such a quality organization.”

Toyota began its Alabama operation in 2003, and its impact continues to be felt throughout the region. The plant’s most recent expansion announcement will increase employment to 1,800 with an investment of $1.2 billion and annual production capacity of 900,000 engines. This solidifies the facility as one of Toyota’s largest engine producers globally.

“To see the project come to life has been amazing and the energy from the community is contagious,” said Finch. “We can’t wait to say, ‘play ball’ at Toyota Field.”

Rocket City Trash Pandas, Halsey Foodservice Announce Stadium Partnership

MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas and Halsey Foodservice have announced a long-term strategic partnership for food distribution and stadium sponsorship.

Halsey will be the exclusive provider of food and food service products for the Rocket City Trash Pandas stadium. (Photo/Halsey Foodservice)

With the agreement, Halsey Foodservice will be the exclusive provider of food and food service products for the Trash Pandas’ stadium, which opens in 2020.

“We are excited and honored to have Halsey Foodservice, headquartered in Madison, join the Trash Pandas family,” said team President and CEO Ralph Nelson. “Not only is Halsey Foodservice synonymous with quality products and superb customer service, but Halsey is one of the most iconic names in North Alabama’s rich history of growth and community service.

“This partnership will go a long way toward our well-documented goal of making the Trash Pandas’ food and beverage program second-to-none in Minor League Baseball.”

As part of the agreement, Halsey Foodservice has been named a Founding Partner of the Trash Pandas and the new stadium.

The 140-year-old company will be the sponsor of the new stadium’s William L. Halsey Suite Level which will feature a timeline chronicling the company’s history throughout the suite corridor. The W.L. Halsey logo will be prominently displayed at the front of the suite level, as well as on the stadium’s video board in right field.

“Halsey Foodservice is proud to be a part of this latest expansion for Huntsville, Madison, and the surrounding area,” said Owner, President and CEO Cecilia Halsey. “My family and, particularly, my father have long been committed to the growth and success of the Huntsville area from fundraising for the UAH campus, Redstone Arsenal, and his early involvement with the space program. My father’s love for this community has been evident and long-lasting.

“I am committed to carrying on my father’s legacy of community involvement and what better way than to form a strategic partnership with BallCorps and the Rocket City Trash Pandas. The Trash Pandas will be a central catalyst in bringing the community and its people closer together.”

The Trash Pandas will open their inaugural season next year with their home debut set for April 15.

Town Madison is Scoring with Residential and Hotel Construction

MADISON — Soon … very soon, Town Madison will be a lighted beacon along I-565, a welcoming 530-acre gateway into the Rocket City for visitors from the east and west.

Town Madison is a sprawling multi-use development extending along I-565 from Wall Triana Highway to Zierdt Road. (Courtesy The Breland Companies)

The shear enormity of the sprawling mixed-use development is on full display amidst the “preponderance of red soil” that gave Redstone Arsenal its name.

Town Madison has already inspired a boom of construction and activity in downtown Madison. It is changing forever the skyline along I-565 between Wall Triana Highway and the intersection of Madison Boulevard at Zierdt Road.

The new stadium with its red roof is now clearly visible amidst the towering LED stadium floodlights and churned red dirt and rocks. Fans of the Rocket City Trash Pandas, the tenants of the new ballpark, are already decked out and geared up for the team’s first pitch at their new home stadium on April 15, 2020.

While the energy is moving toward a April 15, 2020 Opening Day, there is a lot more going on at Town Madison than just baseball!

Phase I Residential

Described as having a “Village of Providence feel”, the first phase of Town Madison’s residential community consists of 216 single-family homes and townhouses, currently under construction.

Townhouses are rising from the red dirt to the north of the baseball stadium. (Photo/Kimberly Ballard)

The Village of Providence was one of Huntsville’s first mixed-use communities built off U.S. 72 in 2003. It has been a shining example of how popular pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and the amenity-filled lifestyle have become.

Single-family home lots are already selling out while a sales model of the townhouses graces the main drag a block from the stadium itself. Soon, potential buyers will be able to tour the layout and make preconstruction customizations to fit their lifestyle.

Currently the most visible residential component to rise from the red clay is The Station at Town Madison, a four-story, 274-unit luxury apartment complex, also within walking distance of restaurants, retail stores, the sports complex, and a slew of boutique hotels and destination resort hotels like Margaritaville that will be opening there.

“The Station is opening a leasing office within the next 45 days and will be moving new tenants in by the end of the year,” said Joey Ceci, president of the Breland Cos., which is developing the project. “I believe they already have plenty of interest and even some commitments from potential tenants who are interested in moving into such an exciting environment.”

500 Hotel Rooms

Rendering shows the 170-room Hotel Margaritaville which will be just beyond the centerfield wall of the Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium.

Ceci said hotels have always been an important component of Town Madison and progress on that front has been explosive. Convenient to Huntsville International Airport and I-565 and I-65, the new 97-room Home2Suites is open at 135 Graphics Drive, a block off Wall Triana at the westernmost edge of the development.

On the corner, a new Twice Daily convenience store and White Bison Coffee have also opened. Next to it, the 87-room avid Hotel is 50 percent complete, while a Hilton Garden Inn has broken ground a block up the street.

“The Town Madison target is 500 rooms,” said Ceci. “We will hit that number when the 170-room Margaritaville resort hotel breaks ground by the end of the year or very early next year.”

Announced back in 2018, the groundbreaking for Hotel Margaritaville has been delayed, putting into question whether Margaritaville with its tropical beach atmosphere, attached restaurant and lazy, winding river said to flow along the backside of the Trash Pandas centerfield wall, is still a go.

Ceci however is reassuring that Margaritaville will be in full swing by the Trash Pandas’ second season.

Pro Player Park

Other exciting venues such as Pro Players Park are committed to Town Madison, although construction has not yet begun.

The $12 million venue for travel softball and baseball will consist of 12 synthetic baseball/softball fields; a 65,000 square-foot sports facility with batting cages; a pro shop; a small café and vending area; and an indoor soccer field.

Pro Player Park will be situated west of the Trash Pandas’ stadium in what is known as the old Intergraph campus. No dates have been set for that groundbreaking, but it is expected to generate 300,000 visitors a year and, according to Madison Mayor Paul Finley, will yield about 40,000 room nights per year.

Restaurants and Retail

Finally, Ceci believes several restaurant concepts will be making announcements soon about their plans to open at Town Madison on the Zierdt Road side.

“Negotiations and discussions are happening every day with several restaurant and retail vendors and I believe we are very close to some solid commitments, but nothing I can announce today,” said Ceci.

Along with several national commercial tenants who are currently doing their due diligence, several announcements are expected in the coming weeks.

Career-prep: Madison Construction Academy, Turner Construction Prepare Students for Skills-based Trades

MADISON — To discover local construction career opportunities, students from James Clemons and Bob Jones high schools took a walking tour of the new Rocket City Trash Pandas stadium at Town Madison.

The tour was part of a workforce development effort by Turner Construction Co., which is building the stadium.

Turner Construction officials give the students an up-close look at the work on the new Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball stadium. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Students dressed in full site safety gear including bright yellow vests, hardhats and goggles got an up-close look at the entire construction site followed by lunch and a 15-minute presentation about career opportunities in the construction industry and its many related skills-based trades.

Students in their schools’ Construction Academy are taking classes in planning, design and construction. They were selected for the trip by their building sciences instructors for showing the most interest in, or curiosity about a career in building engineering and the many skills-based careers related to the construction industry. These can be carpentry, welding, electrical, heating and air conditioning (HVAC), plumbing, cabinetry, and the like.

“We are recognizing industrywide that the construction industry can’t build at the pace of growth due to a shortage in skilled labor,” said Dani Latham, human resources generalist for Turner Construction. “This skills gap means we are not replacing the aging workforce with young workers, a problem that seems to stem from the old stigma attached to the business as being dangerous and abrasive.

“That is no longer so today where safety is a top priority. Workers themselves are skilled craftsmen making very good money, and we are seeing more women in the business, often in supervisory positions that has helped to change the culture.”

Latham is implementing a workforce development strategy for Turner Construction designed to bring together educators and partners such as North Alabama Works!; Associated Builders and Contractors; and the North Alabama Craft Training Foundation. The goal is to help kids develop the skills needed for a career in construction while introducing them to the many advantages of the construction industry.

“We find that many high school juniors and seniors are just not college-ready,” said Latham. “They aren’t yet sure what they want to do, some have no interest in going to college, while others can’t afford it, but that shouldn’t take them out of the workforce or leave them without opportunities.

“Our goal is to get them career-ready, rather than college-ready by introducing them to a skills-based trade where they can learn a skill that will stay with them forever, even if they pursue other professions.”

After the tour, the students were shown a presentation about career opportunities in the construction industry. (Photo/Steve Babin)

She said a job in construction doesn’t have to lead to a career in construction, but it can provide a living wage while they are going to school or deciding what they want to do. Latham said some people find their calling, while others branch off into other areas such as carpentry or welding.

“The great thing about it is that many of them can make a good living working construction while pursuing something else altogether; and it can help pay for a higher education like law school or medical school,” she said.

Similar to the Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education program for manufacturing, Madison Construction Academy offers a four-year apprenticeship program where students go to school a couple of nights a week, but work full or part-time in the same field they are studying. This allows them to apply what they learn at night in a real-world setting.

This connection between a classroom curriculum and tangible careers in the workforce exposes students to a variety of career opportunities that will ultimately meet the future needs of business and industry.

“In many ways, the construction industry is behind manufacturing in implementing a recruitment strategy for skills-based training,” Latham said. “We found that the old model of holding career fairs with a lot of written literature and an industry recruiter behind a table no longer works.

“There is very little engagement from young people in that process, so we are getting more targeted by going into classrooms and getting in front of students who are taking construction and building trades classes. We make sure they understand their options and, by bringing them out to the stadium site, they can experience it firsthand.”