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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.”

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.