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Fifth Annual Von Brewski Beer Festival Returns

What’s better than one Von Brewski Beer Festival? How about four of them?

Changes due to the ongoing pandemic will turn the fifth annual suds bash into four events the weekend of Feb. 12-13 at the Von Braun Center. Prior festivals have been four-hour events in the VBC South Hall, attracting more than 1,600 each year to sample a variety of different beers on tap, swap ideas on tastes and enjoy live music.

This year’s festival in Mars Music Hall will be split into four events, each lasting three hours, with a 200-attendee capacity to meet social distancing recommendations. Between sessions, the venue will be cleaned, sanitized and restocked by the VBC team for the next event.

Attendees will be able to enjoy more than 70 taps offering local, regional and international brews, along with live music, pre-made pretzel necklaces and a cash bar for non-drinkers.

“We’re thrilled with the announcement that Von Brewski will be returning for another year,” VBC Marketing and Public Relations Manager Samantha Nielsen said. “Attendees from all over the region look forward to our festival, and we’re more than happy to implement every precaution in order to bring back our signature event.”

Sample pours will be served in disposable cups to limit touchpoints. Attendees will receive a souvenir, limited-edition Von Brewski glass when leaving the event. Along with the pretzel necklaces, which will be pre-made, tasty brats, pretzels and loaded nachos will be available for purchase. Different solo artists will perform at each session.

“It’s important to all of us at the VBC to provide a safe and fun event for our guests to enjoy,” Nielsen said. “While Von Brewski may look different this year, we’re excited to maintain the spirit of the beer festival and continue the tradition of bringing friends and brews together. A limited number of tickets are available for each event, so we’re encouraging anyone interested in attending to purchase tickets early — especially if you’ll be attending with a group.”

Tickets can be purchased in person at the VBC Box Office or online at ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $40, but increase to $50 on the days of the event.  A non-sampling ticket is $15. All attendees must be 21 years of age or older and have a valid ID.

Rhythm of the Air: VBC Partners with TVA and Huntsville Utilities to Improve Air Quality

The Von Braun Center has teamed with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Huntsville Utilities on a project to improve the air quality for one of the VBC’s newest additions, Rhythm on Monroe.

By implementing germicidal technology, the project includes replacing the current air filters with higher efficiency filters and installing UV-C germicidal lighting inside the venue’s HVAC systems.

“We’re always looking for different ways to enhance our facility,” said Johnny Hunkapiller, VBC director of Operations. “This installation adds an extra layer of safety and allows our guests and staff to feel more comfortable while inside our building.”

UV-C lighting is an ultraviolet light that renders microorganisms inactive. Commonly used in hospitals and laboratories, it also has been used in a variety of applications, such as food, air, and water purification systems.

UV-C technology is ideal for restaurants and other public facilities where maintaining a high level of air quality is essential.

“Although everyone has their minds on the current pandemic, this technology will remove myriad contagions for a long time to come,” said Joe Gehrdes, director of Community Relations for Huntsville Utilities. “We are grateful for our relationship with the VBC and TVA, and this opportunity through EnergyRight.”

TVA provides incentives to businesses and schools to install the UV-C germicidal lights and the agency provides financial incentives for approved UV technologies.

“The pandemic increased the awareness of cleanliness and hygiene around the world and TVA is pleased that we can assist, through a partnership with Huntsville Utilities, by offering an incentive for this technology,” said Brent May, TVA EnergyRight Business & Industry Program Manager, Alabama District. “UVGI systems are helpful to a wide range of businesses, including facilities like the VBC, where numerous public events take place.”

“The health and safety of our staff and guests are always our top priority,” said Samantha Nielsen, manager of Marketing and Public Relations for the VBC. “We’re proud to partner with TVA and Huntsville Utilities in our continued effort to provide a safe and clean facility to our guests, and we’re excited to incorporate this lighting technology into our systems.”

Turner Construction Reaches Milestone on Monroe Street Parking Garage

 Turner Construction Company has begun precast erection on the Monroe Street parking garage expansion and renovation in downtown Huntsville, the company announced Monday. The milestone signifies that vertical construction has begun.
The $14.4 million Monroe Street Parking Garage project includes the demolition of the two-story west section of the parking garage that fronts Monroe Street and the construction of a five-story parking garage with an additional entry from Clinton Avenue, containing approximately 725 parking spaces.

Construction is progressing on the Monroe Street parking garage. (Photo/Marty Sellers)

Construction began in July, with completion expected in August 2021. The City of Huntsville engaged Turner, who is collaborating on the project with Fuqua & Partners Architects and engineers SSOE GroupLBYD Engineers and Schoel Engineering.

This project is essential to the redevelopment of the Big Spring Park area, which continues to see new hotels. These include the new Autograph Collection by Marriott hotel, which will be connected to the new parking deck in the southwest corner. The Autograph joins several other hotel projects within walking distance of the nearby Von Braun Center multipurpose complex, which are being built to accommodate larger conferences and events.
“The expansion and renovation of the Monroe Street parking garage is a key project within the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Huntsville. Once completed, this piece of infrastructure will make it possible for residents and visitors to conveniently enjoy one of the many events at the Von Braun Center, Big Spring Park, or at one of the other attractions in downtown Huntsville,” Ricky Wilkinson, director of general services for the City of Huntsville, said in the statement. “The city is very appreciative of the partnership with Turner Construction Company and the rest of the project team for this project. We look forward to seeing the garage go vertical and begin to take shape.”
The garage will feature 3D-printed composite rain screen panels on the Monroe Street and Clinton Avenue entries, which will provide a modern skin for the garage, visually blending its new and old sections together with the Von Braun Center and Mars Music Hall.
“This parking deck represents a commitment to continuing Huntsville’s growth by bolstering its downtown attractions,” said Brandon Tucker, a project executive for Turner. “With start of the precast structure, the look of Big Spring Park will begin to change very quickly in the coming weeks. Turner is proud to be a part of this project with the city of Huntsville and its design partners.”
As part of the project, a parking-control system will be installed for the new entries on Monroe Street and Clinton Avenue, while existing parking control equipment at both Church Street entries will be replaced. This will bring state-of-the-art remote payment options and increased 24/7 accessibility to the deck, which previously required operation by a city employee. In addition, the deck’s new parking systems will incorporate parking integration for the forthcoming hotels, allowing parking densities to increase without taking away from the beauty of downtown Huntsville and Big Spring Park. Security cameras will also be installed at multiple locations in the new construction and the existing deck, and conduits will be created to accommodate License Plate Recognition cameras.
The existing parking deck was built in the late 1970s, and additional floors were added to the east half of the deck in 2005, which will remain standing.

VBC Receives ConventionSouth’s Readers’ Choice Award

The Von Braun Center has received the 2020 Readers’ Choice Award from ConventionSouth, the national multimedia resource for planning events in the South. It is the third time the VBC has received the award.

“ConventionSouth readers and fans have voted to decide the best meeting sites in the South, and it is no surprise to us that Von Braun Center has been selected to receive our annual Readers’ Choice Award,” said ConventionSouth Associate Publisher Ashleigh Osborne. “The value in receiving this prestigious recognition is that it comes from the United States’ top meeting professionals who hold events in the South.

“These planners demand the highest level of customer service and quality facilities, and they have contributed in determining that Von Braun Center indeed displays the commitment to professionalism, creativity and service that they require.”

The Von Braun Center is among 380 convention and visitor bureaus, meeting facilities and hotels located across the South to receive this year’s Readers’ Choice Award, which originated in 2001. Throughout the year, meeting professionals nominated the meeting sites they believe provide exemplary service for group events. The nominated sites were then compiled onto an online ballot where meeting professionals and fans voted for the best of the best. With over 8,000 voters participating in the selection process and the highest social media interaction to date, this has been the most successful and engaging year yet!

“We are very proud to have been chosen as one of the best meeting sites in the South by the readers of ConventionSouth,” said VBC Director of Sales and Event Services Marie Arighi.  “It means so much to be chosen by our peers.  The VBC hosted over 487 events last year with over 675,000 people attending those events and we value each and every one.”

The VBC will be featured as an award recipient in the December 2020 Awards issue of ConventionSouth magazine.

Madison Mayor Finley: Events to Fill Baseball Void at Toyota Field – When Allowed

It might not be Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball, but Toyota Field might soon be hosting events.

That’s according to Madison Mayor Paul Finley, who at Wednesday’s COVID-19 press briefing said, as soon as it’s allowed, plans are to open the new stadium to an array of events.

The Trash Pandas were scheduled to open their first season in Double-A on April 15 before the novel coronavirus intervened. There has been no decision regarding the start or cancelation of the Minor or Major League Baseball seasons.

“Regardless of whether baseball happens, or doesn’t happen, we’re getting ready to start doing a lot of really positive things,’’ Finley said. “A lot of people will be able to come to that venue and use it whether its camps for kids for baseball, whether it’s a wine and cheese festival, whether it’s movies in the park — we’re going to start having events there and doing it in a way that makes good sense when it comes to distancing and sanitation and so forth.’’

Finley also pointed out this is National EMS Week and said for those on the frontlines “we’re very appreciative of what they do.’’

On another note, he said masks would be available for anyone without one who attends graduation ceremonies for James Clemens and Bob Jones at Madison City Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Huntsville plans to hold graduations June 25-26 at the Von Braun Center’s Propst Arena. Madison County schools have set graduations for July 15-16.

Masks will be required at all ceremonies and distancing will be in practice.

As of late Wednesday, there were 13,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 285 in Madison County. There were 522 deaths in Alabama related to the disease and four in the county.

Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said there were less than 10 patients in local hospitals being treated for the virus.

“We are remaining vigilant,’’ she said. “We’re watching the numbers as the community reopens.’’

Hudson continued to stress social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning heavily used surfaces.

She also said that while stay-at-home orders were in place most people were around 1 to 5 people in a household. Now that people are returning to work, that core group is more like 20 people. That 20, she pointed out, would average around three people in the household so now each worker is exposed to a possible 60 contacts.

“The more we open it the more germs can come our way,’’ she said, “which is why we focus on six feet apart.’’

Hudson also emphasized that all health care facilities are open and urged anyone who is not well to visit the emergency room.

“Don’t stay home if you’re sick,’’ she said. “Don’t delay essential care.’’

 

AUSA Cancels Global Force Symposium

Following the Association of the United States Army announcement that the 2020 Global Force Symposium & Exposition has officially been cancelled due to the ongoing public health threat, the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau  offered reassurances that the Rocket City remains a welcoming destination for conferences, tradeshows, and other events.

The Global Force Symposium is one of the largest conferences Huntsville hosts annually, bringing together more than 6,000 attendees and representing an estimated $3.6 million in economic impact.

“We understand AUSA’s desire to prioritize the health and safety of their delegates, and look forward to welcoming them in 2021. Going forward, the CVB will continue to work with our hospitality partners and public health officials to ensure that the health and safety of our visitors remains a top priority,” said Judy Ryals, President/CEO of the CVB. “Supporting our local hospitality industry is also of utmost importance – as travel is impacted, we encourage our residents to explore their own backyard and be patrons to our Huntsville/Madison County restaurants, attractions, hotels, and others.”

Jamie Koshofer, vice president of conventions, said the CVB has worked closely with AUSA over the past year.

“AUSA has long been a close partner of the CVB, and we will continue to provide support for them in all ways that we can,” Koshofer said. “2021 is right around the corner, and we look forward to bringing that business back to the Rocket City.”

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said he is disappointed in the cancellation but the city and AUSA have a strong partnership.

“The City of Huntsville has developed a great partnership with AUSA over the past several years,” Battle said. “While we share in the disappointment of the community, we respect their decision to make the health of AUSA members, participants and our citizens a top priority.

“We will continue to work with them and look forward to seeing AUSA in Huntsville in the coming years.”

Currently, there have been no official reported coronavirus cases in Alabama.

‘Feed your Rhythm;’ New VBC Dining Venue to Host Job Fair

In anticipation of its grand opening in March, Rhythm on Monroe will be hosting a job fair Feb. 3-4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As the Von Braun Center’s new dining venue, “Rhythm on Monroe brings a unique dining element to the boom in downtown Huntsville and the greater Tennessee Valley,” said Rhythm’s General Manager Stephen Ryberg. “We want everyone to ‘find their Rhythm’ and ‘feed their Rhythm’ at the corner of Monroe and Clinton.”

In partnership with Spur Staffing, Rhythm’s job fair is sure to hit a high note with locals in the service industry.

“We plan to hire between 75 and 100 team members and look forward to interacting with prospective candidates at the job fair,” said Ryberg.

Rhythm – aptly named for the variety of musical performances hosted at the Mars Music Hall – shows great promise as a full-service restaurant, featuring locally sourced ingredients and fresh urban fare.

The expansive menu will be developed and executed by Chef Andrew Vogt.

The rooftop bar will have a wide assortment craft brews, wines, and handmade cocktails. On the rooftop, guests can enjoy warming up by the fire pits, along with the evening sun as it sets over Big Spring Park.

“Rhythm will be the perfect spot for a preshow dinner, after-show cocktails, or just a great dining spot when you’re out and about,” said Steve Maples, VBC’s Executive Director.  “This is an exciting time, not only for the Von Braun Center, but for the Tennessee Valley.

“The City of Huntsville is developing at a rapid pace and is constantly attracting out-of-market visitors and enhancing the quality of life for local residents.  Adding a full-service restaurant to our entertainment center in the heart of the city is an important step in continuing that growth, and we could not have made this happen without the support of Mayor Tommy Battle and the City of Huntsville.”

Rhythm on Monroe is scheduled to open in March.  Available positions include culinary crew, hosts/hostesses, bartenders, servers, food runners and dishwashers.

It is recommended that those interested in attending  register online at http://bit.ly/RhythmJobFair.

Von Braun Center Unveils LED Lighting System in Propst Arena

It was an event fit for a king.

Or, as in this case, fit for the reigning Southern Professional Hockey League champion Huntsville Havoc.

In last Friday night’s home debut for the Havoc, the Von Braun Center unveiled its LED lighting system in the Propst Arena.

The upgraded lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

“Over time, the previous lighting system became less efficient with bulbs requiring frequent replacement, as well as producing a noticeable background noise during events,” said VBC Executive Director Steve Maples.  “Additionally, the previous fixtures were extremely limited in the special effects and production capabilities compared to newer, sophisticated lighting systems.”

The upgraded lighting system enhanced Friday’s hockey game with strobing light effects, and full-red lighting to coincide with the team’s colors.  The lighting will also enhance UAH hockey games, the annual Rocket City Classic featuring the University of Alabama’s men’s basketball team, and more.

The new LED lighting system brightens the arena, further enhancing the fans’ experience.

Eaton’s Ephesus Lighting manufactured the LED system that also features 12 new LED video panels manufactured by Daktronics.

The scope of the new lighting system included the installation of 86 fixtures with programmable color-changing capabilities.  The system is estimated to deliver an annual energy savings of $45,132, along with a reduction of approximately $8,923 in annual arena lighting maintenance costs.  The $340,000 lighting upgrade is being paid for through the VBC’s capital funding.

The system features full color-tuning fixtures to enhance events with colorful light shows and other lighting experiences.  With this upgrade, the options for a completely integrated lighting system for events is unlimited and will result in an enhanced fan experience, as well as improved viewing opportunities of both live and televised events.

The new lighting system activates instantly and takes less time to become fully operational as compared to the previous metal halide fixtures. Also, the programmable controls allow operators the ability to immediately change lighting schemes.

The new LED lighting system offers a wide range of adjustable color temperatures, and consistent lighting capabilities giving VBC staff and performers out-of-the-box opportunities for creating captivating visual moments.

Welcome to Mars: VBC’s New Out of This World Music Hall

Rendering shows the interior of Mars Music Hall.

Welcome to Huntsville, Rocket City USA and home to all things related to space.

What better way to ring in the New Year than with a grand opening of a music venue with a name to match?

Introducing the Von Braun Center’s newest gem: Mars Music Hall.

It’s been just a little over a year since the August 2018 groundbreaking and progress has been right on target.

Held at the VBC’s Propst Arena, the special name reveal event Tuesday night had a tie in with the season’s introduction of the Huntsville Havoc hockey team.

“We’re getting really close to opening,” VBC Executive Director Steve Maples said of Mars. “It’s an exciting time to be in Huntsville.

A new LED lighting system in Propst Arena was unveiled. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“The City of Huntsville is developing at a rapid pace and is constantly attracting out-of-market visitors and enhancing the quality of life for local residents.  Adding this size and type of music venue to the heart of the city is an important step in continuing that growth.”

VBC Executive Director Steve Maples (Photo/Steve Babin)

Along with meeting the team and viewing a demonstration of the newly installed LED lights; the crowd was shown a video presentation and sampling of the 2020 concert lineup.

The video featured updated renderings by Matheny Goldmon of Rhythm on Monroe – a full-service restaurant and rooftop bar connected to Mars that will open in the spring.

“Rhythm will be the perfect spot for a pre-show dinner, after-show cocktails, or just a great dining spot without attending an event,” said Maples.

Rhythm, aptly named for the different types of musical performances hosted at the VBC on the corner of Clinton Avenue and Monroe Street, will serve locally sourced ingredients and provide fresh urban fare.

It will feature craft brews, a curated wine list, and handmade cocktails that guests will be able to enjoy while sitting near fire pits at the rooftop bar overlooking Big Spring Park.

Street view rendering shows entrance to Mars and Rhythm. (Matheny Goldmon)

Mars Music Hall will open its doors Jan. 3 with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. The event is predicted to be a sellout. With a 1,575-person capacity, this intimate setting will offer great acoustics for a variety of events ranging from concerts to comedy acts and everything in between.

Among the acts announced for the concert lineup will be Black Jacket Symphony, Tig Notaro, Chris Janson, Graham Nash, Jo Dee Messina and many others.  To see the full lineup of announced performances and to learn about purchasing tickets, visit marsmusichall.com.

“I’m excited about this music hall,” said Maples. “Huntsville needs this music hall. The venue is so cool and has an intimate feeling.

“Nashville is excited about the music hall and is sending us a lot of bands.”

 

 

 

 

Ground-breaking Constellation Project Taking Shape

It took more than a decade’s worth of sweat and tears for Scott McLain, but he’s finally able to harvest the fruits of his labor with Constellation.

The multi-use development will be breaking ground next month on an apartment complex and that’s just the first of several projects planned at the Clinton Avenue-South Memorial Parkway site.

“We’re off to the races,” McLain said. “We’ll be moving dirt for another month and then pour concrete for the apartments in early December.”

Constellation is at the intersection of South Memorial Parkway and Clinton Avenue. (Rendering/Constellation)

McLain said Constellation will include a 219-unit upscale apartment building, another hotel to complement the Spring Hill Suites; 25,000 square feet of retail space; 20,000 square feet of small office space and a parking deck.

There will also be a 200,000 square-foot office tower that, McLain said, will “only be limited by physics and economics.”

McLain said he’s recruiting restaurants and retailers that will be new to Huntsville to help make Constellation a destination site.

McLain’s vision began in 2007 when the Heart of Huntsville shopping mall was razed and he had a concept of a multi-use development.

Blending retail with dining with hotels was not widely known at the time. The shopping mall with everything under one roof was slowly being phased out for the likes of “galleria-type” shopping centers.

Along the way, he found and lost investors in the project while coordinating challenging situations.

But, as in life, good things come to those who wait.

And a good thing is coming.

An elevated pedestrian bridge will help connect downtown areas with Lowe Mill. (Rendering/City of Huntsville)

“It’s in part a public-private partnership that we’re happy to facilitate for our community,” McLain said.

McLain has a “committed team” that includes a Chicago investment company and $3 million from the city. The city’s investment includes access to parking and upgrades at the intersection.

At the confluence of I-565, Memorial Parkway and Clinton Avenue, the site has the largest traffic count in Huntsville and will, in essence, be the gateway to downtown Huntsville.

Or, in another vein, “the hood ornament to Downtown,” McLain said.

Another part of the “ornament” will be a planned elevated pedestrian bridge by the city. The plans call for it to span the Parkway and provide a connection for downtown, the Von Braun Center and the Lowe Mill area.

With Constellation, the stars are aligning to help a growing Huntsville meet the demands and the challenges of the future.