Home run?

Getting closer

The Birmingham News ran a story yesterday which pinpoints the proposed location of the new Barons Ballpark (see News graphic above). The facility itself would be entered from 14th Street or a 15th Street Plaza, with stands arranged on the SW corner of the site facing the downtown skyline. The outfield faces Railroad Park from across First Avenue South. Ancillary structures (assumedly patron and team amenities/facilities) and a Negro League Museum flank the ballpark along First Avenue; “future developments”, i.e. related private investments, are shown on property to the south.

It is rare to see a ballpark facing another public park like this. The reason is that typically a City will use a park like Railroad Park to encourage private investments in the immediate area; that same City will use a baseball park in a similar way. By putting the outfield right up against First Avenue, the City in effect gives up the ability to market each public frontage to private development.

From serving loading docks to serving urban consumers

Knowing how hard it’s been to assemble property (and two owners are still holding out at either corner of First Avenue), this siting may not have had much flexibility. If indeed the ballpark ends up as shown in the graphic, it’s essential that the design handles the outfield edge creatively, so that it animates that frontage even when the ballpark is dark and empty. Additionally, it would be wonderful if some of the old warehouses and alleyways in the adjacent “Parkside” district could be retained and rejuvenated (the Alley off Tallapoosa Street in downtown Montgomery, pictured above, is a direct result of private investment around their riverfront ballpark). A combination of historic restoration and new construction would be a great mix for the new district (which we also hope will have sharp, creative district branding–see our previous post on this).

It worked in Memphis

The downtown ballpark built in Memphis 8 years ago (above) has rejuvenated an 8-block area; once desolate and boarded up, it now sports restaurants, bars, and apartments. As this project develops in Birmingham, we’ll continue to advocate for the best possible architectural and urban design.  Because we want this project not just to compete with Montgomery or Memphis. We want it to be better. And to exude that quirky, undefinable quality that is the Magic City.

[thanks to the News for the graphic; larry miller for the Alley pic; dragonmistral for the Autozone pic]


16 responses to “Home run?

  1. That question mark is needed. You are so right to argue for a live year-round edge facing First Ave. S.

  2. Putting the stadium away from Railroad Park wasn’t an option. If it didn’t go there, Don Logan wouldn’t leave Hoover.

    I’m still hopeful for this project, but the ham-handed way the mayor is doing this is allowing doubt to creep back in.

  3. I realize it’s probably too early to start talking about details of the actual design, especially since the land agreements haven’t been 100% nailed down, but I did notice in a recent Bham News article that Corporate Realty has scoped out some newer minor league stadiums and I think it’s worth talking about some of the elements these other parks contain and what makes sense for Birmingham. I scanned through the website for the Columbus (Ohio) Clipper’s and their park seems impressive. It doesn’t look to be overrun with corporate advertisements which gives it a cleaner look and the park itself has apparently won some awards. I also like the older looking brick building behind left field which I think is part of the facility, but not completely sure. Perhaps we could incorporate similar elements that are in keeping with the warehouse feel of the surrounding area. You can check out pictures of the Clipper’s stadium on their website.

  4. Would be interesting to pull it a half-block or so south and leave room for development facing the park and overlooking the outfield, perhaps preserving a view corridor to the skyline beyond the RR park.

    • Agreed–as someone else commented, the Barons ownership may have insisted that the field be adjacent to the avenue, not set back. If so, I wonder if the “set back” option was effectively presented and argued. It is also interesting to contemplate view corridors–so important from a park like this–and how much they’ve been considered thus far.

  5. Surely this site plan is note the final one? The graphic implies a finalized design, but this image is probably schematic at best. There’s still hope that the site plan could be rearranged to reflect the good urban design principles you suggest. I think it’s important to note that the two orange bar buildings sit on city property and their locations could/should be reconsidered.

    • The project has not been “designed” yet, so we hope a lot of thoughtful creativity goes into the actual design. Whether the ballpark siting itself has flexibility, we’re not sure. As you state, the location of the ancillary developments are clearly conceptual and the built/open space needs much thought.

  6. I hope the urge to use red brick is ignored and suppressed. Masonry comes in a plethora of other colors. Architects and developers need to be cordially reminded of this truth. :~D

  7. I, too, hope the design isn’t amusement park retro… but then, considering what passes for modern around here, I hope it’s not contemporary, either.

    I’d love to see Jeremy win the contract. Then, I could stop fretting over the aesthetics and focus on the “play ball!” aspect of this exciting project.

  8. The architects on the ballpark are HKS of Dallas. Same firm did the new Childrens Hospital. If you check HKS Sports you will find a range of projects. I think industrial/contemporary might be a good language for a site in the historic Railroad & Mechanical Reservation. (But I also like red brick and am so glad UAB has stuck to it. Their campus looks like a campus, not an architectural hodge-podge).

    • Thanks for this info. I conceptually agree with using red brick to unify a campus–I just think it’s become a terrible crutch, where as long as a building is covered in red brick, the mediocrity of the design is excused. Red brick can be used in conjunction with other materials and better design without losing a sense of continuity.

      • Part of the red brick issue seems to be that it’s viewed as a “southside” unifying theme, versus a UAB unifying theme, which leads to bland buildings that blend into the campus rather than allowing UAB to stand out from downtown on its own.

  9. Bill Tankersley

    I had an opportunity to look over the Birmingham view from floor five of Saint Vincent’s South tower west toward the sunset recently, and what, besides lovely trees, do you see? Mostly red brick and red roofs, both tile and shingle. I hadn’t seen such a good example the predominance of the color, and it reminded me of many west coast towns such as San Diego, or the UC Berkeley campus with its red tile brick roofs. Now I like those towns, live in several, but I have to agree: enough red brick.

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