The Huntsville Stars, the AA minor-league baseball team that has been here since 1985, might be moving to another city in a couple of years because of low attendance, according to the assistant general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, of which the Stars are an affiliate of. Of course, this might just be a hollow threat. But let's say it's not.
The Stars have played in the Joe W. Davis Stadium (known to many locals as "the Joe") since they moved here in the mid-80s from Nashville. According to Wikipedia, it was considered the "crown jewel" of the league when it opened. But today, it's the oldest stadium in the league, and it doesn't include amenities that most modern ballparks have. Plus, its gray, metal and concrete architecture is less than stellar, possibly a result of it being hastily built.
Despite several renovations (the last being in 2007), not much seems to be helping attendance, which is last in the 10-team league. Many cities in this situation have built brand new stadiums to boost attendance and keep the team from going somewhere else. So, is it time for a new Joe?
One possibility is to build the new stadium next to the current Joe. While it would be cheaper to do that (considering the city already owns the land) the current stadium seems out of place, tucked away off the Parkway in a mostly industrial part of town, with little opportunity for spinoff development. If Huntsville really wants to bring some visibility to the team, they'll need to build somewhere else. Might I suggest... downtown?
Several cities have built new downtown baseball stadiums in the last decade-- Memphis (Autozone Park), Montgomery (Riverwalk Stadium), and Chattanooga (AT&T Field), to name a few. Most of these have been successful in bringing people to the games and to the area surrounding the stadium. The ballparks in Montgomery and Chattanooga are a part of their successful riverfront revitalization projects. Memphis's ballpark anchors (along with the FedEx Forum, home of the NBA Grizzlies) an entertainment district.
So, say we had the $30 million or so to build a new downtown stadium. Where would it be built? One suggestion is the Coca-Cola bottling facility at the corner of Monroe and Clinton (hence the Coca-Cola Ballpark), outlined in white in the aerial image below. It would be an ideal place for a stadium, across the street from the VBC where the other professional minor-league teams in Huntsville play. It's within walking distance to Big Spring Park, the Constellation project, parking, and several open lots that are potential hotel/office/residential development sites. (Image courtesy Sellers Photo)
The city could also partner with developers to create a mixed-use project anchored by the stadium. Following the trend of new ballparks, the new stadium would probably have fewer seats than the Joe does-- about 6-7,000 compared to the current Joe's 10,200. The fewer seats would be closer to the field, allowing for a more "intimate" ballpark experience-- something that's popular in modern baseball stadium design.
Sure, there are probably cheaper places to build a new ballpark in the area. But would building a stadium in the middle of a cotton field in Limestone County be as awesome as a downtown stadium? No, because you are not Kevin Costner, and this is not Field of Dreams. If you build it [there], they will not come.