Madison City Council OKs $46 million for minor league baseball stadium

30 January 2018

The Madison City Council gave the go-ahead to spend $46 million on a new stadium, which is expected to bring minor league baseball back to north Alabama.

At a special meeting on Monday night, the council voted 7-0 to approve the deal with BallCorps LLC. That group recently purchased the minor league baseball team in Mobile, which is expected to relocate to the suburb of Huntsville.

Now that the stadium deal is in place, final approval can occur on the relocation of the BayBears to Madison. The council approved a lease, license and management agreement with BallCorps.

The multi-use stadium, expected to have a capacity of about 7,000, will be part of the under-construction Town Madison. The project's developer, Louis Breland, is also a member of BallCorps and will serve as a local owner.

Mayor Paul Finley stressed that beyond the 70 dates for baseball games at the stadium each year, other activities would be planned at the facility year round that would generate revenue in addition to baseball.

"We see this venue being used year round," Finley said during a 20-minute presentation. "It's not just for 70 games."

Examples cited by the mayor as alternative uses of the stadium were high school football, soccer and baseball games, meeting space up to 400 people for a sit-down meal and 650 people for a presentation, a walking track, children's playground, concerts, movies and fireworks.

"If you want to to be successful, you have to provide the best effort to make that happen," councilman Steve Smith said. "And I think baseball brings that best effort."

Finley said of the funding, "Worst-case, it's going to break even. Best case, it's going to make us a little bit of money."

Finley also pointed to a feasibility study conducted on the project that "confirms it will work for an economic success."

That includes a projection of 400,000 tickets sold for the team's first year and leveling off at 350,000. At 350,000 in attendance for a season, that would put the Madison team second to Birmingham in Southern League attendance, based on the 2017 season.

The Madison team will be a part of the Class AA Southern League.

But Finley and council president Tommy Overcash said that the study did not focus exclusively on Southern League clubs but rather markets across the country with similar demographics to Madison. Madison also has a 450,000-person "capture area," the study found, which it defined as people living within 30 minutes of the stadium.

"It's bigger than the stadium or Town Madison," Overcash said. "I'm extremely confident we have been very conservative (in financial projections) and this is just a good deal for Madison."

Councilman John Seifert said the stadium could be "the spark" for Town Madison.

Town Madison, which is receiving $22 million from the city of Madison in infrastructure support, will have about 1 million square feet of retail space, 600,000 square feet of other commercial space, no fewer than 700 hotel rooms and no fewer than 2,000 residential units or sites as well as public park spaces.

The city of Madison expects to receive no less than $1 million annually from revenue produced at Town Madison as well as an annual base license fee of $250,000 and $1 for each attendee over 250,000 at baseball games. Madison is also expected to sell naming rights to the stadium.

In addition to the unanimous vote by the council, three former council members also voiced their support as part of the 26 citizens who addressed the council during public comments. More than half of those who spoke expressed support for the project.

Finley said that plans now call for a baseball team beginning play in Madison in 2020. Asked about the BayBears, Finley said he could not comment on a potential team relocating to Madison.

The process is not final, Finley said, and much work remains to be done.

"It's an engagement with a really short-term wedding date (soon) with BallCorps," Finley said. The council will be voting on more steps to move the project forward at its Feb. 12 meeting, Finley said.