Look how far we’ve fallen

Regions Park in Hoover soon to lose the Birmingham Barons

I’m absolutely thrilled we are building a new baseball stadium downtown. When I was a child my dad took me to see the Barons play at Rickwood Field. Watching baseball with my dad created memories I will never forget.

I saw the Barons play teams like the Nashville Vols, the New Orleans Pelicans, the Memphis Chicks, and the Atlanta Crackers.

These were our peer cities.

Now the Barons play the

• Chattanooga Lookouts
• Huntsville Stars
• Jackson Generals
• Jacksonville Sun
• Mississippi Braves (Pearl)
• Mobile Bay Bears
• Montgomery Biscuits
• Pensacola Wahoos
• Tennessee Smokies (Knoxville)

These are our current peer cities.

And our government structure is right at the heart of our baseball downfall.

In 1988 owner Art Clarkson got into a fight with Mayor Richard Arrington and moved the Barons to Hoover.

Clarkson solicited money from Hoover to snatch the Barons away from Birmingham.

Because we have so many competing municipalities we take economic development monies that could have been used to bring companies to our region and steal existing companies from one another. This is the ultimate in wasted public funds.

And in a sense, even though I’m glad we are doing it, the City of Birmingham is investing $64 million dollars in Regions Park to entice the Barons away from Hoover.

And notice how we developed our vision for our new stadium. We watched with envy as the Montgomery Biscuits built a new stadium in downtown Montgomery and followed their lead. We are now envious of cities like Montgomery and Chattanooga.

And what happened to the teams I watched in my childhood. Nashville, New Orleans and Memphis all have AAA teams (Birmingham is AA) and the Atlanta Braves play in the majors. All four cities have major sports franchises—Birmingham has none.

Look how far we have fallen.

David Sher’s goal is to create a conversation on how to fix our fragmented and dysfunctional local government.

David Sher is a partner in Buzz12 Content Marketing and co-CEO of AmSher Receivables Management. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (ONB), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

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12 thoughts on “Look how far we’ve fallen”

  1. Great post!  Birmingham should have never let the Barons go in the first place.  While the city has moved from the big leagues to the minors in terms of it’s Southern neighbors it’s unfortunate that comparisons need to be made when Bham needs to look inward for solutions and not next door to see what the Jones’ are doing.  It is unique unto itself… so are many of its problems.

  2. Great post David.  You continually challenging the Metro Birmingham residents to think and maybe take a positive action!

  3. Great analogies. As a baseball fan I see it literally in person. AAA = better talent on the field, bigger stadiums and more notoriety, at least in the eyes of baseball people.  Is the same true of our business community? Unfortunately, I think so. Our number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered here seems to be following a similar path

    1. Davies, you are right on target. Ten years ago Birmingham had 30 public companies headquartered here; now we’re down to 15. We had 6 Fortune 500 companies; now we have one (Regions). We have slipped from a major Southern city to a second tier city. That’s why the need for the change of government structure.

  4. Instead of bemoaning our fall to AA status, let’s fight to change it.  The White Sox AAA affiliate is Charlotte of the AAA Int’l League.  They are at the bottom of the league in attendance.  Let’s lobby the Sox to switch the two teams: B’ham to Int’l league, Charlotte to Southern (where they still would be only middle of the pack in attendance).                                                                                                                       


  5. Fadumpkin,
    Having grown up in B’ham prior to moving on, I completely understand the dynamics of a fast growing city whose municipal government is sometimes resistant to change.  However, I must say that the growth that I have witnessed in the last fifteen years has been tramendous.  The changes seem to be positive and the reputation of Birmingham beyond its boarders is drastically improving.  I would encourage people to attempt to apply the same level of enthusiasim and vigor to enhancing education as they do to minor league sports.  The Stallions were a flop and baseball in Birmingham is typically more about the SEC tournament than it ever has been about the Barrons (aside from when MJ made is Barrons debut).  I totally agree with the notion of putting the Barrons back in B’ham where they belong, but I hardly believe that it is a top priority.  As for switching the Knights with the Barrons…that is laughable.  Charlotte too is planning to move the Knights away from their current home in Rock Hill, Sout Carolina to downtown Charlotte.  I can assure you that the earning potential of a team centrally located in downtown Charlotte is far greater that that of one located in downtown Birmingham.  Not to mention…geographic location to MLB facilities does have something to do with it. 😉
    Overall, I think the people of Birmingham should be proud of their progress and should continue to avoid muddying their progress with fruitless initiatives to make Birmingham a competitive professional sports town.  The city has already hosted Olympic soccer, NCAA soccer, SEC baseball and countless other enormous sporting events.  That is a success!  Lets not forget that this state thrives on Auburn and Alabama football and absent moving those games to Birmingham the city will forever be a college sports town with a minor league team.  Birmingham should cling to that identity as it is nothing to be ashamed of, but a state of the art empty professional sports arena that costs tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars is a entirely different beast.  


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