Some citizens, council members wary over Madison baseball stadium

MADISON, Ala. - Monday, the Madison City Council took another series of steps forward for the baseball stadium project at Town Madison as negotiation continues between the city and its partners.

"We're continuing to move forward in a positive manner in a timeline we've laid out," said Tommy Overcash, Madison City Council President.

The moves the council made push the project forward, but don't signify any done deal just yet.

The council approved warrant validation for the multi-use venue financing and authorized the mayor to enter into a property donation agreement with the developer. They tabled a funding agreement with the Town Madison Cooperative District because attorneys say it isn't ready yet, The council did push forward authorization for the mayor to enter into a development agreement with BallCorps, LLC.

But that series of votes brought out disagreement at the dais.

Some council members questioned whether votes were being taken too soon.

"I do support baseball. I want it to be here. I'm ok with the financing. The numbers do work from what I've seen," said Teddy Powell, a council member. "But we need some help from other partners in that, and until that commitment is made I'm not willing to go forward with that. There's three entities in that, and until everything is laid out and we have all the information, I've always said if I don't have all the information my vote is 'no.'"

Powell voted against two of the measures on Monday's agenda.

"We've talked about this over and over and over. Let's get it done, let's get all the information. And then make the decision to move forward or not," he explained.

Council member Gerald Clark echoed Powell's statements Monday: "I want to see baseball, but I want to see baseball support itself. So I'm really wary of the numbers," he commented. "I think that the Southern League numbers are lower than what [consultants] said, and I think there's a reason for that. I think it's the culture of the South... So it's tough for me to start off a project knowing it's not going to support itself and I want to do the due diligence."

With these concerns aside, the council still pushed through its decisions. Tommy Overcash, council president, said that's all part of the process.

"Some folks would like to see more detail. Sometimes, you just don't get that," he reasoned. "Some processes, you just have to accept a little more risk from," he said during an interview.

Overcash did not believe the tabled ordinance sets them back timeline wise.

Project Contingencies

Overcash said all the agreements, regardless of whether they are approved, are still subject to certain contingencies.

"The bond market could go through the roof, if the stock market crashes," Overcash listed, "That would drive the cost up. Southern League could turn down the relocation-- but I doubt it," he commented. "It's a process we have to go through."

Overcash said he still has confidence in the project.

"I've been involved in this since April or May of last year. And I'm not saying it has been easy. Obviously, it hasn't. But every step of the way we continue to find value in the process," Overcash explained.

Citizen Concerns

As negotiation continues, some citizens urge the council to use caution.

"The taxpayers here are the people in the middle. We're the ones taking a very high risk," said one woman.

"You have chosen a very expensive way to develop East Town Madison," said another.

Others continue the call for transparency, but Mayor Paul Finley maintains that details for several agreements are still being worked out and the city doesn't yet have all the information to give. He said they will give it when they are able to.

Council members say they are listening to what the citizens have to say and taking it into consideration.

What's Next?

Meanwhile, the work continues on the BallCorps side. BallCorps, which recently purchased the Mobile BayBears, is now seeking relocation approval from the Southern League, Minor League Baseball, and Major League Baseball.

Madison has some more work to do, too.

"We're still in negotiations. It's just that simple," said Finley about the Town Madison agreement. That is expected to come up at the next meeting.

Soon, the city will have a validation hearing in Madison County Court over the stadium funding. The validation procedure allows the city council to say they want to borrow the money, take it to a court to have it looked at by a legal eye, and gives the city the green light to go ahead with funding.

"It can take 4-6 weeks to get before a judge," Overcash commented.

As the city continues to round the bases, the work continues to make baseball more than just a possibility.