MADISON, Ala. - Monday, the Madison City Council took its final steps toward a baseball stadium in Madison. It approved amending a funding agreement with the Town Madison Cooperative District that deals with infrastructure, the last piece council members needed to pass in order to bring baseball to town.
The agreement approved Monday would bring Breland, the Town Madison developer's, commitment up to $40 million to fund an I-565 interchange along with an access road to a stadium and other key infrastructure. The city agreed to pay that sum back, with interest, using new tax dollars from Town Madison.
While BallCorps, LLC, which owns the Mobile Baybears, still needs to earn relocation approval from the Southern League, Minor League Baseball, and Major League Baseball, Madison leaders believe Monday's step is crucial.
"We have a commitment from the Ballcorps to come, we have a venue that can put them in place (which we have shown can be funded) and now we have an interchange that can help get everybody there. This means baseball is coming," said Mayor Paul Finley. "This now allows for us to have everything in place. We are looking forward to having minor league baseball supporting our multi-use venue with a full interchange ready to have baseball season open in April 2020."
Most council members said the agreement approved Monday is not perfect, but is fair to all parties.
"I think we have the best deal we could possibly get," said Teddy Powell.
"This is our first step into moving in a positive direction with our retail and economic development," said Greg Shaw.
But Gerald Clark was the sole council member to vote against the infrastructure agreement.
"I think it's a very complicated project, and that's probably its downfall," said Clark. "I've kind of been on the fence about this all along, and I have kind of said the numbers would matter to me the most.
Mayor Paul Finley said he fully understands the concerns, but it's time to move forward.
"If you ask me, going to a 6-to-1 vote, that's about the percentage I've heard from people who are for or against," he pointed out. "I don't blame them a bit. We feel comfortable we can pay for it. We are going to move forward and now make it happen."
The interchange is crucial for the success of not just the stadium project, but Town Madison, say city leaders. Finley said Monday's vote was critical to keep those full steam ahead.
"If you build something like that, you better make it easy for them to come," he explained. "It was the point where we would not have built the venue if we didn't have the interchange."
Finley said the people with Town Madison have put in years of work into making that interchange possible, not just with ALDOT but with making sure they met federal requirements. He said now the timeline should be smooth, and he is confident.
"The developer has the ability to go do this on a timeframe that he can make happen," he explained.
Finley said now the work will continue trying to recruit businesses to Town Madison. He said the interchange is all many needed to sign on.
"You will start hearing more announcements now this is finally approved," he predicted, adding, "tomorrow we have a pretty significant possibility coming in."
Finley said that interest in Town Madison grew once the venue was approved, and he expects it to increase now.
"Once you put all these pieces together, we are going to have these in the weeks and months to come," he explained. "We will work diligently with the developer to start adding businesses of quality there. We will work with BallCorps folks to work on non-baseball events, naming rights, once they get the full approval they need."
The city will also continue to work on the multi-use venue. Finley said they will do what they can to make it the best it can be. Monday, the city also approved the next phases of the architectural drawings and construction management. Construction could begin as soon as this fall, but the city will need to prepare bids and select a contractor first.
The baseball season is expected in April 2020, to be played at the planned stadium in Madison.