MADISON, Ala. - This week, the city of Madison and Mobile BayBears owner, BallCorps LLC, are taking strides in the endeavor to make Madison home to minor league baseball.
They have said that by this time in 2020, a baseball team is expected to be playing in Madison.
Here are renderings of the proposed stadium, and what it may look like:
This week, a Madison County judge validated warrants to fund the multi-use venue's construction. This was a requirement in the lease and licensing agreement. Madison City Council members said on Wednesday that this step is necessary so the city can legally verify the process is happening the right way, and the funding can be solidified after a fourteen-day appeal period. Then, the city can go to the bond market.
As that was going on, BallCorps (which owns the Mobile BayBears) has been making moves, too. Its managing partner, Ralph Nelson, has purchased a new home in the Madison area. It's something that he promised investors and Mayor Paul Finley that he would do.
"I said from Day 1 that I would move my family here if we were able to make it all happen," he said.
But technically, he said he was surprised to learn his new home that is three miles away from the proposed stadium site, is actually in the city limits of Huntsville.
"It's amazing. I'm three miles away from the ballpark!" he remarked. "I had to explain to Mayor [Paul] Finley that we bought a home in Huntsville even though we are the Madison baseball team!" He said he thought when they bought it they were making an offer in Madison. "Apparently, the city limits kind of fluctuate around here," he laughed.
Now that he is here, the goal is for a team to quickly follow for an April 2020 season.
BallCorps will be very active in Madison and the Tennessee Valley moving forward, Nelson assured us, as the work to build a team, buy-in, and eventual stadium begins to become very visible.
BallCorps still waiting to earn permission from the Southern League, Minor League, and Major League Baseball to relocate the BayBears. This is the last condition of the lease, but Nelson said it should happen within days.
"Those should all fall within the next 10 days," said Nelson. "All of them. And then, at that point, the lease will be one hundred percent valid." He added, "Obviously, I'm pretty confident about it. Or else I wouldn't have bought this house!"
Once the relocation rights are acquired, BallCorps will announce a date for its groundbreaking and make its website live with a Name the Team Contest.
"And then we are going to really get into the community," he stated.
Nelson said come fall they will have the groundbreaking at Town Madison.
"There is a lot going on with the planning now," he explained. "Site plans, elevation plans, the city is working very hard."
Meantime, the contest will begin to ask for your help to name the team. He assured us they want to hear from you.
"We will have a website that will take in every single idea," he said. They will narrow it to a Top 10 and you'll be able to vote on your favorite.
"We've had many ideas already come to us," Nelson remarked. "90% of the team names in the minor leagues over the last decade have been from somebody that submitted that through a contest."
Nelson said the plan is to reward the person who submits the name that eventually is chosen with 5 years of season tickets, a chance to throw a first pitch, and some merchandise.
"We are looking to the community for creative ideas," he foreshadowed.
The team name will be announced sometime in early fall, Nelson said, along with the logo, the colors, and the merchandise.
The ball club is rounding the bases, getting ready for the moment it can truly call Madison, home. Ballcorps will be moving its headquarters to the Madison area, too and announcing its local staff picks. Leaders there say local ownership is important to a future team's success. Nelson said he is excited for what the future holds at the Town Madison property.
"If you use the Huntsville Stars as a reference point, and Joe Davis stadium as a reference point, you are going to be shocked," he predicted. "This is going to be a ballpark like none other."