MADISON, Ala. -- The CEO of the new Madison-based minor league baseball team said the team will run a “first class” operation and he wants local fans to offer suggestions on what the team should be called.
BallCorps CEO Ralph Nelson led the way to acquire the Mobile BayBears with plans to move the team to Madison for a 2020 opening day. The City of Madison has committed $46 million to build the stadium and another $40 million for infrastructure and freeway interchanges to the Town Madison stadium site off I-565.
A stadium groundbreaking ceremony is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday night. Community members who attend will be given cards to offer suggestions for the team.
“Consistent with the rest of our philosophy we want the community involved in that,” Nelson said. “So we’re going to have a name the team contest.”
Fans will be asked to offer suggestions for a team and the team’s identified location.
“Is it North Alabama, is it Alabama, is it the Tennessee Valley, is it Madison? That’s going to be part of what we’re going to ask people to give us their thoughts on,” Nelson said.
The team will set up a website for people to offer suggestions. Nelson said within a couple of weeks they’ll announce a handful of finalist’s names and give the community a chance to vote.
“Somebody that lives in this Valley is going to name this team,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the person with the winning suggestion will get season tickets for 5 years.
BallCorps did extensive research scouting possible locations to move the team they’d acquired, and Nelson said they found that the Madison County area was the best market in the country without a team. He said they’ve also done plenty of research on what makes minor leagues successful or unsuccessful.
The lesson is vital since the last time Madison County had a minor league team, the Huntsville Stars, the team left town after fan interest waned and its facilities grew outdated.
Nelson said BallCorps is bringing a different approach.
“The Stars were undermanned, they were undercapitalized, as I say they didn’t put any money into the ball park. And so, we learned from all those lessons, how important it is to embrace yourself in the community,” he said. “And one of the things we realized is that a market that loses a team, and then the team is gone for a while, and then comes back, it really embraces the return of baseball.”
Nelson said there is also a track record around the country of community growth and mixed-use development around new stadium projects. And, he said that development is already starting around Town Madison.
“Margaritaville said ‘We want to bring a resort to Madison, but we’re not doing it unless there’s a baseball team,’” Nelson said. “The retail developer -- who’s from Atlanta and did a great job with the Battery in Atlanta -- Jeff Fuqua, said that there’s going to be a completely different class of retailers at Town Madison because of the baseball team.”
Nelson said he and the team’s investors are committed to the community. He’s already moved here and plans to develop an organization the community will be proud of, including what he hopes is the best food and beverage stadium operation in the country.
“We’re going to do everything first class,” he said. “I’ve got 25 years in the major leagues, I like to do things, ‘Big League’ as they say.”