MADISON, Ala. - The Rocket City Trash Pandas will play an April 2020 season in Madison. A sign above the site at Town Madison where the City of Madison-funded stadium is being built says that's in 399 days.
Meanwhile, construction is underway. Hoar Construction and Turner Universal are on site making sure it gets done on time and on schedule.
Mike Price, General Superintendent, took us around with Ralph Nelson, BallCorps managing partner, to talk about the current site.
Crews installed steel beams for the stadium roofline Wednesday, in the middle of gusty winds that threatened to halt their effort temporarily.
Nelson said the ballpark venue will be full of social areas that are designed to bring people together.
"Patios, party decks, suites, the berm," Nelson said. "It's about people coming together, families coming to games together. There are picnic tables and four-tops."
A bar, the rock porch, will be just off right field overlooking the game. Then, at the gate, a ticket office and then a merchandise store will be just inside. There's a main entrance, and separate VIP areas too. Trash Pandas offices will also be in that main building.
Nelson walked us through the concourse area from first base side to the third base side of the venue, which will take people through a concession area.
"When we designed this stadium, it was very important we had wide concourses," he said. "If not, people get jammed up."
Concourse suites nearby will allow for 25-30 people at a time.
Nelson could not say what restaurants BallCorps is planning for the ballpark, except to say some might have Alabama-themed dishes.
"I was talking to some consultants on restaurants and branding," he said. "We want to do things that are Alabama themed," he stated, adding, "Pizza, we'll have, but we are also working with Brandiose and they're coming up with some clever ideas for the various food areas... What's Alabama? Barbecue, things like that. We'll have that in the ballpark."
Just beyond the fence on the property, Nelson said, Margaritaville will come in with the lazy river.
He said as the team sells season tickets, they've learned where demand is and have tried to adapt the stadium to what the people want.
"What we have found is there are certain types of seating that have become very popular. So for example, the stadium club was the most popular of all. And the city of Madison has worked with us to add 100 seats to the stadium club because there was so much demand for it," he said. "What we are trying to, as best we can without costing the city more money, to adjust the plans to accommodate what we have found our fans really want."
Season tickets are selling fast, he explained.
"All the premium seats in the ballpark, the extra special seats, they're all gone. Every one of them. For the first three years," he said. "All we have left to sell are box seats and reserve seats, and we only have about 500 more of those. The berm seating, the standing room, those types of things will only be available on the day of the game."
Nelson said there is a team announcement coming regarding its corporate partnerships within the next two weeks.
The crews have worked as much as they could through recent rains, which proved challenging and required some extra effort.
"Right now we are pretty much on schedule, but the weather has been a big hassle the whole time out here," said Luther Black, project superintendent. "Right now, we are in the main part of steel erection, which is a critical path for this project."
The day we visited, he told us the wind was difficult to deal with.
"We're close to having to shut the crane down because of the wind gusts," he stated.
For Black, it's a fun project to be a part of.
"It's a pleasure to work with Ralph and build something that people will enjoy later on down the line," he said.
"It's amazing to me how much it changes from one week to the next," Nelson said. "This place will completely be transformed."