New baseball stadium not in the cards for Coca-Cola bottling plant site, mixed-use development planned

Huntsville
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A new downtown baseball stadium has struck out, at least at the old Coca-Cola bottling plant site.

The Clinton Avenue location was long thought, and in some cases hoped, to be the top spot for a new ballpark, but new details have surfaced that could bench those rumors.

"It seems unlikely that that site would be redeveloped to include a ballpark," said Downtown Huntsville Inc., CEO Chad Emerson. "Hopefully it will be redeveloped to include a mixed-use project that has very compatible uses with the Von Braun Center."

The talk of a stadium at this site stemmed from a rumored buyer, who also helped develop Regions Field in downtown Birmingham.

New concepts for the old plant feature a mixed-use development, but the specifics are still unknown.

Emerson says the change-up stems from the uncertainty surrounding the future of the city's baseball team.

"The Stars haven't left and frankly no one really knows when they're leaving and so until that's really decided, it's hard to take a next stop forward."

The 2015 Southern League schedule says the Stars will be playing in Biloxi, but according to WLOX, the new stadium there will not be complete until next August.

"If they come back to Huntsville, part or all the season, then that obviously changes the dynamic," said Emerson. "The key with the Coke site is to get it redeveloped in a way that enhances downtown. It's an important gateway and that just may mean you can't wait for the ballpark discussion to happen there."

A downtown stadium is not out of the question for the Rocket City, just not at the corner of Clinton and Monroe.

"While it would be nice to have it, we have so many assets here in downtown Huntsville that it's not something we have to have right away," said Emerson.

Ultimately the potential plans are up to the current property owner and future owner.

Big Springs Inc. closed the bottling plant in mid-2012, citing rising production costs.

The company is nearly done with its demolition of the site. It reportedly has a buyer for the nine acres, but it is under a confidentiality agreement.

Emerson says the biggest concern for the development site, though, isn't the who, but the when.

"The VBC, that's where a lot of people who come to Huntsville and come to the region, their first impression of the city is the Convention Center and the North and South Hall and the Concert Hall. You really don't want a barbed wire abandoned, you know, piece of gravel piece of property right across from that."

Demolition work at the old plant is expected to be done by the end of October.

The potential buyer then has 60 days to inspect the property and then move forward with the sale.

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