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Madison Mayor Paul Finley, Ralph Nelson of Ballcorps, and Tommy Overcash at groundbreaking on June 9 (photo contributed)

Pro Baseball coming soon to Madison

MADISON- A groundbreaking ceremony on June 9 made it official.  In 2020 a new minor league baseball team will begin play at a new stadium in Town Madison.

Presided over by Mayor Paul Finley, the ceremony also featured Madison City Council President Tommy Overcash, Southern League President Lori Webb and Ralph Nelson, the managing partner for Ballcorps LLC who owns the Mobile BayBears.

“We started this process three years ago,” Nelson said. “Our partners wanted to buy a minor league team that was underperforming financially and attendance-wise and relocate it to a community that would build a new ballpark. Minor league baseball is all about the fan and family experience now. It’s not about baseball which is hard for me because I’ve been in baseball for 25 years.”

Nelson has stops in San Francisco, New York, and Arizona in baseball, all cities with modern and fan-friendly stadiums so he brings elements of those experiences with him.

“Minor league baseball teams have become very expensive. We have 50 partners who raised 19 million for this project with 20% of the investors based in Alabama. We studied markets and this was the best market in the south that did not have a team. We decided to bring baseball back despite what happened to the Huntsville Stars.”

The BayBears contract with the Los Angeles Angels is up at the end of this year.

“We will be a very attractive location for major league teams who send their best prospects to Double A. I knew this was great baseball town it just needed updating marketing by today’s standards. It is important that I live in this community. When we negotiated the agreement with Madison we put in a fund to upgrade the stadium and add to it every year.”

Fans ask Nelson why he thinks this team will succeed where the Huntsville Stars ultimately failed.

“They had 10,000 fixed seats in Joe Davis Stadium. We will have 4,000 fixed seats but 7,000 fan stadium capacity.  We will have 3,000 fans in social settings like lawn seating, rock porch, party decks, picnic areas, suites, and club level. Some people go to the ball park and they don’t want to sit in a row for nine innings.”

Nelson also hinted that a swimming pool for partys will be in the outfield.

Populous is a sports architecture company who will design the stadium.

“The lead designer told me this is the best location for a minor league stadium in the country. The integration with Margaritaville and the restaurants committed will create an atmosphere that fans will be excited about.”

Nelson said there has not been any rivalry between Huntsville and Madison.

“This will be an asset to both communities.”

The team has set up a facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NorthAlabamaBaseball/ and the community is submitting names for the team. In a few weeks finalists names will be announced and fans will have a chance to vote.

The winning suggestor will get season tickets for five years Nelson added.

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