HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Wednesday night, the Birmingham Barons will christen their new ballpark - a 64 million dollar facility that holds 8,500 fans. It features a fantastic view of the Birmingham skyline, and top of the line amenities around the concourse.
A short trip on I-65 north, to 565 east and down Memorial Parkway, you'll find the Huntsville Stars - also holding their home opener Wednesday evening. But instead of a shiny new ballpark, they're beginning their 28th season at Joe Davis Municipal Stadium.
One ballpark blogger who's made a second career of touring and critiquing facilities calls it : "one of those oddball baseball parks built in the 1980's before the new wave of minor league stadiums. So what Huntsville is left with is a large, concrete, sterile stadium (not ballpark)."
In fact, the "new wave" of stadiums is in its second generation for some places. But the Joe essentially remains the same as it did when it opened in 1985.
The stadium sits in councilman Bill Kling's district. Where critics see an outdated relic, Kling sees something else : "I like our stadium." Kling told WAFF 48 News on Wednesday. "We had three American League Rookie of the Years come through there. A lot of history there. In many ways we're like the Wrigley Field of the Southern League."
Kling says the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on Joe Davis. This year alone, he cites several key improvements. "Lighting's being upgraded, there's some additions being done to the field, the locker rooms for both teams are going to be upgraded." Kling also says the current location of the stadium is a huge selling point. "It's located off the Parkway, so it's easy to get in and get out, we don't have a lot of congestion."
Kling dismisses the idea of a new stadium, at least one funded by city dollars. He also had some choice words for his counterparts in Jefferson County. "I suppose if some large company wanted to come out and build the stadium so it could be named after them, something could be worked out." Kling said. "But, Birmingham - they're being excessive, spending millions of dollars they really don't have."
It remains to be seen who'll have the last laugh though. Regions Field is expected to sell out multiple games this week. Joe Davis? Unlikely.