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City proposes major changes to Joe Davis renovation plan

Huntsville Admin. says luring professional soccer is the goal
Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 7:37 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - A surprise ending to Thursday’s Huntsville City Council meeting saw City Administrator John Hamilton unveiling some significant changes to the ongoing renovation plan at Joe Davis Stadium.

As we’ve been reporting, the city has approved plans to upgrade the old baseball park and make it into a new high school football mecca. But now, Hamilton says it can be so much more. “It’s an opportunity to bring professional soccer to Huntsville.” Hamilton said Thursday night. “We anticipate being able to use this project as a catalyst to bring some commercial development to the northern end of John Hunt Park as well as the opportunity to bring a professional soccer team.”

Artist's rendering of the soccer configuration of the new Joe Davis Stadium
Artist's rendering of the soccer configuration of the new Joe Davis Stadium(Chapman Sisson Architects)

Some council members, including Frances Akridge seemed surprised by the announcement. “So, we’re building this bigger, hoping that this professional soccer group will show up?” Akridge asked. Hamilton responded saying “We need to move forward with the design, we’re in negotiations with them right now. I have confidence in the outcome here.” Akridge expressed concerns, alluding to the recent departure of ex-Trash Pandas leader Ralph Nelson. “It sounds an awful lot like Trash Pandas, maybe the managers will stick around, maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll make money for us, maybe they won’t. I need to know how much money we’ll see because of a new sports venue”

Artist's rendering of the professional soccer configuration of the new Joe Davis Stadium
Artist's rendering of the professional soccer configuration of the new Joe Davis Stadium(Chapman Sisson Architects)

Hamilton says the plan still includes a configuration for high school football, but will also now allow for soccer and lacrosse at a professional level as well. “Some of the things that are different is bringing in more varied seating arrangements to include on-field box seats that are a great source of revenue, significantly elevated food and beverage opportunities, multiple changes to the locker room configuration, things like that.” A press release put out by the city late last night also mentions field hockey and ultimate frisbee. “This is a renovation of the entire stadium,” said Ricky Wilkinson, director of General Services. “A state-of-the-art scoreboard, audio-visual system, infrastructure for media broadcasts, new field lighting, updated seating and new concession areas are among the changes.”

Artist's rendering of the soccer configuration of the new Joe Davis Stadium
Artist's rendering of the soccer configuration of the new Joe Davis Stadium(Chapman Sisson Architects)

Mayor Tommy Battle and Councilmember Devyn Keith expressed support for the plan. Battle said renovations will show potential owners the city means business, but it can still fall back to the original plan if the numbers don’t add up. Keith believes this will bring plenty of big name events besides minor league pro soccer. “It is positioned to be something special. If this is the standard that would bring a pro team, this will bring a college team, this will bring a state championship, this will bring regional attractions.”

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