The Southern League is filled with nationally known teams like the Tennessee Smokies, Montgomery Biscuits, and Chattanooga Lookouts, yet the Birmingham Barons stand head and shoulders above all of them when it comes to drawing a crowd to their respective stadiums.
Regions Field in downtown Birmingham is a quintessential example of how a modern Minor League ballpark should look with a number of unique amenities that make MiLB stadiums great. The city has responded well by packing the 8,500 capacity stadium and have helped the Barons lead the league in attendance since it opened in 2013.
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While just about any classic ballpark food option you can think of is available, Regions Field misses out on featuring that one unique option that people "must have" when they go to a game. They still have three stands that offer a bit of flair; Piper's Pub and Grill, Tito's Cantina, and Dreamland BBQ.
Piper's Pub introduced three new items in 2016, getting the Barons one step closer to finding their signature meal. The Dreamland BBQ Baker, a baked potato with nacho cheese, barbecue chicken or pork, and all the fixin's, the Bourbon Beef Brisket Nachos, and the Buffalo Chicken Nachos were all added to the menu as of 2016. There is also a grilled cheese food truck in center field that offers up lots of hefty barbecue melts and sandwiches.
Pricing is about what you'd expect when coming to any big city ballpark. You can find cheaper items, like hot dogs or French fries for around $4 each, but it all starts to add up since almost everything is served a la carte. So while the pricing of the food itself is about average, having to buy a main dish plus a side separately adds up fast before you even start thinking about what Coca-Cola products or beer to drink.
On the topic of drinks, major thumbs up to the brand new beer garden in center field. The area features beers from Good People, Avondale, Ghost Train, Trim Tab, and Cahaba, all of which are located in Birmingham. Paying $6-$7 for a 12 oz. drink that you can count on being local and good makes this a no-brainer. They also offer a Foster's Oil Can, a cartoonish 25.4 oz. beer, for about $9 if you want to get one mega-beer and be done with it.
Birmingham baseball has been around for an extremely long time, over 100 years, and they make sure to let you know about it many different ways. The outside of the stadium has an incredible steel cut out "Birmingham" sign that looks rugged and classic during the day, but fresh and vibrant when lit up at night. Each section has a numbered sign with a picture of former Barons players from numerous decades. The team batting cage on their concourse has a very modern design, yet is structured to look like a backyard garage shack. You'll also find hand-written lineups at the main entrance, brick lining the outside walls and box office, and they air the radio broadcast in the outfield to give it a very nostalgic, warm feel as you enter. The Barons blend classic with modern extremely well while still adding unique venues like two floors of suites, interesting outfield group areas, and a 4,500 square foot club lounge ballroom upstairs along the third base line.
Actually watching the game is very pleasant. Seats are wide with cupholders attached to the chair in front of you, and netting extending to the ends of each dugout to provide plenty of safe seating. It is nice to see both first and third baselines in the shade even before the game starts. The drink rails located throughout the park make doing a lap a breeze and let you rest your drink/food while taking in each section of the park.
The Birmingham Barons have a huge amount of things for kids to do. Their play area is like its own play park, tucked away in left field and away from foul ball territory, letting kids go down all sorts of inflatable slides, with a play structure, and a bounce house among other attractions. The miniature wiffle ball field in center field is such a cool area, even when it's not being used, you have to stop to look.
Good People Brewing is the stop after a game, both due to convenience and quality. There isn't anything else in walking distance, but Good People has live bands, cornhole, mega Jenga, tons of space, is dog friendly, offers a porch view of the lit up "Birmingham" sign, and a wide range of beer, making for an awesome atmosphere. They don't serve food though, so keep that in mind. There aren't many food locations in short driving distance of the stadium, but there are plenty of fast food options as you leave the city.
Spending another day in Birmingham would be easy to do when considering how many other things there are in the city. Restaurants, concert venues, museums, the five breweries, and a zoo can make another day in Birmingham fly by. Also interesting to see are apartment complexes that overlook the ballpark and one recently opened called The Venue.
The Barons have led the league in attendance every year since the stadium opened in 2013 with approximately 6,200 - 6,300 per game and there are zero signs that this will change in the future. The place is packed on most nights, and you can feel the good vibes while waiting in line to enter the stadium. When finally stepping foot into it, all sorts of smiling people can be seen walking around wearing Barons gear. Fans will cheer, and in close games they really respond and support their team.
There is a good amount of signage on the highway to let you know you're getting close. The field isn't visible from the highway, but it still makes for just two or three turns to get you back onto it. There is plenty of parking available from when you first leave the highway, some starting at $7, but most costing $10. Once you start seeing those $10 signs, you might as well try to get closer since that's the highest it will go. Most of the lots are small to medium in size and have potential to fill up fast.
Inside the Regions Field, it is impressive how spacious the ballpark feels. Even with a record crowd, I didn't find myself bumping into others or having to get out of the way of people from all directions. Everyone walks in one direction and the outfield has a ton of space. It's definitely a big minor league park. The seating capacity is high, but the amount of room just makes it a very comfortable ballpark.
Overall, ticket prices are pretty reasonable; $7 for general admission (and those great drink rails), $9 for sections beyond first and third base, $12 for behind the visitor's dugout through behind home plate, and finally $14 for behind the Barons dugout. It's a little strange to have seats cost more behind the dugout than behind home plate, especially with the netting stretching beyond the dugout, which prevents players from throwing balls into the crowd after innings.
While the ticket prices are fine, they burn you with food and merchandise. The food prices were covered earlier, but the prices in the store are a bit steep too. It's not enough to prevent you from buying something (they have some really cool, quality shirts and hats), but it costs enough where you're going to remember exactly how much you spent on it well after you leave ($33 for my hat).
Being able to view the game from just about anywhere on the concourse is a huge plus. A lot of stadiums take you away from the game if you're not in your seat but here you can see it while waiting in line for whatever you want. The open design is fantastic and can not be overstated.
I saw a snow cone syrup machine. You go buy a plain snow cone and there's a "Flavor Station" of 12 flavors you can douse your cone in. It sounded like so much fun, I nearly bought one just to try it. Kids will love this as well.
Trivia question; which former Barons player only hit a career .202 but has his face plastered all over the stadium?
If you guessed the baseball legend Michael Jordan, that's a point for you!
Final point for keeping it classy with their logos and insignia. With so many Minor League teams going with zany, off-the-wall names and marketing, the Barons keep it simple and just do everything right. Their hat, a black cap with their classic white "B" logo outlined by red, is so slick and crisp that it earns them this extra point alone. They have some fantastic gear of good quality, but their logo and history makes it that much nicer.
When groundbreaking on the Birmingham Barons’ new baseball stadium commenced in February, 2012, team and city officials hailed it as the centerpiece in a multi-pronged plan to help revitalize a moribund downtown. There was the typical talk of restaurants, shops, condos, etc. along with an adjacent park and a Negro League Museum to pay homage to the city’s deep civil rights and Negro League baseball heritage. And while the “need” for a new stadium could be questioned – along with the $64M price tag – there was general agreement that the team could use a spruce up from the functional – if somewhat uninspiring - Hoover Metropolitan Stadium which had served as the team’s home for more than two decades.
The end result is a beautiful new stadium with many unique features that will rival the finest minor league ballparks in America. There is nothing “cookie-cutter” about Regions Field, from the stands, to the terrace to outfield picnic areas to the General Admission “berm seating” across much of the outfield. And although many questioned whether the price tag would draw more fans, the Barons finished their inaugural season just shy of 400,000 in attendance – i.e. tickets sold – which was the 4th highest in team history (the record being 1994 which a certain 3-time NBA MVP tried his hand at baseball) and a record for a Southern League team playing in a new stadium.
I lived in the Birmingham area when I was younger and had the chance to see Michael Jordan play baseball at Regions Park (or as locals called it the Hoover Met). While I liked baseball, I never really enjoyed going to Barons games there. When I went a few years back on my last visit, it seemed like the park was a ghost town, with poorly mantained features of the park, and just a bad experience all over again as it never really felt like a Minor League park.
Thank God for this park. It is everything Regions Park wasn't. The place was clean. You felt like you were in a true park. And it the experience was great.
FOOD/BEVERAGE: Pricey for a Minor League park, but it was well worth the food. I tried the new Steel City Burger (burger with bacon, eggs, pepper jack cheese, and siracha mayo. There are tons of variety with tacos, nachos (including a Philly Cheesesteak Nachos), burritos, ribs, smoked sausages, even some healthy options at most concessions.
ATMOSPHERE: Definitely not Regions Park. The place felt like a true baseball park and given Birmingham's history with its steel economy, you knew you were in Birmingham, especially with the nice layout of the city in the background.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Nothing in ways of any local pubs and really you are in the middle of where the industrial area is along home plate side and then you have UAB nearby with a children's hospital and then the UAB hospital. You feel safe when you leave, but I wouldn't stay around too long after a game.
FANS: They were into it, but they weren't overly into it. Most of the people around were talking and not really paying attention to the game unless the Barons were threatening. A couple of fans showed a lack of class, standing in the aisles near the field talking away for a full inning while kids from the luxury boxes were throwing stuff off the ledge. Most kept it to themselves and weren't the friendliest bunch.
ACCESS: Find parking lots, and not ones near the park. Absolute travesty at $10 for parking. But the problem is, given the area, there aren't a whole lot close to the park, and the ones that are, are for staff and VIP's. Getting there isn't too bad as you take I-65 to the park though and can see it from the interstate. It was also easy to get out. The only positives about that.
ROI: Ticket prices were reasonably low for a new stadium, but that was the only thing reasonably low. Food was very pricey that can rival some MLB parks, and souvenirs were a little higher than normal.
EXTRAS: How they incorporated the stadium to the surrounding areas was great. The seats were amazing, and it was just an overall excellent experience. The architecture and the layout of the place is amazing. A definite must if you are in the Birmingham area.
The gates opened to Regions Field in April 2013 and signaled a welcome new era for the Birmingham Barons. For over a century, Barons baseball has called Birmingham its home and has seen numerous changes to the cultural landscape in Alabama’s largest city. The Barons were playing in Hoover Metropolitan Stadium (home of the SEC Baseball Championship) prior to Regions Field, and both the team and the city desperately needed a revitalization project. So when ground broke in 2012 on Regions Field, there was a lot of hope for the future. The park doesn’t disappoint.
Seating 8,500 and located in downtown Birmingham, Regions Field is a beacon of progress in the Magic City. The stadium itself boasts just about every unique amenity a minor league park can have. From batting cages to Adirondack chairs, there’s something here for everyone.
Steel City Burger was #13 on MiLB.com's list of top food items and at $8 is well worth it. There is too much talking and loud MC during breaks, which disrupts the otherwise pleasant atmosphere. The game I saw took place at the same time that the Crimson Tide and Auburn opened their football seasons, and it was rain delayed as well, so hard to give the fans a fair shake. Breaking Bat Boy McCoy is their signature promo, the bat boy dances during several inning breaks. Fun place, but lower the volume on the mikes, we're not deaf. Yet.
When I decided to begin my minor league "stadium journey" with my brother (Wife and I visit the Major League stadiums together), we decided to make Birmingham our first visit (outside of Gwinnett and Rome which are like home parks if you will). Being that we live on the west side of Atlanta it was very easy to access via about at 2 hour drive straight across I-20.
The game we chose just happened to be one of the best games in the ballparks short history. The in-state rival Montgomery Biscuits were in town on a Saturday night in late August when the Barons where currently holding on to a slim one game lead in the Southern League North Division. The sell-out crowd became the record high for Regions field as over 8,500 fans dressed as Jedi, Storm Troopers and Wookies showed up for the annual fan favorite "Star Wars" night.
The Barons and Biscuits battled back and forth for 11 innings before the Biscuits "rose" to the challenge and scored 2 in the top of the 12th. The Barons came up short in the bottom of the 12th losing 7-6.
While we chose a great "game" to witness for our first out of town minor league park, I believe we also chose a great "park" to enjoy. The first thing we noticed as we walked up is the large steel "Birmingham" sign (A tribute to the industrial city's history). This feature looks even better at night when they have it lit up.
Just across the street from the ballpark is The Good People Brewing Company tap room. This seemed to be the place to be before the game as there were people everywhere inside and out. After we each had a "Snake-handler" (2x IPA) it was time to head in to the park.
Once inside, the team store is to your immediate left with the lineups posted on the walls outside. A few more steps from there and you are looking out at the field from behind home plate. One of the main things I appreciated about this ballpark is the concourse in the outfield extends all the way around. This makes the park feel larger and allows easier access to view the stadium from every angle. We chose lawn seating on the 3rd base side and that was a great view of the action.
The park offers all of the traditional ballpark food at concessions on the third and first base sides but the right field concourse has the specialty items like Bar-b-Q nachos, Philly cheese steaks and burritos. If you want something really special though I recommend the Dreamland Bar-B-Que stand in center field.
At the conclusion of the game the Barons put on an excellent fireworks display but the part that made it even more incredible is its proximity to the Alabama Children's Hospital (beyond center field) allowed for the children who were able to get out of bed that night to enjoy a spectacular fireworks display from the many windows on the hospital.
While there may not be much to do outside of the park, the Barons did a nice job creating a great experience inside the park to attract and entertain their fan base. I was very satisfied with my first choice for an out of town journey.
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