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Official Review by Franklin Crittenden, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Regions Park, located in Hoover Alabama, is home to the Birmingham Barons. The Barons are the double A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox, and are one of the oldest professional minor league baseball teams in the south. The Birmingham Barons were originally called the Coal Barons and began playing baseball in Birmingham in 1885. From 1887 until 1910 the Barons played at a location known as the Slag Pile that was located near the heart of the city. In 1910 the Barons moved to historic Rickwood Field located at West End. Rickwood Field was also the home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro Leagues from 1920 until 1960. The Birmingham Barons called Rickwood Field home until 1987 and still play throwback games at Rickwood every year. Rickwood Field is considered the oldest surviving Ballpark in America and is a "must see" for baseball history buffs.
In 1988 the Birmingham Barons began playing their games at the new Hoover Met. "The Met" which is now known as Regions Park is located just south of the city of Birmingham in Hoover, Alabama. Regions Park and the city of Hoover have also been the home of the SEC Baseball Tournament since 1998. The stadium has a seating capacity of 10,800, but can hold as many as 16,000 fans when all of the fan areas are fully utilized. Regions Park has 12 luxury suites, a large picnic complex as well as some nice grassy areas that can be used for larger crowds.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The food concession areas were plentiful and well staffed. All of the ballgame favorites were available including hot dogs, hamburgers, Philly cheesesteaks, chicken fingers, deluxe nachos, and a few others. Dreamland Ribs are also served on Fridays and Sundays, and there was even a heart healthy menu that included items such as salads, chicken sandwiches and so on. Prices at the concession stands were very reasonable with a hot dog selling for $3.50 and a burger going for around $5. Draft beer was $4.25. There were other vendors providing other items like ice cream, pretzels, lemonade, beer and even mixed drinks. Overall a fan should be able to find something good to eat and drink at a fair price.
The stadium is located in a very beautiful rural setting, and the mood was relaxing and tranquil. I am sure that when the SEC Baseball Tournament is in town this place would be rocking, but not on this Sunday in the month of August. On this day, Regions Park was quiet and peaceful.
Regions Park is a fine venue, but it doesn't really have a nostalgic or historic feel to it. It would be a fine place to watch a baseball game, but the game would need to be the main reason you came to visit, not the atmosphere. If you are looking for nostalgia and history head downtown to Rickwood Field, there you will find one of the finest examples of a historic baseball field in the country. In fact I would say not visiting Rickwood Field while in the Birmingham area would be a shame.
As I said, Regions Park is located in a beautiful rural setting, that means there is nothing at all around it. If you come to hang out before the game be sure to bring everything you might need with you. It would be a great place to tailgate, but there is not a restaurant or even a gas station anywhere within walking distance. Don't get me wrong, the stadium is in a really nice area and it is obvious that building the stadium out and away from everything was part of the plan, but it is isolated.
There are some great restaurants within a few miles as well as a huge mall called the Riverchase Galleria. Like most malls it is surrounded by a ton of restaurants and fast food places. There are also a handful of nice hotels within a couple of miles of Regions Field, among those are a Residence Inn, an Embassy Suites, a Hyatt Place and the Wynfrey Hotel which is located in the Riverchase Galleria Mall.
It was a very hot day and the game I attended was played on a Sunday afternoon, so it would be hard to get a real feel for the Barons fans. There were fewer than 500 in attendance and the ones that did show up were not making a lot of noise. I may have to return on a Saturday night to really get an accurate opinion, but for now I would have to say I was disappointed.
Getting to Regions Park was pretty easy for me and there was ample parking all around the stadium when I arrived. Parking was only $3 and you would likely be walking only a short distance to the gates. Going to a Birmingham Barons game at Regions Park was not difficult at all, certainly not as difficult as it would be if they were still located in the city of Birmingham, that is for sure.
There were not many fans in attendance the day of my visit so I can only wonder what the traffic would be like if there were a large crowd all trying get in or out of Regions Park area at the same time. Maybe someone who has experienced a packed house could leave a comment and fill us in, but it was a snap on the day I made my visit.
Ticket prices were very reasonable and so was parking at $3. You could buy a hot dog or hamburger, some chips and a cold beer for less than $15. Tickets run from $8 and up, so I will give Regions Park high marks on value.
Regions Park has a nice play area for the kids and is a beautiful setting for a day out with the family. I saw a few fathers and sons out for a little quality time together during my visit, as well as a number of families enjoying some time together on a warm Sunday afternoon.
Overall I had a very pleasant experience during my visit to Regions Park even though it did lack some the old-time baseball charm that some of the other minor league baseball parks may provide. Having said that, I certainly would not hesitate to recommend Regions Park as a great venue to watch a baseball game if you ever get the chance. If you are planning to visit Regions Field be sure to make plans to visit historic Rickwood Field in Birmingham as well, you won't regret it.
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