Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Regions Field 1401 1st Ave S Birmingham, AL 35233
Year Opened: 2013
It’s Time for Blazerball!
The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is the third largest school in the Alabama University System, with more than 21,000 students. Its urban campus is located at the southern tip of Birmingham, Alabama. The school is relatively young, as it was founded in 1969. UAB is particularly known for its cutting-edge medical school.
The sports teams at UAB are known as the Blazers, using a dragon as the school’s mascot. The Blazers participate in Conference USA at the Division I level of NCAA competition. The baseball Blazers began play in 1979 and have gone to two NCAA Tournaments and won one Conference USA title.
The team has an unusual home schedule, as it splits its games between the on-campus Young Memorial Field and Regions Field, the downtown home of the Class AA Birmingham Barons. The February and March games take place at Regions Field, with UAB returning to their on-campus stadium once the minor league season gets underway. Young Memorial Field opened in 1984 and seats 1,000, while Regions Field opened in 2013 and seats 8,500. This review will focus on Regions Field, with some comparisons to Young Memorial Field included.
Food & Beverage 3
Regions Field offers a wide variety of concessions including both generic stands as well as specialty foods through such vendors as the Bud Light Cool Zone and Dreamland BBQ. However, the stadium only offers a single concession stand along the third baseline for Blazer games. The stand offers chicken fingers with fries ($8), cheeseburgers ($8), hot dogs ($4), popcorn ($4), fries ($4) and chips ($2). Beverages include Coca-Cola fountain sodas ($4) and bottled water ($4).
Alcohol can be served at UAB games, as it is not located on-campus. Domestic beers are $6.
There is also only one concession stand a Young Memorial Field. It sells the same products as Regions Field but cannot sell beer due to its on-campus location.
Regions Field has been heralded as one of the top parks in minor league baseball. It salutes Birmingham’s industrial past with the use of brick and steel as its primary elements in its construction, it also salutes the future, as it offers dramatic views of the growing downtown Birmingham skyline, along with Red Mountain and the city’s famous mountaintop statue of Vulcan, the Greek god of metalworking. The stadium offers 8,500 seats, including 400 club level seats and 23 luxury suites. Berm seating is available in the outfield. It also has a 360-degree concourse, which allows you to get different views of the action, as well as to check out the many special food and beverage selections at the park. The park also features a large LED scoreboard/video board in left field.
Unfortunately, many of these options are not available at UAB games held at the stadium. The outfield and berm seating are roped off from use by the fans and the concourse is also cut off just after the first/third base points in the stadium. In addition, the Barons team store is closed and there is no Blazer gear available for sale. Another issue is that there is no signage or other recognition that UAB even plays at the stadium… which really cuts down on the college atmosphere of the game. Once the game starts, the scoreboard does show UAB-related information and the PA announcer makes the basic line up and batting introductions. This all adds up to a less than electric atmosphere at UAB games played at Regions Field.
By comparison, Young Memorial Field does not offer many of the bells and whistles or dramatic views of Regions Field. However, it definitely lets you know you are at a UAB facility. The entire color scheme of the park is in the green and gold colors of the Blazers. Banners are hung on the outfield wall highlighting the championship years the team has experienced. The dragon logo is prominently displayed on the wall padding and other parts of the park. The seating capacity is much smaller, but that seems to create more enthusiasm within the crowd.
Regions Field is located within the Parkside District of Downtown Birmingham. Its construction was seen as a way to revitalize the southern end of the downtown area. It has certainly done that, as the Railroad Park was constructed across the street from the stadium and new restaurants and shops are filling in long abandoned space in the area. Several hotels have been built in recent years to service both Regions Field and the nearby UAB Medical Center. One must look no further than beyond the outfield walls to see all the residential growth in the area, as apartments overlook both center and right field.
Young Memorial is by nature a part of the UAB academic campus. It is surrounded for the most part by academic structures. Its newest neighbor is BBVA Stadium, home of the Birmingham Legion of the USL.
The fan base differs greatly between Regions Field and Young Memorial Park. Regions Field tends to attract more locals from the communities that encircle the stadium and the family and friends of the players. When UAB is playing a local or major college rival (Samford, Jacksonville State University, Troy University, Alabama or Auburn) there is a more evenly spread crowd of the local community and members of the UAB student body. Other than these key games, the turnouts at Regions Field tend to be in the hundreds, which results in a quite muffled response, even after a UAB score, due the large area the stadium covers.
The seating arrangement is on bleachers rather than seats at Young Memorial Field. However, there is a much larger turnout from the student body for games. The on-campus nature of the smaller park seems to also bring more energy to a confined seating area, resulting in a more boisterous crowd during rallies or the team getting out of a tough spot defensively.
Access to both Young Memorial Field and Regions Field has been impacted by a major construction project impacting the I-20/I-59 interchange. It is best to use your favorite mapping app/GPS for the most current directions, as the project will affect other exits as it progresses.
Regions Field only has a 250-space parking lot. However, there are more than 2,500 parking spaces within five blocks of the stadium. Paid parking lots typically charge $5, but lots of on-street parking is readily available for weekend games.
Parking is available at a UAB Parking Deck immediately across the street from Young Memorial Field.
Return on Investment 4
Both Regions Field and Young Memorial Field offer an excellent return on investment. Admission is $7 at both locations and the concession prices are identical. Parking at both locations is either very expensive or free.
Former MLB player and longtime manager Harry “The Hat” Walker served as the first UAB coach for the baseball program.
Baseball has a long history in Birmingham, dating back to 1885. For most of these years it was played at Rickwood Park, one of the oldest baseball parks in the country. It is still in use for some college games and the annual Rickwood Classic, a fundraiser to help underwrite the maintenance cost of the stadium. The Barons and the opposition don period uniforms for this throwback game.
The Negro Southern League Baseball Museum adjacent to Regions Field is well worth a visit. It is not open on Sundays.
Regions Field provides an excellent atmosphere for baseball at the minor league level, as it offers many amenities not found at other ballparks at the AA level. Unfortunately, many of these same amenities are unavailable to the fans at UAB baseball games. The typical attendance at UAB games is dwarfed by the sheer size (8,500 seats) of Regions Field. This tends to minimize any fan impact on the game. The lack of any UAB branding at the stadium also deters from the fan experience. At the college level, nothing can beat the unique feel of an on-campus facility.