Aim High(er), Birmingham!
With new initiatives like Blueprint Birmingham and actual progress like Railroad Park grabbing recent headlines, potential progress in and around downtown Birmingham has become (more) front and center as a point of discussion among locals.
This discussion is paramount to progress. But the discussion, it seems, has been going on for years with only moderate progress being made. It’s time for that to change, and we can start with changing the nature of the discussion.
A lot of people have recently been very high on building a baseball park downtown. The goal is to attract the Birmingham Barons away from Regions Park in Hoover. The attendance numbers for the Barons for 2010, according to Ballpark Digest has them ranked as the 62nd Minor League Baseball draw with a total of 275,887 and an average attendance of 4,180. This is down from a total of 287,185 in 2009 but is consistently the number one or two draw in the Southern League.
The most common criticism I hear of sports teams in and around Birmingham by locals is that “Birmingham won’t support a professional sports team.” I disagree with this, and here’s why.
An actual “bad sports town” is an anomaly. Generally sports teams are supported (or not supported) based on how well they do. Winning teams create fans. Witness the explosion of crimson attire in the last two years in Alabama. Sure, there were plenty of Alabama football fans before (you’re born into it here) but they weren’t foaming at the mouth and wearing crimson 7 days a week like many are now. Even a franchise you’re born into supporting generates more excitement by competing well. While there are towns that simply won’t support teams, they’re the overwhelming exception. I truly believe a quality professional team in Birmingham would be well received and supported. How many people do you know who are willing to drive 3 hours to Atlanta, put up with ridiculous traffic and endure a 3 hour return trip to catch a Braves game? Plenty.
That’s why we will never have a National League team. Atlanta knows they draw a lot of their fan support from Birmingham and they aren’t going to give that up. Our best chance for a Major League team lies in finding an American League team that is looking for a new home.
What if we could find a team who was actually in one of those very rare “bad sports towns?” What if that team was consistently competitive within their division? What if that team was in the World Series as recently as 2008? What if that team routinely competed toe-to-toe with high-budget powerhouses like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox… and did so while only spending 25% as much on salaries? What if that team’s management was looking for a new home? What if that team was already in the southeast?
There’s one of those teams out there right this minute, and they’re about to start their playoff run for 2010. Wouldn’t we be crazy NOT to try and get their attention? It’s almost a perfect storm working to our advantage.
Let me be clear. If the Barons move downtown I’ll catch a couple of games a year. If a quality AL team moves downtown I’ll buy 4 season tickets.
“It is better to aim for the stars and hit the moon, than to aim for the trees, and hit the ground.” — Suzanne Oggenfuss
Come on Birmingham, you can do this…