Proposals for new ballpark and Westin move forward

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Would you spend $48 million to get $3.8 billion later?

New research says Birmingham has this decision with its proposal to build a new downtown ballpark for the Barons baseball team.

The city council heard the results of a new study that says a ballpark could cost about $48 million to build, but the development that could arise around it could end up creating thousands of jobs and billions in economic impact in the next 20 years.

The study presented Wednesday was paid for using private funds. But the very public results showed that a new ballpark for the Barons downtown could bring in more development in offices, condos, or apartments. With the addition of retail, all could add up to $3.8 billion dollars in economic impact in the next 20 years.

The study says that whole piece of development would create 2,000 jobs and $1.8 billion in personal income over that time period.

Mayor William Bell says there are several developers already interested in the area if the ballpark is built.

"At least one major project is something we all want, it would improve the skyline of the city of Birmingham, it will bring a number of jobs back into the city of Birmingham," Bell said.

Birmingham's council president, Roderick Royal, was skeptical saying that the cost of buying the land for the ballpark wasn't included in this study. He believes no minor league team actually makes any money.

Regardless,  the 2 council committee meetings voted to move the funding for the ballpark and the Westin hotel project forward to the full council for a vote next Tuesday.

"It oughta have a ripple effect, and that's what we need," said Council President Pro Tem Steven Hoyt. "We need true transformation with respect to the economic impact of this city. And it forces us to do some things in and around the park and 65 as well as west of 65."

Bell says the projected tax revenue from the project would be felt all over the city, not just downtown. "So that we can fill the potholes, so that we can improve the recreational facilities in our community and the only way you can do that is through growth and opportunity," Bell said.

Wednesday's vote means the council will vote next week on funding for both the ballpark and the Westin hotel project that would neighbor the BJCC.

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