Barber shop talk with Mayor Bell

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Fresh off a victory for his downtown baseball stadium proposal, Birmingham's mayor got an earful from downtown business owners and residents this afternoon. Mayor William Bell sat down with them in a barber shop.

The city council's vote Tuesday to raise the lodging tax means the money is in place to build a downtown baseball stadium and the site is likely to be right next to or near the new Railroad Park, assuming the Birmingham Barons want to play there. Tuesday afternoon, Bell made some news when asked how soon we will know if the Barons are coming over the mountain.

"Probably have some announcements next week as it relates to the Barons and then shortly after that we'll probably have some other announcements related to the actual construction of the stadium itself," Bell said.

The idea of several thousand fans flooding that part of downtown is appealing to a lot of business owners, but one man who owns a business near Railroad Park is concerned he hasn't heard directly from the city about the potential new stadium.

"Is there a plan to work with the existing business owners with how they area's going to move forward?"

Bell promised to reach out to surrounding businesses moving forward, that's music to the ears of Vancey Williams who owns a new club several blocks away from the park on 20th street.

"I'm glad to see the Railroad Park and the Westin Hotel, all of it will help the inner city programs and faciltiies and business downtown, so 1 will help another," Williams said.

But developers want to see the city encourage growth in other parts of downtown, not just the area around Railroad Park.

"I have a number of calls on a daily basis, people wanting to put bars and restaurants down here, and it's just real difficult. Is the city doing anything to promote an entertainment district downtown like we are out by the civic center?"  
Bell replied, "Yes."

The mayor fielded another question, "If the stadium happens, how soon could we see baseball at the stadium?" Bell said he hopes the stadium could be complete by the spring of 2013.

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