A Trip to Regions Field

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I recently had the opportunity to visit the Birmingham Baron’s new ballpark in downtown Birmingham, AL.  When I lived there years ago, I saw Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson play for this Chicago White Sox AA franchise. 

That was in a what was a new stadium at the time, carved into the woods in a lightly developed area well south of the City.  It was a very nice facility, as much for its in-the-woods setting as the game, which... bores me.

The area became commercialized around it, and I doubt it retains any charm.  The economic powers deemed it worthwhile to move the team back downtown.  In Atlanta, if the Braves played in the part of suburbia near me, that would be a good thing.  I’d go more often (though not often), but going to downtown Atlanta is a chore, in terms of cost, stress, and time.

Not so in Birmingham.  It takes 15 minutes from about anywhere in the metro area to get there, except possibly those at the whims of Hwy 280 in Shelby County. 

The day was rather grim, cloudy and windy, with the threat and later descent of rain.  But from the main entrance, it’s obvious that the stadium provides the city with a visible marquee.  It doesn’t rise enough to enter the skyline, but it’s quite visible from I-65.

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I arrived early and briefly toured the adjacent Railroad Park, a sliver of land and walking path along the railroad track that divides Birmingham’s Avenues between North and South.  Fairly close to the University of Alabama- Birmingham (UAB), the area is slowly revitalizing.

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Regions Field, as it is called, seats up to 8,500.  This was a mid-day game, with school kids attending.  The Huntsville Stars were the opponent, if anyone cares.  Midday games are probably a good thing for AA ball.  Get up, get on the bus, ride for a couple hours, play a game, ride back, and you’re home in time for dinner.  The Barons won 8-3, for those keeping score.. despite 5 errors.  In any event, it’s a very nice stadium.

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As observed in the pictures both above and below, the railings were of interest. 

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The tall portion makes sense.  People are coming down the steps and it’s located in the direction of travel. 

The other railings were a point of discussion.  It’s very easy to imagine someone reaching for a fly ball and, oops.  There’s an injury or fatality, both to the one falling and those below.   42” it is at the high part.  But the lower railing isn’t required to be as high in stadiums for two reasons: 

1) The railing technically is not in the path of travel and
2) It obstructs sight-lines when seated at the lowest level.

The International Building Code allows 26” for sports venues, and theirs may be 30”.  Standing next to it, it’s a bit unnerving.  Aside from the “path of travel” excuse, it’s quite easy to understand someone may be dealing with a kid or two in tow while carrying sodas and a hot dog and accidentally bump the knees of a person sitting in the front row.  And there’s the edge.

One article points out that only 1 of 22 fatalities have resulted from people trying to catch balls.  It’s not like railings on porches or decks are allowed to be that low, and they’re not in the path of travel, either. 

Anyway, it’s another lawsuit waiting to happen.

On brighter subjects, the field is very well sited.  Running along at roughly the height of the stadium roof in the picture below are active railroad tracks.  The trains go by through the game, adding a novel feel to the urban setting.

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A blown up view of the train:

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The view above points towards the main downtown area, largely a financial, government, and legal sector.  To the right would be the UAB complex.  It brings an expansive view of the city’s future hopes.

And, on balance, it turns its back on Birmingham’s economically challenged west side, where several miles away lies Rickwood Field, where the team began.  Sorry, folks.

By the way, the play of the day:

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