Photo courtesy of Bluff Park Drone.
The 10,500-seat Hoover Metropolitan Stadium has been home to the SEC Baseball Tournament for 19 years, but at least four other cities have submitted bids to host in 2017.
The SEC Baseball Tournament is set for its 19th year at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on May 24-29, but questions remain about whether the tournament will come back to Hoover in 2017.
At least four other cities have submitted bids to start hosting the tournament, including Memphis, Nashville, Jacksonville and New Orleans. There could be others, but the SEC won’t say how many bids it received.
Conference officials issued a written statement that says the SEC Baseball Tournament continues to enjoy great success in Hoover.
However, “As we near the end of the current contract, our membership thought it was important to explore what locations, including Hoover, would have interest in serving as a host in the next contract period beginning in 2017,” the statement said. “This is consistent with the process used in the past to determine the location of the baseball tournament and other SEC championship events.”
The SEC has formed a subcommittee of athletics directors to review the proposals from prospective sites, which will include the determination of the length of the agreement with any site, the criteria used to evaluate the sites and any other issues that impact the future of the tournament, the statement said.
SEC officials have started visiting stadiums in other cities. Chuck Dunlap, a communications director for the SEC, said he doesn’t expect a decision until the SEC spring meetings in Destin the first week of June. However, an athletics director meeting also is set for May 2.
Allen Pate, executive director for the city of Hoover, said Hoover submitted its bid to continue as host in mid-February.
“I’m very confident,” Pate said in early April. “I think we’re going to be OK.”
However, he declined to elaborate about Hoover’s bid to keep the tournament.
Gene Hallman, president and CEO of the Alabama Sports Foundation, the official organization submitting the bid, said the foundation put forth a very aggressive bid and anxiously awaits a decision from the SEC.
The only other comment Hallman would make is that the city of Hoover’s plans to build a 141,000-square-foot indoor event center next to the 10,500-seat Hoover Met has greatly enhanced the city’s bid. Such a facility could handle a lot of activities for the SEC Baseball Tournament, he said.
The city of Hoover has agreed to pay $3.4 million for the pre-engineered metal building, which will be designed to hold sporting events, banquets and other gatherings. A covered walkway will connect it to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
Hoover officials have spent millions to upgrade the stadium in recent years. In 2012, they added a new sound system, big-screen TVs at the concession stands and upgraded the restrooms in the concourse.
Since then, most of the stadium has been repainted, the parking lot has been repaved, the bullpens have moved from the sidelines to behind the outfield fence, batting cages have been added and the fence on the field was moved in to more closely resemble the one at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha, which hosts the College World Series.
Hoover officials also in the past have scored points for having about 145 spaces for RVs right next door. Pate in February said the city is considering expanding the RV park to handle about 175 RVs. Hoover also is considered to be centrally located in the SEC.
Other ballparks being considered for the SEC baseball tournament include:
► AutoZone Park in Memphis — home of the Memphis Redbirds minor league baseball team; named best minor league ballpark in 2009 and No. 2 minor league park in 2015 by Baseball America; honored for best ballpark renovation by Ballpark Digest in 2015; seats 10,000; has 48 club suites and an open-air party deck that seats up to 175; will host minor league World Series this year.
► First Tennessee Park in Nashville — home of the Nashville Sounds minor league team; opened in April 2015 with a $65 million price tag; has 360-degree seating around the stadium, club seating and a signature guitar-shaped scoreboard; seats 10,000.
► Zephyr Field in Metairie, Louisiana — home of the New Orleans Zephyrs minor league team; has 10,000 chair-backed seats, plus seating for 1,000 on The Levee in center field; is 20 years old but the Louisiana Legislature passed a bill to renovate the stadium should the SEC choose to move its tournament there; has hosted Conference USA and Sunbelt Conference tournaments.
► Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville — home of the Jacksonville Suns minor league team; seats 11,000 people; home of the ACC Baseball Tournament between 2005 and 2008.
Kevin Kane, CEO and president of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Hoover has put on a great tournament in the past and Memphis has its work cut out for it.
“We certainly don’t have any illusions of grandeur,” he said. “Everybody likes it in Hoover. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been there as long as it has.”
However, “we think we’ve got some compelling reasons why we would be a great choice if and when they decide to move the tournament,” Kane said.
One of the strongest selling points is the “world-class” AutoZone Park, which he doesn’t think any other facility can beat. Also, as the SEC has expanded west into Texas and Missouri, Memphis is more centrally located than Hoover, Kane said.
Memphis also has the necessary number of hotel rooms and an RV park that can hold more than 300 vehicles at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium about five miles away, he said. A free shuttle service would be provided, he said.
“We bring a lot to the table, and we’d be honored to host if given the opportunity,” Kane said.
Efforts to reach officials from other competing cities by deadline were unsuccessful.
2016 SEC Baseball Tournament
- WHERE: Hoover Metropolitan Stadium
- WHEN: May 24-29
- DETAILS: Features top 12 teams; seeds 5-12 play single-elimination on opening day; then double-elimination play Wednesday-Friday; semifinals Saturday; championship Sunday
- TICKETS: Single-session general admission is $14 for adults and $8 for youth ages 3-12; Dr. Pepper 6-pack with general admission to any six sessions is $66; reserved chairback seat for all nine sessions is $120; general admission plus hospitality pass to all nine sessions is $625; reserved seat plus hospitality pass to all nine sessions is $645; buy tickets at secsports.com or 1-877-332-7804
- PARKING: Free, but parking pass for Lot C behind third baseline is $50