Home of the Barons
Chances are good that downtown visitors to Railroad Park in the spring and summer can couple their experience there with a baseball game. Regions Field is its newest next-door neighbor. Directly across the street, this minor league stadium opened in April and further accentuates the city’s bold efforts to bring residents and groups downtown.
“The old baseball stadium had been moved out of town to Hoover,” said Ashford. “It was a suburban park that didn’t require anyone to come downtown. When this new site was announced, people were saying, ‘I’ll never see another Barons game because they’ve moved downtown.’ Now it’s selling out.”
The $64 million ballpark seats 8,500 fans, not including open-air seating on grass in its outfield section. Brick and steel architecture was used to tie the structure to Birmingham’s heritage as a steel-producing center.
The Birmingham Barons play in the Southern League and are a AA farm club of the Chicago White Sox. Baseball has a long pedigree in Birmingham. The Birmingham Barons were joined for decades by the Black Barons of the Negro League, and both played at iconic Rickwood Field, which is today the oldest surviving baseball park in America.
A Dining Destination
Five Points remains the city’s social center. Every afternoon around 5 or so, businesspeople and many visitors assemble at any one of numerous bars or cafes in the district. Highly regarded restaurants such as Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill, and Bottega are only two of numerous offerings that have been acclaimed by almost any gourmet authority you can name.
I’ve had many dinners at Highlands, some in its formal dining room, others more casually at the bar with Birmingham CVB president Jim Smither. I’ve learned to go with whatever the bartenders recommend for that day, including which type of oysters on the half shell are best.
I dined al fresco at Stitt’s Bottega Cafe a year or so ago with Ashford and Sara Hamlin, the bureau’s vice president of tourism, where we were joined briefly by Chuck Faush, chief of staff for Mayor William A. Bell. Bottega’s Dinner Room offers more formal evening dining, and both are noted for their Italian wines and cuisine.
Next: History and arts
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