This is now officially baseball season and Birmingham has just built its wonderful citizens a new stadium. If you are unfamiliar with B’ham, we have a AA minor league team called the Barons. They are associated with Chicago White Sox. The old stadium was built in Hoover and did not really have an personality and was not super fun to visit. The traffic was bad, the stadium was not well-designed, and it was out in the middle of nowhere. So the people that are in charge of B’ham made a decision to move the stadium right to downtown and that has made all the difference.
If you know very little to nothing about my city, we have corrupt politicians (who doesn’t), terrible city planners (just to give you some idea how bad, in the 70′s Atlanta was the same size as B’ham and then they decided to bring in international business to make their city thrive) , and weird business people that try very hard to not make money (not saying I would want B’ham to be Atlanta, but every friend that has visited my town has commented on how beautiful it is). In every city I have ever lived and visited, the ones that stick out in my mind are the ones that have an active downtown scene where people want to go and spend money or just hang out at parks and still spend money. You may see a theme- $. If you could not tell, money is not something I stress over, but to have a thriving city you need it. That is simple simple economics. Austin is a prime example of how a good city is run. The most expensive real estate is near downtown and after 5 pm is when people come back down to have a good time because there are things happening at night. B’ham has been notorious for being a ghost town after 5pm. When the business district shuts down, people run home and do not come back till 8 am the next day. Now if you know anything about history you know that in the early 60′s we had a little problem with race right here in this very city. It went along the lines of white people were wrong and not giving African-Americans their equal rights. African-Americans revolted and Birmingham has continued to be divided. White flight is a gross understatement for B’ham. There are many suburbs of the city and guess who lives there. I will let you guess who makes up most of the population of Birmingham proper (hint- not white people, remember they were the flight part). This has always brought me anger for my city. I saw it before I left, but truly saw the dividing line once I had moved away and saw that not everywhere was like B’ham. I say all this to let you know that there is, I hope, a group of people like my wife, friends, and I, that want our city to become great. Not necessarily larger, in the Hotlanta sense, but a better place to be and live. The Baron’s stadium right downtown may make this a reality.
Now I disagree that it is the only thing that has made this change, which is what the Baron’s big whigs are trying to convince you. They want everybody to think that this stadium has brought all the change. I want to clarify that there has been some great strides in the right direction. To name a few: we now have Railroad Park, Good People Brewery(if you like beer, it is the place to go- I love the Coffee Oatmeal Stout!), El Barrio, and many many new places to go and hang out in the area. These places are bringing people down and hopefully will continue to help B’ham thrive. Birmingham has always struggled with the people in charge and now it feels like we the people, taxpayers that make up most of the population, are now wanting to take our city back and make it the wonderful city it should be.
Now I have to rant about the stadium. We bought season tickets with a group of friends and we are going to at least 17 games apiece, so we have a vested interest. But, to put it simply, the stadium is well made. It has views of the all the city, our boy Vulcan can be seen by all, we have a view of downtown, and it just feels open. The biggest draw is that it is incredibly kid friendly. This will be what makes or breaks it. The one major thing B’ham has going for it is that raising families here is a great thing. The whole reason we moved back was because of the what a great childhood my wife and I had and we wanted our children to have the same great time growing up. Now once they get older they may want to leave and I hope they do. We plan on traveling with our children as much as possible so they can see and learn about this wonderful world in which we live. Now I know there is a group in this city that is going to stay in their safe white neighborhoods and never venture out into the big city. We do not want them anyway. They made the city the way it is today and I want them to stay home, let us open-minded type people make this city great.
My excitement is starting to show to everyone around me. I want to be downtown a lot in this city. When I used to live in Southside(the kind-of hip area of B’ham) I was always eating and doing stuff downtown, but there wasn’t much to do. Now I hope that the city wants to make money and have people visit on a regular basis. A problem with Birmingham is that people tend to not have short memories. They think that what happened 10-15 years ago is still the way it is. We have to foster a new philosophy for this town, we need to want to grow and open up to the possibilities that we are not what we were. We should never forget our past, but we need move forward and grow into a community of southerns that love their city and want to make it the great once more.