Friday, September 9, 2011

Joe Davis Stadium - Huntsville, AL

Posted by William Lee Coleman III | Friday, September 9, 2011 | Category: |

I was originally supposed to visit Joe Davis Stadium with my wife in 2009 but I read the Stars home schedule wrong and we ended attending a Chattanooga Lookouts game instead. Trevor Bauer who was playing against the Stars with the Mobile Baybears is what brought me to the stadium tonight. If I knew how easy the drive was from Birmingham, Alabama, I would have done the visit sooner when I was a McCalla resident. Joe Davis Stadium, nicknamed "The Joe", was named for the popular former mayor of Huntsville, who was instrumental in bringing minor league baseball to the city. The Joe can seat over 10,000 fans and features 14 air-conditioned Sky Boxes. The stadium was completed 1985 and at one time hosted the University of Huntsville Chargers baseball team along with other sporting events but now is exclusively the home of the Milwaukee Brewers' Double A affiliate Huntsville Stars. It is the oldest stadium in the Southern League. I heard and read some terrible comments about this stadium over the past ten years so I didn't really know what to expect. 

Random Fact: The stadium almost didn't happen over the selling of beer.

Stadium Rating: D

After my visit, I can safely say "the Joe" doesn't really offer anything outside the box to attract the non baseball fan. Joe Davis Stadium probably features the most unwelcoming entrance that I have experienced with a Minor League Baseball stadium. Nobody outside the stadium promoting anything, no volunteers handing anything out, and no live music. Only a security guard that wanted to check my bag for drinks. The most interesting thing about the entrance was the logo of the Milwaukee Brewers on a banner. That banner would be the only item to tell me from the time I pulled off the highway into the Joe Davis Stadium parking lot that I was about to watch an affiliated baseball game. After purchasing my ticket, I couldn't help but notice the amount of barbed wire that is present along the stadiums perimeter. You usually see the use of barbed wire around the grounds crew area in other stadiums. Simple things like stamping and tearing my ticket gives the stadium an even older feeling. The concourse is colorful and the main highlight of the stadium. 

Sadly, half of the concessions never opened the night I visited. The close circuit TV's were not on at any point in the concourse during the game. The murals painted throughout the concourse's walls added a bit of character to the stadium. They picture everything from a baseball glove to the Girl Scouts of America. I didn't really understand their purpose other than to promote charities. It is odd to explore a stadium that has hosted affiliated baseball for twenty-seven years with no mention of the past players that have played in it anywhere. The bathrooms are clean and were working on my visit. The concourse does have it share of eye sores that could be easy addressed.  Exposed insulation panels along concourse's ceiling are visible along with some air conditioning units. Stuff like this bothers me.

Once you exit the concourse to the grandstand, you enter a stadium that is big and dull in appearance due to the amount of concrete. The incomplete feeling comes from how short the seating area along the first base side when compared to the length of seating along the third base side. It barely goes past the first base dugout. Seating along the third base side is to far from the action on the infield to enjoy. Plus, depending on your seat, you can not see the scoreboard.  The suite level not extending down the first base side also makes "the Joe" feel incomplete. The "air-conditioned sky boxes” may offer air conditioning but don't look like they offer a great view to watch the game. The Plexiglas from the outside looked cloudy. I wasn't all that impressed with the scoreboard and video board. The scoreboard doesn't really tell you that much more than a college scoreboard. The two giant Tri-Visions in the shape of stars give the stadium some character. The concourse looks like the only place to hide from the sun on day games. 

The Stars have one of the more interesting logo's in the Southern League and the lack of its use along with the space theme in the stadium is sad. Stadium's gift shop provided me some air conditioning in between innings and looked like it was the most updated part of the stadium. I sat in two cracked green seats which pinched my bottom along the third base side. I would watch the last three innings of the game behind home plate and had a great view of the field.  Never understand the importance of  the clock behind me.

Baseball Atmosphere: C

Due to the temperature being close to one hundred degrees, I was expecting a small crowd. I would say that the two hundred people who attended the game truly love baseball or were there to get autographs. They cheered and booed at key parts of the game. Crowd was real rough on the umpires. The PA announcer and the music for the most part was at a comfortable level. In between inning promotions weren't all that exciting. At times, this stadium seemed a little sterile, a little too quiet. Sure, the players were there to entertain and are the most important part of the experience to me.  However, hearing the amusement park's sound effects a couple hundred yards from the stadium over the sounds inside the stadium is pretty bad.

Autographing: A

Joe Davis might have a reputation of frowning upon autograph seekers but tonight no one said anything about me getting autographs, I arrived an hour and half early to check out the stadium and noticed players walking along the third base side of the concourse to a small building. One player told me that this is where they took batting practiced and afterward he would sign. The barn in my grandmother's backyard is bigger then these batting cages. The doors to the batting cages are chain link fence and I simply handed the players my items over the fence. The only other stadium that I have visited so far were you can graph the players from the batting cage is Cashman Field in Las Vegas. After graphing the batting cage, I noticed the clubhouses for each team are accessible via the concourse. Doors for each clubhouse are clearly labeled for each team along the  concourse’s first base side and on the third base side. Just one more aspect of the stadium that shows its age. I decided that I would try to get some Baybear players by the visitor's clubhouse door. For the next thirty minutes, I called some of the Mobile players that were on their cellphones over to the fence that surrounds the perimeter of the stadium. The majority of the players signed. Inside the stadium is also good. I just graphed the visitors side for the players I didn't get outside the stadium. You need to arrive early because the section by the visitor's dugout on the first row is very small. Graphing the Stars side is pretty basic and offers no problems for the experienced autograph hound. You have access to both players bullpen if you miss some of the players as they were exiting the dugout.  After the game, we just walked back and forth along the concourse getting the players on both teams as they exited their clubhouses. Overall, a great stadium for autographs.

Pricing: B

I arrived at the stadium before the parking lot attendants arrived  My General Admission ticket was $8.00.  An usher informed me once I was inside that a General Admission ticket is open seating to everyone. That got me to wondering:  What is the incentive to being a season ticket holder ? I purchased a souvenir drink for $4.00 and hot dog for $3.50. I was looking forward to snacking on some more edible treats other than your normal ballpark options but half of the stadiums concession stands never opened.

This was a hard stadium to write about due to all the negativity that surrounds the stadium.  Is Joe Davis Stadium a terrible place to watch a game? Not for me on this visit. Sure, I never attended a Star's game with the old lightning system that was in place for football games and my game was not canceled because of the playing surface. These problems can and have happened at other stadiums. I enjoy seeing the future stars of Major League Baseball and that aspect should be a big enough draw on its own. Would my wife like Joe Davis ? Probably not. We both have different expectations on what a 27-year-old stadium should offer. The problem the Huntsville Stars ownership and the city of Huntsville have is they fail to accept that the non baseball fans, the players, and Minor League Baseball expect more out of a Double A stadium. Minor League Baseball will be in Huntsville for 2012, but can easily be taken away the next season. Just ask the city of Kinston, North Carolina.

Currently have 14 comments:

  1. Was the video screen on the scoreboard working when you were there? Or the marquee below the scoreboard where they used to show the players names and stats? Did you notice they don't even sell ice cream, but only Dippin' Dots? No mini helmets with a Stars logo!

    And your impression was correct, the team store is the only modern part of the stadium. As recently as 5 years ago, it was just an open fireworks stand-style kiosk. On a hot, humid day (most of them in the summer in Huntsville) sitting in the sun for 3 hours is killer.

    The only incentive for season ticket holders now is having their seats marked and reserved. Whee.

    As much as I don't want to see the Stars leave town, the city basically abandoned them shortly after the affiliation changed from the A's to the Brewers.

  2. I had very few options when it came to concessions. The whole third base side was closed.

    One of the two giant Tri-Visions in the shape of stars wasn't even on until the fifth inning.

    I recently read an old article that the Stars were the ones that wanted the affiliation to end with the Athletics. Even Billy Beane was taken back by this considering they never complained about the stadium.

    Overall, a hard stadium to review and thanks for reading my review.

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