The decrepit condition of Joe Davis Stadium led to the loss of pro baseball in Huntsville. This weekend the former Southern League ballpark made its pro soccer debut as home of MLS Next Pro’s Huntsville City FC.
The debut home match attracted a crowd of 5,605 fans–a pretty decent number for MLS Next Pro, though we don’t track attendance for the circuit (and the league doesn’t regularly report attendance numbers, either). The former Huntsville Stars were sold and moved to Biloxi during the 2015 MiLB season, and while the venue was considered for renovation to host the return of pro baseball in 2020, the Rocket City Trash Pandas ended up setting up shop in suburban Madison while proving to be a big success at Toyota Park.
And while Huntsville debated whether to tear down the facility–it was hastily constructed to house the former Nashville Sounds when that market went Triple-A–it was decided to renovate the venue as a soccer-specific stadium. Joe Davis Stadium sits in a part of Huntsville devoted to youth sports facilities of all kinds–a former wide-open airport location–and the conversion to soccer, while originally geared for youth soccer and football, ended up attracting Nashville SC’s developmental team, Huntsville City FC. From AL.com:
“We’re very excited about that,” Mayor Tommy Battle said of the soccer team. “But this is still a multipurpose stadium. It’s a multipurpose stadium for soccer, football, rugby, lacrosse, maybe even field hockey at some point. So, we have a lot of great things that can happen here.”
The most recognizable change on the stadium’s exterior are the permanent bleachers built in what once was the outfield – stretching from the right field line to centerfield and opposite of the long stretch of seats along what once was the left field foul line. It provides a more conventional setting for soccer and football with seats on both sidelines.
Terrace seating has also been built in the east end zone as a sort of berm for fans to spread a blanket and watch the game without the confines of a reserved seat.
Also part of the renovations: a 1,600-square-foot zero-edge videoboard and seven field level private boxes. And, for those keeping track at home, a new mixed-use development and hotel are planned in the stadium area. The stadium spending alone didn’t yield plans for area investments–as noted, the stadium is in the midst of city sporting facilities regularly hosting youth tournaments and state championships.
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