Birmingham has been known as a typical Minor League city. It has fielded a team starting in 1885 and has pretty much had a baseball team in the area for the near-130 years since. Most of the games they played at was at legendary Rickwood Field, a true classic ballpark. After 1987 the Barons moved to the Birmingham suburb of Hoover and played their games at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, or locals called it, the Met (later it would be known as Regions Park).
The place was what a cookie-cutter park was like if you turned it into a Minor League stadium. A unappealing exterior with an unappealing interior and a symmetrical layout. That said, the Met held some fine players such as Frank Thomas, Bo Jackson, Robin Ventura, Magglio Ordonez, and manager Terry Francona, and some big moments such as Michael Jordan trying to "play" baseball." Fans came out big time during those years of great Barons players. However, as time progressed, the attendance at the Met waned. The Barons wanted a new park to put back into Birmingham.
Enter Regions Field. A place that screams Birmingham with a nice exterior predominantly of steel (to honor the city's history of the steel industry) and you felt that as you were inside the park. In its first year, the Barons drew very well and won the Southern League championship for the first time since 2003 (if I am not mistaken).
I went with my dad in April to catch a game at the new park and was amazed. It was light years better than their predecessor. I didn't go without some small problems of the park. The parking was a bit problematic as there wasn't really a major parking spot within the park, and the one that was, was "VIP." We parked 2 blocks away for an expensive $10.
We got into the park and it was a real gem as you can see some of the Birmingham skyline from RF and the UAB hospital (with a helicopter flying in & out every hour). The place was clean and what you expect from a new minor league park (unique dimensions in the outfield, the nice scoreboard, luxury boxes and suites on the second level, etc.). Sightlines here were very good if not great, though corners you would lose a bit of the outfield. One gripe was the fact the rows were somewhat smushed in. Food was varied throughout with barbecue and different gourmet hot dogs and hamburgers. The one that stood out the most was the "Steel City Burger" which tasted magnificent (had bacon, egg, pepper jack cheese, chipotle mayo). Actually it is one of the best burgers I ever had. But come with your wallet as Birmingham's grub is about what you expect at a MLB game. Speaking of high prices, the souvenirs were extremely high for a Minor League game (and rivals that of some MLB spots).
The one thing about the place that was changed from the old park was a different atmosphere. The last time I went to the old park was 2011 and the place seemed dead. The new park was lively and jumping. Fans were into the game (though a couple around us were drunk and decided to stand up in front of us and have a chat, preventing us from watching the game).
Overall, the place was awesome and Birmingham did a good job of this new park. I still think there are some hiccups of the place, but overall, a mass upgrade from Regions Park. I rate the place an 80.5 on my score list, which anything over 80% is great in my book.
WHAT I LIKED:
The food: best tasting food in the Minors to this point.
The structure: Place screams Birmingham and it has some unique color lights after the game. Inside it is very nice too.
Atmosphere: You were in a true minor league park.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE:
Parking: Hard to find a spot and one that didn't cost you a lot of money for a Minor League Game.
Prices: MLB level prices for food and souvenirs.
Restrooms: Dirty, and the sinks weren't working properly.
Great review, Tim! Thanks for posting. The burger sounds amazing!
Thanks! I'll have a few more since my summer journey is over (well, I'm hitting Rickwood Field in a few weeks to see the classic so I am stoked on that) so I'll be putting out new "reviews."