April 10 began a new era in Birmingham. After 25 years at the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, the Birmingham Barons moved to a new home in the heart of the city - Regions Field. This minor league ballpark with a major league feel provides a better venue for baseball and offers much greater experience than its predecessor. Only an hour from Tuscaloosa, Regions Field also makes for an easy daytrip or an enjoyable weekend getaway.

Ever since the Barons began discussing the move a few years ago, planning and development have moved at an accelerated pace. The aggressive timeline led to the ballpark being completed right before the season began with construction actually continuing on some of the extras around the outfield.

We spoke with General Manager Jonathan Nelson, who's third-floor window overlooks Railroad Park, which had quite a bit of activity for a Thursday morning.

"Leading up to opening day, there was so much hustle and bustle about getting everything up and running and getting the stadium prepared," Nelson said. "And we got through it. Now the challenge is really learning how the stadium works all-around – not just inside, but outside as well."

Regardless of the work that remains, there's plenty to love about the current state of Regions Field. The first thing you notice is the architecture, which shares many of the same elements as other buildings around the city. The most eye-catching feature is the name 'Birmingham' spelled out in steel along the western side of the facility, which is within view of onlookers passing on I-65.

Inside the stadium, there are two features that Nelson particularly loves: a 360 degree concourse that provides fans an opportunity to walk completely around the park and open-air concessions that allow you to watch the game while waiting for food and drinks.

Less than one month into the park's existence, Nelson says the fans have reacted very positively.

"When they come out here, they’re overwhelmed because it’s a big league ballpark, just on a smaller scale. But it offers all of those unique amenities, whether it be the seating bowl and the unique angles of the 360 degree concourse, or whether it be looking around this beautiful city landscape of downtown or Southside or Vulcan or Children’s Hospital."

Any new ballpark will only be successful as the people supporting it. While that doesn't seem like it would be an issue for a franchise with over 125 years of history, anytime you make a major change in location, there has to be a bit of uneasiness. But Nelson says the city jumped on board immediately.

"People really got excited when they heard about the plan for the ballpark and where it was going to be located. The overall community and families all across the metro area have embraced the move and the ballpark.

"We sold out of suites a long time ago. The club lounge area, we sold out of it. We’ve had an incredible amount of season tickets sold. It’s also reflected in folks wearing apparel. Wherever you go downtown, you see a Barons hat or t-shirt. There’s so much civic pride in the Barons."

The stadium moving downtown makes it a bit further to travel from Tuscaloosa, but with the added mileage comes a greater overall experience. One thing the Hoover Met never offered was a place to go around the stadium before and after the game.

That's definitely no longer the case. With Railroad Park across the street on the third base side and Good People Brewery across from the first base side, there's something for everyone. Plus, a number a great restaurants can be found within a mile or two from the park. It might not sound traditional, but Birmingham makes for a nice getaway for anyone in West Alabama.

"What we offer is a great new venue. It’s really the talk of the town – not only in Birmingham but in the industry as well. The great thing is, it’s located right across the street from Railroad Park, a really great area where families and individuals can go and have a picnic, walk around the track, what have you.

"There are many great restaurants and bars. Part of going to certain big league ballparks is going to certain areas around the park. Here we have Good People (Brewery) right across the street, where it’s great that people can go there before or after a ballgame. And we’ve heard of so much more development that will occur down the road."

What the future may hold for Birmingham remains to be seen, but Regions Field provides plenty to enjoy in the meantime. Take a look for yourself with a complete look of the park below.

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