HUNTSVILLE — It was life imitating art, so to speak, in the Huntsville area last weekend.
There were packed houses at the newly renovated Wicks Family Field at Joe Davis Stadium, the one-year-old Orion Amphitheater and the three-year-old Toyota Field.
It’s “if you build it, they will come” in real-time and real-life.
“What an exciting night for Huntsville!” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “It’s great to know we now have entertainment options for everyone, whether you like soccer or baseball, hockey or pickleball, big concerts or intimate venues, kayaking or hiking, art galleries or axe throwing, Huntsville has it all.”
And, we can’t forget the older venues – Lowe Mill in Huntsville and the Limestone County rodeo facility – that also had huge crowds.
“The tremendous growth we’ve seen in the area has continued with our entertainment, sports, and events,” said Joel Lamp, sports manager of the Huntsville-Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “To have three of our major venues packed on the same night highlights that growth in Huntsville and the support we have in the community to do more.”
Mark Russell, executive director of the Huntsville Sports Commission, credited the vision of the area’s leaders and communities with stepping up to improve the entertainment/sports infrastructure.
The facilities not only help draw events – which relate to tourism dollars – but also are used by the community. Russell said.
“We are very fortunate to have a city that continues to invest in sports facilities,” he said. “These facilities are championship level multi-use facilities. They’re not only extremely beneficial when recruiting events to Huntsville, but provide the highest quality offerings to our community. The cross country course and beach volleyball courts in John Hunt Park are a proven example.
“The Huntsville Sports Commission has hosted some incredible events at each. However, you can find local teams, clubs or individuals training at these facilities any given day of the week which only makes our local sports stronger.”
Starting off the weekend was the home debut of Huntsville City FC. The first-year soccer club opened the season with seven straight road games before taking the pitch at Wicks Family Field at Joe Davis Stadium, aka “The Joe.”
“There’s so much energy and enthusiasm in the community for quality sporting events, and we were pleased to see a whole new crowd of fans attending Huntsville City FC’s first game on their new home field,” Battle said.
A sellout crowd turned out to cheer HCFC to a 2-1 victory over Crown Legacy, the first-place team in the MLS NEXT Pro’s Eastern Conference.
“The Joe,” which was built in 1985, underwent a $28 million renovation over the last year and was a welcome venue for Huntsville City and a welcome sight for the City of Huntsville.
“Our team is thrilled to have the newly renovated Joe Davis Stadium come online,” said Russell. “It is a great asset to us and Huntsville’s portfolio. In additional to HCFC games, it will be home to Friday night football for Huntsville City Schools.”
Across town, at MidCity District, a packed Orion Amphitheater was rocking Friday to the sounds of country star Cody Jinks. The following night, the legendary Martina McBride entertained another huge crowd at the annual Huntsville Classic fund-raiser.
In Madison, the Rocket City Trash Pandas hosted Birmingham at Toyota Field in front of more than 6,400 fans Friday with similar-size crowds Saturday and Sunday.
“For so long I think people consider Huntsville to only be a space city, but we really have so much to offer,” Russell said. “I think COVID-19 really emphasized that for sports. During a time when everything shut down sporting events were one of the first things to return with safety measures in place.
“This not only provided much needed entertainment for our community, but generated economic impact when our city needed it most.”
And the action continues this week with the Trash Pandas at home through Sunday and Huntsville City FC hosting New York Red Bulls 2 on Friday.
Major League Fishing wrapped up its tournament in Guntersville while Huntsville is hosting the Para-Cycling World Cup and the Rocket City Blast disc golf tournament this weekend, and the USTA Southern Pro Circuit Championship through Sunday.
On the entertainment front, Weezer, James Taylor and Ja Rule and Ashanti will be hitting the Orion stage in the next few weeks.
” … You have a huge sports tourism week like this one that enables us to showcase not only how a great place it is that we live in, but that our city is a great destination to visit and host championship-level events,” Lamp said.
“Last weekend was historic for sports in Huntsville and we’re only getting started,” Russell said.
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