Planning Board Approves Brother Rice Baseball Facility
Plans include baseball diamond, parking and a connecting road between Cole Street and Lincoln Street.
The Birmingham Planning Board on Wednesday night approved plans for Brother Rice High School to construct a baseball facility at 2400 E. Lincoln St.
The 6-acre lot is at the far end of East Lincoln. Formerly the site of Stanley Door Systems, the site was slated for a condominium project in 2005. However, the project fell through and the property has been vacant ever since.
Brother Rice wants to move its baseball facilities from St. James Park, where Brother Rice President John Birney said the Warriors have been playing home games for 43 years. According to Planning Director Jana Ecker, plans for the ballpark had to be approved before the first of the year so that Brother Rice could secure financing and the facility could be up and running by spring.
The facility will include a baseball diamond, two sets of bleachers (with room for up to 350), dugouts, restrooms and concessions. There will also be an adjacent parking lot with 33 spaces to the north of the field and plans for a road connecting Lincoln and Cole Street.
Brother Rice baseball has been looking for a new home for years now, Birney said. In 2009, the school spoke with the city about moving to Kenning Park. When the land on Lincoln went up for auction, Brother Rice proposed to partner with the city, suggesting the city purchase part of the land for public purposes. Brother Rice would need only about four acres, Brother Rice's architect, Greg Sweeney, said.
According to Ecker, the baseball facility is an excellent addition to the Rail District and complements the Eton Road Corridor Plan. Planning Board Member Carroll DeWeese said the project is good for the neighborhood.
"This is a much more desirable facility for people to attend," DeWeese said. "It has a much more major-league feel."
Dorothy Conrad, who lives on the east side of town near the proposed facility, agreed: "People who have never thought of going to a high school baseball game, because this facility is there, will go."
Ecker pointed out that while the Planning Board approved the plans, the City Commission will vote on decisions concerning land purchases and road construction.
The Planning Board approved the final site plans with the conditions that Brother Rice follow the city's streetscaping rules, include on-street parking on the connecting road and create a public plaza near the concession stand.
Several audience members, many of them Brother Rice alumni, stood up in favor of the plan and Ecker said nine letters had been submitted praising it.
The only objection came from Ralph Zuckman, executive director from Clover Hill Park Cemetery, which borders the property to the south. He was concerned that the ballpark would disturb people visiting the cemetery.
"Can you imagine having 200 people cheering and booing … when someone is trying to bury their loved one?" Zuckman asked.
The cemetery performs about 200 burials a year, he said, and if the ballpark is built, some of these ceremonies would be within 300 yards of home plate. But it's not just the noise, he said; litter and vandalism are problems as well.
"High school students and cemeteries have always been a bad combination," he said.