In early May, it looked like the choice was between Hoover and Memphis as the host site for the SEC baseball tournament. (The posting linked to in the preceding sentence also attests to the extent to which grammar nerds think alike.) Later that same month, Duluth got into the mix. Now, however, as Red Cup Rebellion has noted, Jackson, Jacksonville, and Montgomery apparently also are among the contenders.
The SEC is selecting its baseball tournament site through an open bid process for the first time ever, and assistant league commissioner Craig Mattox indicated that he was surprised by the high level of interest exhibited. The crowded field might have been even larger, as Little Rock was thought to be among the cities vying for the right to host the tourney. However, the Natural State venue opted not to be considered due to the smaller seating capacity of its stadium.
In the postings linked to above, I have examined Duluth and Memphis as alternatives to the league tournament’s current home in Hoover, but Jackson, Jacksonville, and Montgomery are new entrants into the field. Here is what each brings to the table:
Jackson, Miss.: Trustman Park accommodates some 8,480 souls. The stadium, which opened its doors in 2005, is located in the suburban city of Pearl. Class AA’s Mississippi Braves play their home games there.
Jacksonville, Fla.: In 2003, the Gateway City unveiled the Baseball Grounds for the benefit of the local Jacksonville Suns, who play in Class AA. Jacksonville has experience hosting a conference baseball tournament, as the city by the St. John’s River welcomed the ACC’s postseason tourney there in four of the last six seasons.
Montgomery, Ala.: Riverwalk Stadium, which houses the Class AA Montgomery Biscuits, is a 7,000-seat park built in 2004. Although the SEC prefers to hold the conference tournament at an arena with a capacity of at least 10,000, the local Chamber of Commerce claims (less than convincingly) that Montgomery will be able to meet the league’s needs. Area convention and visitor bureau vice president Dawn Hathcock asserts: "We will be able to make accommodations to seat more than the 7,000. Officials with the stadium say it can be done." Well, O.K., then.
With the Atlanta, Birmingham, and Memphis areas in play, I would be shocked to see any of the three surprise latecomers get the bid. Montgomery would appear to be the most attractive of the additional options, but the smaller stadium reduces the odds of the Cradle of the Confederacy wresting the tournament from the Magic City. Although I am an advocate of keeping the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party in Duval County and a fan of maintaining the SEC’s historic ties to the Gator Bowl, I have no desire to see postseason baseball moved to Jacksonville.
Bid proposals are due on Friday. While we most likely will not know until December which site will host the event beginning in 2012, we will know for sure by the end of the week whether all six cities have thrown their respective hats into the ring. Assuming that each of the half-dozen putative contenders submits a bid, which city should host the SEC baseball tournament?