Although we in Bulldog Nation have had no reason to notice, the SEC baseball tournament is taking place in Hoover this week. Naturally, we all hope the Diamond Dogs will be returning to the conference tourney soon, but that event may not remain in Hoover for the long haul. The league is looking at other venues.
When the conversation about an alternative site first began, we thought maybe it was Memphis, but it turns out that someplace closer to home may be in play. According to SEC assistant commissioner Craig Mattox, bid packages will go out next month to Hoover, Memphis, and Duluth, Ga., home of the AAA Gwinnett Braves. (Hat tip: And the Valley Shook.)
It appears that Coolray Field is deemed a suitable home for the tournament. The 10,475-seat facility opened for business in April 2009, and Gwinnett County has a strong incentive to maintain the park adequately, lest the Braves opt out of their lease after fifteen years and leave the taxpayers holding the bag for the municipal bonds that run until 2038.
Coolray Field is comparable in size to Hoover’s Regions Park Stadium, which seats 10,800, and the fields are of similar dimensions. The fences in the suburban Atlanta stadium are five feet closer in than those in the suburban Birmingham stadium, as 400 feet separate home plate from straightaway center field in Duluth. Right and left field each are 335 feet away.
The problem with the Peach State site’s potential bid isn’t Coolray Field, by which Mattox reportedly "was impressed," and which, after all, is named "Coolray Field." The problem is the lack of suitable locations for batting practice and of nearby hotel space. On behalf of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau, managing director Preston Williams stated with a marked lack of Chamber of Commerce enthusiasm:
We’re waiting on the bid package and certainly are going to take a look at it. If we can meet all the requirements and put together a competitive bid, we certainly want to do that.
I’m sure what he meant to say was, "Gwinnett County is a family-friendly tourist destination featuring an award-winning parks system and the Southeastern United States’ largest shopping mall. We’re proud to be home to AAA professional baseball and minor league hockey, we’re doubly proud to have hosted such significant intercollegiate competitions as the SEC women’s gymnastics championships and two rounds of the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament, and we’ll be trebly proud to welcome the excitement of SEC postseason baseball right here to Coolray Field!" It’s marketing jargon, Preston; get with the program, dude!
So what do you think? Would you rather see the conference baseball tournament in Duluth, Hoover, or Memphis? Vote in the poll and offer your thoughts in the comments below.