Debate over George Ward Park dominates Council meeting; item delayed two weeks, public input meetings pending
PRESS RELEASE Tuesday March 5, 2019
Contact: Chiara Perry
BIRMINGHAM, AL – Following a thorough discussion, the Council unanimously passed a two-week delay on the item dealing with a plan for the Major League Baseball Youth Foundation (MLBYF) to construct and operate a youth baseball academy at George Ward Park.
At the beginning of the meeting Council President Pro Tem William Parker read an email from a MLBYF representative indicating that the organization would be re-evaluating the plans to invest $10 million at the park.
“Major League Baseball would like to thank the City of Birmingham and the Parks and Recreation Board for their hard work during this process,” Parker said, reading an email from a MLB representative. “At this time, we are going to reassess our position relative to an [MLBYF academy] at George Ward Park and will remain open to other site options within the city.”
He followed by saying, “This is a sad day for Birmingham when we let a few people decide what’s best for this city’s youth…We’re going to continue to have communications with Major League Baseball but this is obviously a setback. This whole project is about giving our young people an opportunity to participate in the academy and educational components that would come with that.”
The issue, some councilors explained, is that opposition seems to be coming from a predominately white neighborhood not wanting to share a park with an organization that would be focusing on minority outreach. Residents argued that their issue stemmed from a lack of communication about the project that city leaders said has been in the works “for several years.”
As the discussion wound to a close, an agreement was made to set a public meeting with neighborhood residents to dispel any misinformation they might have about the scope of the project and what areas of the park would be impacted. One such example was that the youth academy would encompass 20 acres of the 120-acre park, not half like some residents had believed.
City officials and residents did not set a time or location for the meeting, but it is expected to take place before the resolution comes back before the Council on March 19.
This press release was written by Cody Owens in the Office of Public Information for the Birmingham City Council. For more information please contact Chiara Perry, Director of Public Information for the Birmingham City Council at 205.254.2036.