Monday, March 2, 2009

Does Florence Need a New Stadium?

The Tom Braly Municipal stadium is located on the campus of what is now the Florence Freshman Center. After an initial addition in 1980, a second edition to the East stands brought the seating up to 14,215. In 1995, a new scoreboard was added at the cost of $175,000.00, and a new pressbox was installed three years later. Blurbs for the stadium call it one of the best in NCAA Division II. Unfortunately, others don't agree with that assessment.

The Field Finder, an online guide to college athletics, gives Braly stadium only one star out of a possible five. Visitors to the annual Division II championship game often leave Florence praising its citizens while commenting on the lack of modern amenities at its stadium. Just last December, one sports writer compared the barbed wire fenced area to a prison. If his view has merit, are the citizens of the Shoals looking at the stadium through rose-colored glasses?

While the East stands may be structurally sound, their visual appearance does nothing to support that claim. Parking is so severely limited that UNA provides shuttles connecting the campus to the stadium.

In the early part of this decade, the University of North Alabama played the University of North Dakota on the Bison's home turf. The game was televised across North Alabama, giving local residents a close-up look at the Fargodome, an 18,700 seat covered stadium built in 1993 at a cost of 48 million dollars. Local viewers may also remember the condescension in the North Dakota announcer's voice as he described the awe the dome created in the UNA players. It was not our local university's finest moment.

Many contend that after 23 years, the Division II championship game is not leaving the Shoals. The same was once said of Ford, Union Carbide, and Reynolds. When someone suggests the next sportsplex or golf course, we hope those blessed with more rational thought will settle for nothing less than a new stadium.

What's up with this: Sadly, the founder of the Voice of the Shoals Forum has shut down the site; however, we understand that several other new forums are in the works and will be highlighted here as they go online.