Rising Sports: Birmingham Hammers

Soccer has become an increasingly popular sport since the early 2000s. According to a 2014 ESPN poll, 18 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds were avid MLS fans compared to only 10 percent in 2004.

Kids are not only watching soccer, but also playing it. More than 3 million players are registered under US Youth Soccer while clubs across the country continue to see an increase in participation. Almost 16,000 youth players are registered in Alabama and over 30 had committed to play at the collegiate level last year.

President of the Birmingham Hammers Morgan Copes recognized the growing attraction of soccer in 2013 and set out to bring the sport in a major context to Birmingham.

“Just because there’s a lack of professional sports in Alabama doesn’t mean that there’s not a want for them,” the club’s president said. The Birmingham Hammers’ 2015 exhibition season brought in big crowds, proving to Copes that Alabama would embrace the world’s most popular sport.

The 2016 season was the Hammer’s first season in the National Premier Soccer League, playing teams across the South including teams from Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans. Copes and his staff have taken thorough steps to make the club successful, and will continue to do so in order to improve the organization.

“We’re making sure that we do the little things right so we can keep getting better,” Copes said.

Copes and the Hammers have also used their social media presence to garner fans, with over 6,500 likes on Facebook and 2,000 followers on Twitter.

“Fans have been responsive to our social media platforms and we’re excited about the reaction,” he said.

The Hammers will play their first home game of the season on May 13 at Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex against Inter Nashville FC.

There’s No Place Like: Pelham

Blue Water Park
Blue Water Park is an escape from the heat of central Alabama on a sunny afternoon without driving hours to the coast. The company that used to be Dive Alabama offers scuba diving training as well as rentals for kayaks and paddleboards. Classes are offered throughout the year for all skill levels, ranging from beginners to experienced divers.

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Oak Mountain State Park
Oak Mountain State Park provides a range of activities for people of all ages and activity levels to enjoy. Hiking and mountain biking trails are the most popular ventures in the park, where you can find waterfalls and scenic views. There are also spaces for camping, fishing and picnics. The state park also offers a cable water playground where you can show off wakeboard tricks as you weave through obstacles in the water.

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Pelham Civic Center
During the winter, the Pelham Civic Complex is a favorite gathering place for ice skating. If you’re not skating-inclined, then the ice arena also offers broomball, a cross between quidditch and hockey. The arena is open year-round for these activities as well as training classes, hockey, and figure skating.

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Oak Mountain Emporium
If you’re looking for a less active afternoon, stop by Oak Mountain Emporium. The antique and collectibles shop features items from 40 area dealers, varying from décor and glassware to chandeliers and porcelain. And just for fun- see how many bird items you can count!

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New Park Improvements Coming to Regions Field

As baseball teams kick off spring training, improvements to Regions Field are scheduled for the new season.

The Barons announced on Wednesday that there will be new additions built on 14th street, the same side of the stadium that the famous metal Birmingham sign is located.

SwitchYard on 14th, the addition’s title, will include refreshments and games for the whole family. Two vintage airstream trailers will house food and beverages respectively.

The food featured will have something for everyone in the family but focus on traditional ballpark food. The beverages airstream will feature local Birmingham selections as well as the expected mainstay drinks.

Outdoor games are also going to be included in the new space including a regulation-sized bocce ball court and ping pong tables.

The Barons’ season doesn’t begin until April 6 and they don’t begin home play until April 12, but the new addition should be ready to usher in the first fans for the 2017 season.

Hungry? Get a Taste of Homewood

On Thursday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m., all of your favorite Homewood eateries will come together for the 16th annual “Taste of Homewood”.

Hosted by the Homewood Chamber of Commerce and presented by the Homewood Star, 30 Homewood restaurants are gathering in Rosewood Hall to provide food and drink samples to the over 400 hungry patrons they expect to host. New restaurants to the vendor lineup include biscuit specialist Holler & Dash, to-go caterer Lunchbox Express and seafood chain The Shrimp Basket.

Each restaurant will give eaters a glimpse into their cuisines, encouraging them to return for a meal and explore other areas of Homewood. Allen Barlow will provide acoustic music for guests to enjoy while dining and socializing.

To encourage socialization, Homewood Chamber of Commerce communications manager Sarah Anne Elliott suggests using the hashtag #tasteofhomewood on social media posts throughout the night.

“This year we are encouraging attendees to use the hashtag #tasteofhomewood to post on social media and be entered to win a Shop Homewood Instagift gift card and the chance for their photo to be featured in the marketing of next year’s event,” Elliott said. Entries will be taken from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Tickets are $30 until the day of the event, when they will increase to $40 at the door. The proceeds go to Chamber of Commerce scholarships and Homewood community development. Brings the kids, too! Children under six enter free.

Interested in visiting one of the featured restaurants ahead of time or stopping for a full meal following the event? Click on the map below to explore the locations of your tasty options.

 

There’s No Place Like Vestavia Hills

Vestavia Hills boasts many simple and natural attractions that will keep both your mind and body active.

Library in the Forest
Wall-scaling windows and colorful leaves invite visitors to take a seat and stay awhile. Located on Highway 31, the Library in the Forest is an urban oasis where anyone can get lost in their imagination or relive history. The public library has thousands of books for visitors to choose from as well as multiple events throughout the week for people of all ages to attend, including 3D printing classes, children’s story times and family yoga.

Klingler’s Café
It’s almost like you’ve jumped the pond and been transported to the world’s oldest region as soon as you enter Klingler’s Café. This local breakfast and lunch restaurant carries European bakery items in addition to their full menu that offers a twist on classic breakfast items. From big breakfast platters and buttery grits bowls to fluffy pancakes and omelets, the small business is packed every time you walk in.

Wald Park
Beautiful afternoons beckon for you, family, and friends to enjoy your time outside, and Wald Park’s facilities allow for all types of activities: playgrounds, baseball fields, a swimming pool and a giant walking loop. With something for everyone to do, it’s easy to get out and get active together.

Shades Crest Road
The best views (and sunsets!) of Birmingham are seen while driving along the top of Red Mountain on Shades Crest Road. In addition to seeing the bustling life below in the valley, you can see the Birmingham terrain go on for miles as the hills roll on out of sight. If you want somewhere to stop and admire the view, try Vestavia Hills Baptist Church to embrace the full ambience.

Birmingham Urban Planning

Urban Planning is a technical and political process concerned with the development and use of land, planning permission, protection, and use of the environment, public welfare, and the design of the urban environment. People also define it as the process of deciding how land will be used, both in the present and over the long term. It needs to take into account not only structures, but also the people and the community impacted by the space. The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham (RPC) provides planning series, economic development services and multiple initiatives for 6 counties and 84 communities throughout central Alabama.

Live. Play. Work. Community. The RPC is an example of impacting urban planning in Birmingham for the past 50 years. Blount, Chilton, Jefferson, St. Clair, Shelby and Walker are the 6 counties apart of RPC. The goal is, “improve the lives of people in our region.” They do this by focusing their projects on transportation,  medicaid waiver, community planning, they try to remove traffic congestion, and economic development for small businesses. This is the team that helps local municipalities secure state and federal resources to be successful.

The Birmingham-Hoover area has seen population increases with its growth in urban development. North of town is the most prime for development which is the main reason there is so much room to grow in the Birmingham neighborhoods. The revitalization of the downtown areas will continue to see significant growth in the immediate future for Birmingham. According to AL.com, “Birmingham is no longer the sleepy little Southern city it once was.” There are very large institutions hiring extremely technical folks, companies like BBVA Compass Bank, Protective Life, Regions, and with the addition of plenty of company start-ups that have chosen Birmingham as their homes.

According to AL.com, “Companies are tasked with keeping young professionals here while also marketing our fine city to could-be young professionals in competing cities such as Atlanta, Chattanooga, Nashville, Jacksonville, and Huntsville.”

A young professional might like the idea of working in urban planning if they want to be involved in their community and develop an area in that community into a better, livable space. An urban planning job varies based on the area. Rural vs. urban area will have different needs, however, the role is focused on planning how space will be used, and what pages will be allowed. Birmingham is the perfect revitalization city that has been attracting young talent in areas such as urban planning.

There’s No Place Like Homewood

Have you ever heard of some of the suburbs of Birmingham and wanted to visit, but weren’t sure what to do there? We here at The Local will take time over the next four weeks to take you to the most popular neighborhoods of Birmingham and highlight the best things to do there.

Homewood is a thriving suburb south of Birmingham that balances the world of commercial retail and local joints, making this city a unique place to spend the day touring.

When you first arrive in Homewood, shop around and get something to eat on the iconic 18th Street in downtown Homewood. The strip of diverse stores and restaurants will bring the small-town feeling to life as you pop in and out of the locally run shops.

18th Street in downtown Homewood.

Next, drive less than a mile over to Do It Yourself Crafts to immerse yourself in a creative and relaxing environment. From making pottery and painting to glass fusing and decorating ornaments, there are a wide variety of crafts you and your friends can make together. Classes are offered throughout the week and spaces are available for parties and group events.

Urban Air is the next stop, especially if you have kids with you. Let them get all their energy out at the indoor trampoline park as they jump on wall-to-wall trampolines, dunk

Homewood antique store in the Edgewood neighborhood.

basketballs in super tall baskets, play dodgeball and flip into the huge foam pits. The family-friendly trampoline park hosts birthday parties for all ages.

 

When it’s time for dinner, the Edgewood neighborhood of Homewood will satisfy your hunger. With all types of cuisines, it’ll be hard to choose what to eat.

Once you’ve finished up your meal (and ice cream from the local creamery) stroll down to Homewood Park, where you can play ball or watch the sunset.

 

Homewood Park

Let us know how your day in Homewood was in the comments below.

 

My Magic City Success: Heidi Elnora

This is the third installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.

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“Pray about [starting a business]. Pray for God’s guidance and diligence.”

Heidi Elnora came to be one of Birmingham’s most well- known bridal gown designers by accident.
Literally.

Soon after she was eliminated from Lifetime’s Project Runway series, Elnora was in a car accident. She was living in Atlanta at the time and moved to Alabama to recover and be close to her mother. While she was here, she met the man who would become her husband.

The couple settled down in Birmingham and a new realm of work opportunity opened up for her. “How can I take what I love to do and make it special for someone else? And what’s more special than a wedding dress?” she said.

Design has always been a passion for the Morris Ave. business owner. As her bridal store, hiedi elnora Atelier, continues to grow, she is driven every day to give the boutique a welcoming atmosphere. “The best part about the job is the brides.” Elnora said. “It’s about how good they feel in their dress, and I want them to feel con dent in what they are wearing.”

While business plans and loans can be intimidating, look for organizations that can assist you in making these rst crucial steps. Elnora used a local business-training organization that helped her get her feet on the ground. “They helped me write my business plan, and I was also able to get my very rst loan at 25,” she said.

Eagerness to engage with customers and diligence to create the best product can evolve into incomparable opportunities. With Elnora’s success in the Magic City, she has been involved in numerous projects including starring in her own television show on TLC, Bride by Design. “I loved doing it because I really got to showcase my work,” she said.

Passion can be contagious, especially when you have a celebrated product. In Elnora’s case, her craft’s in uence is not con ned to the borders of the United States. “I’ve had people as far as Dubai y in,” she said.

While business owners are always looking for ways to expand and grow, milestones are convenient points when you can regroup and look ahead to the future. Elnora continues to look to the future, as this year marks the boutique’s 10th anniversary. “We are moving to e-commerce and have just opened up our new 8,000 square-foot shop,” she said. But this expansion will not push away her end goal. “I want to live a happy life. No amount of fame or notoriety will fulfill me.”

My Magic City Success: Will Pearson

This is the first installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.

Success is a difficult term to define, and it can be hard to pinpoint where you draw the line between successful and unsuccessful. Some Birmingham entrepreneurs have found that success is never quite achieved. As a result, they keep pushing themselves and their companies to innovate and create engaging products that promote culture and creativity in the Magic City.

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“A lot of people hesitate to start something if they feel like it won’t be great from day one. There is something to be said about being willing to just get out there even before you know it’s going to be a premium product.”

Passion drives some people to set goals and to work to make them happen. Will Pearson concocted the magazine Mental Floss through conversations with college friends who had the desire to be intellectually stimulated and help others learn about areas outside of their realm of study.

“From day one, we were waking up every day and thinking, ‘How do we take Mental Floss a step forward?’” Pearson said.

Hard work stems from passion and is essential to a start-up, and “non-stop focus” made Pearson’s dream a reality. From working summer jobs to asking campus departments for donations, there is nothing Pearson wouldn’t do to get his magazine started. “The term ‘irrational commitment’ is something we talk about quite frequently that it has taken to make this work,” Pearson said.

Mental Floss has taken off since its initial conception in Pearson’s Duke University dorm room, with more than 160,000 magazines in circulation per issue and 20 million unique visitors to its website every month. The growth only fuels his eagerness for the brand. “We were just as excited about it when it was 5,000 people as we are now,” Pearson said.

Although Pearson sold the company to Dennis Publishing in 2011, he is still active in finding the most reliable and relatable avenues for the magazine and digital components to give information to its consumers.

Connections inside the industry push careers and business ideas to the next level. Passionate conversations about your goals can open doors, leading to more doors, that will eventually bring you to the audience you want in front of you. Pearson communicated his ideas to anyone that would listen. Even through telling a friend’s mom in New York City about the magazine’s plans connected him to a future publisher.

“It’s about getting something out there and saying ‘we’re going to do this,’” Pearson said. “It’s not where it needs to be, but have people look at it, understand where we want it to go and see it evolve over time.”

In a successful business, you must always think about the audience you are trying to reach. Pearson has had to adapt with Mental Floss over the years in order to best engage his audience in a world of communication that is constantly changing and shifting. In fact, Mental Floss is moving away from the magazine altogether at the end of 2016 and will move to a completely digital world.

But Pearson continues to be open to ideas that allow him to invest in new areas where the company can engage its audience. He is experimenting with new methods to communicate with consumers while also using effective digital platforms such as YouTube and Twitter to provide enough information that they are able to stand alone from their print counterpart. “Part of why it worked was because we didn’t have a rule book saying if you launch a magazine you must do these things exactly. I think we brought a fresh perspective to it,” said Pearson.

Research about your industry will also move your career plans forward. Keep learning and stay updated on the latest news in your field because it will unfailingly fuel your passion. Pearson owes a lot of the magazine’s success to studying what was happening in the media world around him. “Learning as much as we possibly could about the industry and about anything we could do was such a huge part of this and then communicating that with as many people as we could,” he said, as Mental Floss continues to blend the ever-changing world of intellect and culture.

Banditos in search of BIG break

Photo courtesy of David McClister

Guitarist Corey Parsons sits down with The Local to discuss the band’s goals, influences and accomplishments.

The Banditos are natives of the Birmingham area, but currently live in Nashville as they pursue their music career fulltime. The band is comprised of six friends who describe themselves as more of a “gang” than a musical group. This rag-tag gang has been making music together for more than five years now. They started out playing in bars and out on the streets around downtown Birmingham. Now, they have put out a full-length, self-titled, album with a second album on the way. Guitarist Corey Parsons recently discussed the band’s journey with The Local.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have overcome as a band?

Being able to make a living by playing music is a challenge within itself.

How does the music you play relate back to your everyday lives?

Definitely, most everything we write has came from personal experience. And if not, it certainly does now.

What other artists (past or present) inspire you? 

Too many to name, but I’ll name a few that come to mind for the sake of the interview. Chuck Berry, Etta James, Gram Parsons, Ramones, Lightnin’ Hopkins, 13th Floor Elevators, Sly and the Family Stone, Dr Hook, Bob Seger, The Banana Splits, etc.

What are the band’s long term goals? 

To do our best to smooth the rough edges of life for anyone needing so.

What would you want your fans to know about the band that they might not?

We’re genuinely appreciative of them.

What inspires the lyrics for y’all’s songs?

It’s different every time, but we all take from personal experiences in some way or another.

What has been y’all’s biggest accomplishment so far? 

We just finished recording our second album. We’re pretty proud of it.