When the Southeastern Conference received bids to hold the SEC Baseball Tournament from 2017-2021, Hoover, its longtime host, knew it needed to step up its game to compete with the likes of Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis and Jacksonville, Florida.
The result was the 155,000-square-foot Finley Center, a complex adjacent to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium that not only helped Hoover land the SEC tournament again but put the complex in position to attract other regional and national competitions.
“A real impetus from the city’s standpoint was the SEC baseball tournament, but there was also a gigantic need from a municipal standpoint to serve their citizens and recreation department,” says Yann Cowart, senior architect for sports architecture at Montgomery-based Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, the firm that designed the project. “They were going to do the facility whether they won the tournament or not.”
Hoover did win the event, and the new facility opened for the 2017 SEC tournament in May 2017. It features 11 basketball courts, 16 volleyball courts, a climbing wall, walking track, locker rooms, food court, performance center and meeting rooms. All the new facilities are connected via pedestrian walkway to the adjacent baseball field.
“One of the challenges was to establish exactly what size the facility needed to be in order to attract national sports tourism tournaments and trying to create a facility that big that could quickly switch over from one sport to the other,” Cowart says. “Not only that, but you needed a court that could be removed and stored so they could have trade shows in there, plus a kitchen capable of serving up to 2,500 people for a banquet.”
The $80 million project was a big one for Hoover.
“During the design process, there was a lot of skepticism, and there were some moments we didn’t know if the project would advance,” Cowart says. “But they had the courage to do it, and I think it’s been validated that it’s been a benefit to the city, to its economy and, especially, to its youth.”