This is an artist’s rendering of Heroes Plaza in front of the Mobile Convention Center downtown. Groundbreaking was held Wednesday.
By ARTHUR L. MACK
Ground was broken Wednesday for Heroes Plaza, which will feature statues of sports hall of famers from Mobile, including Hank Aaron and Satchel Paige.
Aaron and Paige will be memorialized with nine-foot-tall statues in front of the Mobile Convention Center along with fellow Baseball Hall of Fame members Billy Williams, Ozzie Smith and Willie McCovey, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Robert Brazile.
“This is about honoring our hall of famers, the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Famers and the National Football League Hall of Famers from the city of Mobile,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said. “It’s been said that per capita, Mobile has more baseball hall of famers than any city in the nation and I also heard that in the NFL, Mobile may have more players than any other city.
“But this is about us being able to recognize those who have brought recognition to our city. This idea started with (former New York Mets star) Cleon Jones. It was in concert with the Mobile Sports Hall of Fame honoring the hall of famers in a project in the RSA Tower. That started the conversation. We wanted to put it in a place that was highly visible for visitors and it would be a magnet for visitors with the big bronze statues.”
The $10 million project will be funded through the city’s downtown tax increment financing and includes several enhancements to the area between the convention center and Cooper Riverside Park, including a new intersection, a roundabout and a revised drop-off area for vehicles.
A seventh pedestal, without a statue, will be constructed to allow people to have their picture taken among the statues.
“They came to me and said, “We need to honor you and not only you but the five other hall of famers in baseball,” said Brazile, whose parents were present at the ceremony. “I’m just glad that my parents, who are both 91 years old, are here to see it.”
Jones said the groundbreaking was a dream come true.
“When I started this dream, I was all alone,” he said. “Now, I’ve got the City of Mobile that has followed into it. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a great amount of athletes come through this area.”
The statues, made by Michigan-based sculptor Brett Grill, will be installed in Heroes Plaza once it opens. Construction on the project will take approximately one year.