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SEC tourney site selection goes down to the wire

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Southeastern Conference officials are close to recommending a site -- or sites, as it ends up -- for the annual baseball tournament in coming years, and so far it seems like Hoover has a slight advantage in landing the event once again.

The annual SEC baseball tournament has become a big event, with crowds of 11,000+ crowding Hoover's Regions Park last season. Big enough where multiple ballparks are seeking the rights to the event, and big enough where it takes an XL facility to host it. Ballparks represented in bids include Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves (Class AAA; International League); AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League); The Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, home of the Jacksonville Suns (Class AA; Southen League); Riverwalk Stadium, home of the Montgomery Biscuits (Class AA; Southern League); Zephyr Field, home of the New Orleans Zephyrs (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League); and the aforementioned Regions Park.

Most of the changes made to Regions Park in past years were not done to accommodate the Birmingham Barons (Class AA; Southern League), but rather to help out the tournament: the press box was expanded and party spaces were added. And there's a lot more the city could do to expand attendance at the tourney, such as adding a concourse beyond the home-run fence.

SEC officials are pretty tight-lipped about which way they're headed, but a vote by SEC baseball coaches to keep the tourney in Hoover will probably have some weight with the athletic directors ultimately responsible for a decision. All the ballparks -- albeit with the aid of temporary bleachers -- could handle the crowds, but there's also the issue of press facilities (upwards of 200 journalists can be expected to cover the event) and available hotel rooms. An urban ballpark, interestingly, is at a disadvantage: many fans roll in RVs and stay for the whole tourney.

A decision is expected to be made by the end of the month.

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