The promotion of a 40,000-seat domed stadium in Birmingham is the latest boondoggle from UABâ€™s inept athletic department. Make no mistake, this plan is all about getting UAB a new stadium. Unable to fill Legion Field with crowds approaching an AHSAA Super Six championship, UAB and its politician accomplices believe it is time for a new stadium.
Legion Field is a dump, and anyone could see why they want out of Legion Field. It is a shadow of its former self. A strong critique of Legion Field can be found in an essay by Rubin E. Grant: â€œPlus, the area surrounding Legion Field is depressed and depressing. Driving in this morning, it seemed dead as I approached the stadium. There was little life and vibrancy.Â
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“I wish there were some restaurants, some souvenir shops and even a hotel or two for folks to gather at before and after the game, creating a buzz outside the stadium and getting you hyped about the game once you enter the stadium. That would be invigorating.
“The fans now just come to the stadium, park their vehicles, go inside, watch the game and then afterward go elsewhere to eat and meet and even shop. Some just go back home.â€
That is a great analysis of what is wrong with Birmingham: There is nothing for a family to do near the major sporting venues. Moving football games to the BJCC doesnâ€™t address the larger more complex issues involving downtown Birmingham.
A real plan for a domed stadium would put the complex near the Hoover Met. You would marry a premier baseball facility with a domed complex in a far more attractive neighborhood for fans.
Three years ago, the Super Six was held at the Hoover Met. Granted, some complained about the facility, but the complaints were miniscule compared to the praise. The area boasts restaurants, shopping and even hotels. Imagine the crowds you could bring to the Super Six if that were the venue every year!
There are benefits to building any such domed facility at the BJCC. It already houses exhibition space, a nice basketball arena and other amenities (including an adjacent hotel.) And plans to revitalize downtown Birmingham could pay dividends.
But is there an economic reason to build a domed stadium?
Twenty years ago, a domed stadium would have been a wise investment for Birmingham. It would have prevented the defection (or at least kept Birmingham in the rotation) of the SEC Championship in football and basketball. But what events in Birmingham would benefit from such a stadium? There are none. The SWAC game is too big for the present proposal. UAB?
A domed stadium makes little sense; especially, if you depend on UAB as the main tenant. There were more fans at the Class 1A Championship game, than at an average UAB game. OK, maybe it was more like the Class 2A game, but you get the picture. Nobody cares about UAB football, even with all the free tickets floating around town.
Would anyone care if UAB played in a dome instead?
Of course not.
But for some reason political leaders think it is important. Birmingham Mayor Bernard Kincaid said in the Sunday Birmingham News: “It gets us an arena that UAB can play in and others. I think it’s a win-win. I think it gets us there.â€
It gets little attention, but this seems to be one of the main â€œreasonsâ€ promoted by our political leaders for building this new facility. But why? What possible good would it do?
And the logic of some of our leaders is also questionable.
Take this comment about Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins in the Birmingham News: â€¨The arena plan approved by the BJCC board says the proposed facility does not have the capacity to grow to 70,000 seats. That stipulation won the approval of Collins, who said she wouldn’t support the project if planners tried to turn it into a domed stadium.
Alright, sheâ€™ll support an â€œindoorâ€ stadium, but not a domed stadium?
Excuse me, but WTF is the difference?
The Decatur Daily said it best: â€œThe people of Alabama would be much better off if the governor were to give that $150 million to UAB for research…Let’s get as excited about UAB research as we do about building a domed stadium that has no teams to play there. Building the stadium makes no sense.â€
AMEN. Letâ€™s invest our money in making UABâ€™s research stronger. That would do the most good for Birmingham and UAB and all of Alabama.