By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
Construction of an open-air stadium near the Uptown Entertainment District in downtown Birmingham could begin by the summer, if not sooner, said Jefferson County Commissioner David Carrington, after all five commissioners agreed to commit $30 million over 30 years for the project.
“The commission unanimously agrees that a new multi-purpose facility for sporting events, outdoor concerts, meetings and exhibits provides another entertainment and convention venue to showcase when we are recruiting new jobs and conventions to Jefferson County . . . and we should be breaking ground by mid-year if not sooner,” said Carrington, chair of the commission’s finance, information technology and business development committee.
Commission President Jimmie Stephens said the county’s commitment is “based on economic development and job creation. There’s a saying we like to use, ‘heads in the beds and butts in the seats.’ This will be great addition to the BJCC (Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex) campus.”
County leaders said the project on BJCC-owned land will require a public-private partnership that includes University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the city of Birmingham and the private sector.
Stephens said he was pleased that “stakeholders” — county, UAB, Birmingham, BJCC, business leaders and members of the state legislature – are collaborating on the project.
“Having been in preliminary talks with all of those parties I am very confident that each will contribute their share and this project will be brought to fruition,” Stephens said. “I certainly do appreciate their help in moving forward.”
Carrington said, “I believe all of the commitments are firm” should be in hand from participating parties in the next 90 days.
“UAB needs a new stadium for its football team and has agreed to be a tenant at the facility; the Birmingham metro area will host the World Games in 2021; and the commission has determined that facility will further enhance the economic development and improve the quality of life in the Birmingham metro area,” the county said in its resolution of support.
The proposed $174 million stadium is set to have 45,000 permanent seats that can be expanded to 55,000 with the addition of temporary seating. It was designed by Kansas City, Mo.-based design and architecture firm Populous and was included in the BJCC’s 2016 master plan.
“Not only does it assist in recruiting additional jobs, the new facility will provide a significant number of jobs in the construction phase and quite a few jobs when in operation,” Carrington said. “In addition, the facility will be another stimulus to an accelerated development north of I20/59. The Carraway property becomes particularly attractive.”
Physicians Medical Center Carraway closed in 2008 and the 52-acre property has been vacant since.