By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday recommended that the city council rename the Birmingham CrossPlex in honor of former Mayor Larry P. Langford, who died last month.
Woodfin, alongside Councilor Steven Hoyt and Langford’s wife, Melva, who works in Hoyt’s council office, proposed that the Birmingham CrossPlex be renamed the Larry P. Langford Birmingham CrossPlex.
“[Langford] made many contributions to our city and we feel . . . those contributions today where it has an amazing, positive ripple and benefit not just for our city but for all of our residents and our guests who come to our city,” said Woodfin.
The mayor said the plan is to present a recommendation to the entire body of the council at a certain point “to change the name, because we believe it’s fitting for all the work he did and for bringing this to life in our community and for the benefits it’s had.”
Langford was the catalyst for the state-of-the-art facility at the former state fairgrounds which officially opened in August 2011 and has now become a world class attraction for numerous Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) events. The 2021 World Games, which will be in Birmingham, will also have events there.
Melva Langford said her husband would be happy to have the facility named in his honor.
“He would be very excited although he was not a person who liked a lot of accolades,” she said. “He just did his work, his research and he had his program together before he made his presentation and I just want to thank all of you for considering that.”
Hoyt thanked the mayor and Langford’s wife, for their work in supporting the name change and said people should focus on all the positive done by people and not the negative.
While serving on the Jefferson County Commission, Langford was convicted in 2009 for taking $235,000 in bribes in exchange for steering county sewer bond business to an investment banker. Prosecutors said during the trial that Langford accepted luxury suits, watches, and cash. He was sentenced to 15 years and released by a federal judge after serving eight. He died Jan. 8.
“You have to deal with the body of people’s work, you just can’t take one segment and judge the body of work, all of us got some issues one way or the other,” said Hoyt, “and being a pastor who also serves on the City Council, I implore the grace, I preach the grace, I teach the grace and I therefore am a proponent of God’s grace, but when you look at this city and you see the things that were done under [Langford’s] leadership, the Bible says ‘one man plants, another waters, another reaps the harvest’ and so we’re better because Larry Langford came through here.”
City officials pointed out that Langford was not only instrumental in getting the Crossplex built but also several major projects and concepts—including Railroad Park, and the Birmingham Zoo expansion, as well as the hotel and entertainment district near the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC)— that were either proposed or had begun during Langford’s term as mayor of Birmingham.
Plans still have to be finalized before the facility is renamed and the full council has to vote.
Oakland Raiders To Birmingham?
In another matter, Council President Pro Tempore William Parker clarified remarks he made about the NFL Oakland Raiders playing in Birmingham.
According to a press release posted on the city’s website, Parker reached out to the Raiders about the possibility of playing at Legion Field during the 2019 season.
The problem is that the suggestion caught many city leaders by surprise.
“The park board is not independently funded so they can’t make any commitments to a team that the city is going to do anything and all of us on the council need to be involved in deciding what the city’s willing to do because we don’t have unlimited amounts of money,” said Council President Valerie Abbott. “When I saw that press release, I’m like ‘what are we committing to or what could we be committing to?’”
Parker said the park board and the chair of the Legion Field Committee tasked themselves with finding more tourism events for Legion Field.
“I think we’re off to a great start with the Birmingham Iron… the park board is doing its job of finding more tourism opportunities, this is just another one on the checklist, and there’s probably about four or five more events, that we’re looking for to pursue aggressively and that’s kind of where we are now . . . Legion Field needs more programming, what we’re doing at Legion Field is pursuing all opportunities and letting everyone know that Legion Field is open for business and the city of Birmingham benefits from that… Birmingham is on the world stage and this only solidifies that.”