By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
The new United States Football League (USFL), a Fox Sports-owned league of eight teams that will play its entire 2022 season in Birmingham, launched on Tuesday at Protective Stadium during a powerful display of regional cooperation often talked about in the metro area, but seldom realized.
Dozens of elected officials from the city, county and state were joined by corporate and civic leaders for a kickoff in the Stadium Club that included Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin; Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens; and State Senators Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia and Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham as well as executives from the FOX and NBC networks.
“I’ve probably lived longer in this community than the vast majority of people in this room and to me this is probably the most exciting moment in my lifetime,” said Waggoner, who turned 85 this month “. . . This is a huge day and there’s a lot of excitement in this room.”
Woodfin said bringing the USFL to the city required regional cooperation. “This is really, really a big deal for our community,” he said. “I look forward to cheering on the [Birmingham] Stallions, not only here in this stadium but at Legion Field.”
Wardine Alexander, president of the Birmingham City Council, marveled at the “momentous” occasion.
“This is a historic accomplishment for the city Birmingham, it could not have been made possible without a tremendous collaborative effort,” Alexander said. “This has been a shared vision . . . [that includes] the United States Football League. Thank you so much for entrusting [your] vision in the city of Birmingham,” she told league and television officials. “Without each of these partners [plus] time, diligence and commitment none of this would have been possible.”
Fox Sports owns the USFL and NBC is its broadcasting partner. All games will be televised on various related networks, including 9 on NBC, 9 on USA Network and 4 on Peacock; 14 on Fox and 8 on FS1.
Fox Sports CEO Eric Shanks called the collaboration between the league, the networks and city “unprecedented.” He said the Birmingham Stallions will open the season April 16 hosting the New Jersey Generals in a prime time game that will be broadcast both on the Fox and NBC networks, the first time in more than 60 years two networks will broadcast the same game.
The 12-week season also serves as a national ad campaign for Birmingham, said Smitherman.
“I want to thank FOX sports and NBC for being a partner, for showing us [on televised games] to not only the country, but to the world because this is a game changer,” he said. “We would have to pay several million dollars to get the exposure we are getting because of this league.”
The USFL will feature eight teams, all based in Birmingham for the first season. Including the Stallions and the Generals which will play the first game Saturday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m. The rest of the teams are the Tampa Bay Bandits, the Philadelphia Stars, the New Orleans Breakers, the Houston Gamblers, the Pittsburgh Maulers and the Michigan Panthers.
The teams will begin a three and a half week training camp in March. Legion Field will host 11 games and the rest will be played at Protective Stadium.
Tuesday’s press conference with all the partners in the same room on the same page was rare for Birmingham but happened after the Jefferson County Commission and the city of Birmingham both paid half a million each to secure the USFL season, and the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau (GBCVB) gave $2 million to support the project.
“It was like a dream come true that powerhouses like FOX and NBC were coming and providing something [football] that we love so much in the South and doing it in a way that was unlike any other league that has been here before,” said Steve Ammons, chair of the County Commission’s Economic Development Committee.
The league has a number of elements that will make it stand out, said Skip Holtz, who will coach the Stallions.
“There are three things that are going on today, one, an amazing announcement, a shot that’s going to be heard around the world; [two], the development and the reemergence of the USFL coming back and [three] a standalone spring football league that’s going to stand on its own two feet,” he said, “. . . what an awesome day to see the excitement, to see the energy, the enthusiasm with everybody here.”
Also in attendance were the entire five-member Jefferson County Commission; eight of nine Birmingham City Councilors; leaders of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) and Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau (GBCVB); Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr; and former NFL players Reggie Bush (New Orleans Saints) and Daryl “Moose” Johnston (Dallas Cowboys).
The USFL is estimated to have a $15 million economic impact on the area, according to GBCVB. Some of that includes the league paying for hotels to house players, coaches and other staff over the full 12 weeks.
Tickets are available for $10 at USFL2.com and an adult ticket includes three free for kids.