By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times
The board of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau on Monday approved allowing a portion of the lodging taxes collected from the BJCC’s Sheraton and Westin hotels to help pay the debt for a $50 million, 8,500-seat amphitheater that would be located on the site of the former Carraway hospital complex.
Area leaders say the approval is the first step to pursue a new outdoor amphitheater in North Birmingham which is expected to be owned by the BJCC, and be another piece in entertainment venues at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC), which include an upgraded Legacy Arena.
“A new, urban amphitheater would enhance our ability to attract top-tier performers and acts to Birmingham,” said Tad Snider, executive director and CEO of the BJCC. “This is a major step forward and yet another example of the way our local leadership is coming together to generate economic opportunities for our city and county.”
John Oros, president and CEO of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “Bringing this new asset to our community will be a big win, and having a full range of stages and venues will allow us to bring more visitors from outside of Jefferson County to experience our great amenities in our city and county.”
Elected officials from the city and county said the project will continue the city and area’s growth.
“This is a great opportunity to bring a new entertainment asset that will serve our residents and bring visitors to Birmingham to support our local businesses,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “This will also be an important to the overall revitalization of the Carraway property, which is a key priority for neighborhoods in north Birmingham.”
Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens said, “Just as we have seen with Protective Stadium, an amphitheater has the potential to provide us with benefits we can’t even envision at this point.”
Commissioner Joe Knight, who is a member of the CVB board, said the amphitheater is a chance to invest in an asset “without putting more burden on taxpayers in Birmingham and Jefferson County,” Knight said. “These opportunities don’t come along every day, and it was important that we make every effort to make this work.”
Said Birmingham City Councilor Hunter Williams, a member of the CVB board and chair of the City Council’s Economic Development and Tourism Committee: “We are all excited for another chance to make something big happen in Birmingham … Any major project can only occur through a partnership of multiple private and public stakeholders who have a vested interest and a shared commitment to our area’s growth.”
Robert Simon, CEO of Corporate Realty, the Birmingham firm overseeing the transformation, said the project has benefits for all involved: “Quality and attainable housing, retail, hospitality, medical services and parking assets. With the urban anchor now in a position to move forward, this marque entertainment facility will draw people from all over our region and showcase the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County, enhancing the quality of life for our residents, reviving a once-thriving area and creating a destination people will want to visit.”