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Mayor Woodfin announces support for upgraded and expanded BJCC, new downtown stadium

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Birmingham mayoral candidate Randall Woodfin speaks during a meeting of the Downtown Democrats at the Harbert Center in Birmingham, Ala., Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Photo by Mark Almond)

The Birmingham Times

Mayor Randall Woodfin announced Wednesday that he supports an upgrade and expansion of the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) to include an open-air stadium near the Uptown Entertainment District in downtown.

The mayor announced his support for the public-private partnership during a Committee of the Whole meeting of the Birmingham City Council.

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.

“This is not just about a football stadium,” Woodfin said. “It’s about the upgrade and expansion of the BJCC, the investment and expansion of the Legacy Arena and the creation of an open-air stadium, where concerts and sporting events can be held.”

Under the proposal the city would have to pitch in at least $3 million a year for 30 years. “It’s a win-win for us,” Woodfin said. “This is a step in the right direction.”

Woodfin’s backing comes nearly a month after the Jefferson County Commission agreed to commit $30 million over 30 years for the project.

“Through this partnership we will be allowed to dedicate new revenue to neighborhood revitalization, which is my priority,” Woodfin told councilors. “One hundred percent of the revenue from the BJCC upgrade and expansion would go into the funding of neighborhood revitalization.’’

Investment in the project would generate additional cash to improve the quality of life in the city, Woodfin said. “We will gain at least $9.9 million a year to do some of the things citizens want . . . Better roads. Affordable housing. Remove blight.”

Some city councilors have expressed concerns about the city’s commitment.

Councilor Steven Hoyt said he had a number of questions including whether all funding partners were providing the same amount of money and whether the city had plans to revitalize communities around the proposed site such as Fountain Heights and Druid Hills.

The proposal addresses those concerns and others, Woodfin said.

“The city’s portion is equitable, based upon our return in our investment,” he said.

In addition to the $9.9 million return on investment, extra jobs and minority construction participation are projected, he said. There’s also economic development and an increase in tourism dollars, he added.

“This is all about Birmingham becoming competitive with our sister cities in the Southeast. It’s about Birmingham declaring that this is a new city, this is a new time and we are open for business,’’ he said.

The project calls for several participants including BJCC, $10.7 million annual debt service; University of Alabama at Birmingham and corporate partners, $4 million for 10 years; car rental tax, $3.5 million for 30 years (projected); city of Birmingham, $3 million for 30 years; and Jefferson County $1 million for 30 years,

The desired timeline for the completion of the stadium is the fall 2020 UAB football season and the 2021 World Games, which take place the following summer.