By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham took a step Tuesday toward positioning itself as a sports destination city by placing bids on the 2023-2026 NCAA men and women’s basketball regional tournament games and the 2025 World Police and Fire Games.
“We’re excited to be competing to host the men and women’s NCAA basketball tournament, we’d love to have the fans be a part, and take part, in our great features here in Vulcan Park, the Civil Rights District, take part in our great restaurants here in the city,” said Council President William Parker, chair of the council’s Parks and Recreation committee.
Faye Oates, Commissioner of Sports and Entertainment, City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office, pointed to the planned renovations at the Legacy Arena as a draw. The Legacy Arena renovations are $123 million and the refurbished facility will be ready in the winter of 2022.
“We would not even be having this conversation if it wasn’t for the renovation of Legacy Arena, so that investment is absolutely paying off very quickly,” said Oates. “It’s a new day and time for sports, you [can] have the competition on the court or on the field but what’s behind the scenes? Upgraded seating, hospitality, coaches’ room, multiple locker rooms… prior to this Legacy Arena did not offer all of those amenities.”
Parker said development around the city will complement the sporting events coming to the city.
“You have the Carraway Hospital redevelopment, those types of synergies connecting that with the CrossPlex and Legion Field… what we have to do is look at our city owned assets and . . . and begin to attract major events which ultimately bring tourists to the city of Birmingham which means they’re going to spend more money in our city and stay in our hotels. This is part of a larger conversation and plan and we’re excited and looking for great results for the NCAA and the World Police and Fire,” he said.
The city will place its bid with the NCAA on Feb. 3 and bids will be awarded in the fall.
The women’s NCAA tournament is estimated to have a $1 to $2 million impact and the men’s between $8 to $9 million, Oates said. “We’re going to be on TV and there is a huge television platform when it comes to the March Madness event, it is probably the single, biggest, signature national championship we have in our country and Birmingham is going to be a part of that, so to have us in that conversation is huge.”
The World Police and Fire Games is an Olympic-style competition with 10,000 athletes representing law enforcement, firefighters and officers from corrections, probation, border protection, immigration and customs from more than 70 countries competing in over 60 sports. It is open to active duty and retired law enforcement.
“It’s held every two years, across the world, the most recent was held in Chengdu, China,” said Oates “When the games are held in the United States, it’s a bigger number because everyone wants to come to our country and then you combine that with our southern hospitality… we’re going to do good on that.”
Athletes compete in traditional sports like archery, basketball, soccer and volleyball but there are also games such as the ultimate firefighter, stair race, dog training, mud run, and other sports geared towards police and fire.