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Why Birmingham Park Board Voted to Increase Price of Tailgating at the Magic City Classic

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Last year, an agreement was signed between Alabama State University, Alabama A&M and the Alabama Sports Council to keep the game at Legion Field through 2026. (File)

By J.T. Moore | Special to the Times

An Opinion

J.T. Moore represents Birmingham City Council District 4.

Let’s be honest … There are not very many occasions in America where over 200,000 people get together for The Culture and throw one of the best parties you will ever go to. It’s Beautiful. It’s Inspiring. It’s Welcoming to All. It’s the Magic City Classic.

Birmingham is in many ways the embodiment of Black excellence; we’re a spotlight to the rest of the world signaling how much progress we can make together in a single lifetime. And as much as we love our sports here, the Magic City Classic is more than a football game, it’s a celebration of our City, the rich cultural heritage of the people who live here, and most importantly it reverberates with the spirit of what Birmingham represents to the world.

Obviously, the week leading up to the Classic is an economic boon for the city. Each year we see upwards of $30 million being spent at local restaurants, hotels, and stores throughout town. It’s also helped create partnerships between local businesses, organizations, and government agencies, which strengthen the foundation for collaboration and innovation in Birmingham’s economic development efforts.

Ask anyone who’s ever been and they will tell you a wild story about the tailgate. One could argue it’s a bigger draw than the game itself. That’s no shade to the schools or anything like that because I think the same thing could be said about Talladega or any other event where you have a massive tailgate experience. People love it.

Personally, I’m of the belief that in order to bottle and save that magic, we have to do anything possible to keep this game at Legion Field. I can’t think of any other place in Birmingham that would allow for the kind of tailgate atmosphere that this historic venue has blessed us with for all these years.

Last year, an agreement was signed between Alabama State University, Alabama A&M and the Alabama Sports Council to keep the game at Legion Field through 2026. This was great news, but we definitely have more work to keep it this way.

For one thing, Legion Field has never once been able to directly profit from the huge amount of people who come from all over with their RVs (last year tickets were purchased from 36 different states). Obviously, this isn’t great considering the massive amount of upkeep that is required to maintain and restore the historic structure. Simply put, the largest annual event that’s hosted on the site should have some kind of positive impact on the longevity of the stadium. Period.

I, along with my colleagues on the Birmingham Park Board, have voted to increase the price of tailgating spaces from $35 to $100 per day for exactly this reason. We want to ensure this annual celebration of HBCUs and our shared cultural heritage remains at Legion Field while we also look to grow by providing more services and support. We need everyone’s help to make this possible.

I understand that this may not come as welcomed news for some people, but it is a necessary decision we had to make. Even still, this new ticket price is considerably less than other similar-sized tailgating events.

The week leading up to the Classic is a reminder of the city’s enduring legacy of struggle and triumph, showcasing how far it has come while acknowledging the work that remains to be done. It’s a time for people from all walks of life to take part in a rare type of fellowship, one where you can be offered plates of fish and wings from friendly strangers, you can bare witness to some of the best bands in the world and get a taste of what Birmingham is all about. And if that’s not worthy of our love and support, I don’t know what else is.

JT Moore represents Birmingham City Council District 4.