Protective Stadium

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Architectural rendering of Protective Stadium, as seen from above and from the north.

Protective Stadium is a 47,100-seat open-air stadium under development on a site adjacent to the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex north of I-59/20 in downtown Birmingham. It will host home games for the UAB Blazers football team as well as the annual Birmingham Bowl. Every third year the stadium hosts the AHSAA "Super Seven" high school football championship.

Development

The BJCC Authority's proposal to move forward with an open-air stadium, after years of unrealized proposals for a domed stadium or "multi-purpose stadium", was announced in August 2016 as part of the BJCC's updated master plan, commissioned from Populous architects of Kansas City, Missouri. The $179 million stadium is part of an overall $300+ million renovation and expansion of the overall complex.

In his 2017 State of the City address, Birmingham mayor William Bell alluded to a $200-225 projected cost for an open air stadium and a $450 million-plus cost for an enclosed stadium, which he would prefer. He hoped to secure a public-private partnership to finance the larger project and said that an announcement could be expected "fairly soon." Bell's defeat in the 2017 Birmingham municipal election effectively ended those efforts.

By the end of 2017, the BJCC Authority projected being able to cover an additional $10.7 million per year from its own revenues to service new debt for improvements. The Jefferson County Commission voted in January 2018 to commit to $1 million a year for 30 years as its contribution to debt service on the proposed new facility. New Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin requested that the City Council commit $3 million a year for 30 years as an investment in revenue-generating infrastructure. The Birmingham City Council approved that proposal, with a stipulation that "revenues" from the BJCC expansion would go into a Birmingham Neighborhood Revitalization Fund, on March 27. UAB and corporate partners have also committed $4 million a year, part of which includes leasing the stadium, along with sponsorship deals and naming rights.

In consultation with the BJCC Authority, one of the primary goals for Populous' 2016 Master Plan was to "investigate the development of a 45,000 seat open air NCAA football stadium to host UAB and multiple bowl games as well as the Magic City Classic", and for the stadium to be, "capable of accommodating 10,000 additional temporary seats." As illustrated in their resulting report, the new stadium would be located on the four-block area between Richard Arrington Jr Boulevard North and 12th Avenue North, and between 22nd and 24th Streets. Its main entrance, facing south, would open onto a large open "event plaza" flanked by retail/restaurant strips serving as an extension of the Uptown entertainment district. Luxury suites and press areas would be clustered on the west side of the stadium, accessed from a "VIP entrance" and from a sky bridge connecting to the BJCC's East Exhibition Hall near the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. The 10,000 additional "temporary" seats would extend above the top rows of the 45,000-seat concept. An image distributed by UAB after the Birmingham City Council vote featured a more detailed rendering of a proposed stadium for Colorado State University superimposed in front of Birmingham's skyline under the heading "Dreams Become Reality".

Financing for the stadium and arena expansion was obtained through the BJCC's sale of bonds on July 18, 2018. Ground was ceremonially broken for the new facility on Thursday, December 13, 2018. Actual construction is anticipated to begin in late summer or early fall 2019. The site plan and conceptual design of the stadium were approved by the Birmingham Design Review Committee in June 2019. Exterior materials and landscaping were approved on September 11.

It was announced on April 11, 2019 that the Protective Life Corporation had secured naming rights for the stadium for 15 years at a cost of $1 million per year. In August, Terance Perrine launched a website and social media campaign to criticize the preliminary stadium design for having too few seats on the home side. A more detailed design presentation to the BJCC board in September 2019 showed that the 42,000 "physical seats" would break down as 13,937 on the "west side bowl", 10,139 on the "east side bowl", 9,144 in the eastern upper deck, and 5,825 in the end zones. Another 537 would be accommodated in 31 indoor luxury suites and 13 reserved "cabana" suites. Additional general admission tickets could be sold for "seating" in lawn areas behind the end zone bleachers or in concourse level "clubs" for a total capacity of 45,000. General admission areas will have access to 310 women's lavatories, 158 men's lavatories and 9 family lavatories. At the time of the presentation the field surface material had not been determined.

Brasfield & Gorrie was awarded the $179 million construction contract on December 20, 2019. In May 2020 the BJCC announced that it had decided on an artificial surface designed to allow for covering the field with natural sod for specific events. During construction, the contractor proposed installing additional fixed seating over part of the planned lawn seating area, adding a net 1,200 seats to the stadium's capacity at no extra cost.

Use

The stadium concession contract was awarded to Centerplate division of the French company Sodexo.

In November 2019 it was announced that the Alabama High School Athletic Association "Super 7" football championships would be played at Protective Stadium in 2021, 2024, 2027 and 2030.

References

  • Poe, Kelly (August 17, 2016) "New BJCC master plan includes open air stadium, Legacy Arena upgrades." The Birmingham News
  • West, Ty (January 11, 2017) "Bell likes the idea of larger, enclosed stadium facility at BJCC." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Edgemon, Erin (March 27, 2018) "Birmingham commits $90 million over 30 years for downtown stadium, Legacy Arena renovation." The Birmingham News
  • "After lengthy debate, Council votes 6–3 to approve BJCC expansion/stadium project" (March 27, 2018) Birmingham City Council
  • Singleton, William C. III (March 28, 2018) "Birmingham approves funding for new stadium; Mayor says neighborhoods will benefit." The Birmingham Times
  • Edgemon, Erin (December 12, 2018) "Groundbreaking set for BJCC stadium." The Birmingham News
  • Beahm, Ann (March 12, 2019) "BJCC stadium construction set to start in late summer or early fall, officials say." The Birmingham News
  • West, Ty (April 11, 2019) "Protective secures naming rights for BJCC stadium." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Martinson, Coleman (June 12, 2019) "DRC approves site plan for Protective Stadium at BJCC." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Beahm, Anna (August 27, 2019) "Critic sets up website, social groups to assail Birmingham stadium design as ‘not for common man’." The Birmingham News
  • Beahm, Anna (September 18, 2019) "Takeaways from the design details of new Birmingham stadium." The Birmingham News
  • "Final design for Protective Stadium unveiled." (September 18, 2019) Birmingham Business Journal
  • Beahm, Anna (November 8, 2019) "Birmingham stadium construction bids to be accepted Dec. 17." The Birmingham News
  • Johnson, Roy S. (November 13, 2019) "AHSAA football championship to be played at Protective stadium in 2021." The Birmingham News
  • Beahm, Anna (December 20, 2019) "Birmingham contractor wins $179 million bid to build Protective Stadium." The Birmingham News
  • Koplowitz, Howard (May 22, 2020) "Protective Life Stadium will have turf with option for sod over artificial surface." The Birmingham News
  • Patchen, Tyler (June 18, 2020) "Seating capacity increased for Protective Stadium." Birmingham Business Journal
  • Goodman, Joseph (February 27, 2021) "Crafting the perfect food menu for a new stadium takes an expert." The Birmingham News

External links