The revival of the football program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham is continuing.
Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council promised $90 million in funding to a redevelopment project that would include a new football stadium for UAB. The Blazers currently play at Birmingham’s Legion Field, a 70,000-seat stadium that first opened in 1927.
The money will be distributed over 30 years for the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center project. The convention center and Legacy Arena will be renovated and a new stadium will be constructed nearby with the goal of UAB playing there when it opens in 2021.
“We continue to be encouraged by the steps taken by both state and local leadership in relation to the proposed renovations at the BJCC,” UAB athletic director Mark Ingram said in a statement “Mayor Woodfin, the City Council, Jefferson County, the BJCC, State Legislators and community leaders have worked together to make this happen. The renovations will continue to grow our city and we are excited to be a part of it.”
Other funding from the project would come from convention center revenues as well as revenues from retail and hotel redevelopment projects in the area around the convention center.
UAB football was shut down after the 2014 season — the first time an FBS program had stopped playing football in nearly 20 years — because of funding issues in the University of Alabama system. The decision to kill the football team was met with great resistance and a movement to get the team back up and running again was started as soon as the decision to stop football was made.
Those efforts were successful, as the program returned in 2017 after a two-year hiatus. The Blazers even went to a bowl game and played in the Bahamas Bowl against Ohio.
While the return and renaissance of UAB football is a feel-good story for all of those involved with and invested in the program, the BJCC project doesn’t have widespread feel-good vibes. The president of a nearby neighborhood association asked the council to not approve the funding for the project.
Robert Walker, vice president of the Wahouma Neighborhood Association, said the project is wrong for the city.
“It doesn’t benefit us anything to build this stadium here,” he said. “I ask you to do something different. The people don’t want it.”
Walker said if the city really needs a new stadium, then build it on city-owned property and not BJCC property.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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