BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The BJCC cleared its last major hurdle to fund a $300 million renovation of the BJCC. It includes $175M for a new open air stadium in the Uptown Entertainment District and $125M worth of renovations to Legacy Arena.
Tuesday, Birmingham City Council gave final approval to a $90 million commitment to the BJCC expansion project over 30 years.
BJCC Executive Director and CEO Tad Snider calls the project a prime example of regional collaboration.
“To have all those five partners together- corporate community, UAB, essentially the state through the Jefferson County legislative delegation, Jefferson County, city of Birmingham and BJCC- it’s probably been since the construction of the BJCC that’s happened,’ said Snider. “So, 42 years ago.”
Jefferson County already pledged $30M to the project. State lawmakers approved a car rental tax increase to generate $3.5M a year for the project. UAB and the corporate community are finalizing a combined $4M annual contribution. The BJCC is also contributing financially to the expansion.
Snider said after council’s vote, the project is “as close as you can get to a definite go.” He expects to break ground on the stadium, late summer or early fall.
Birmingham Council’s vote came after hours of public comments.
“As we talk about this stadium, all of Birmingham wins. All of Birmingham wins and that's the true Magic City,” UAB Football Program’s Tim Alexander told council.
UAB Blazers would be a major tenant of the stadium. It plans to host its home football games there as early as 2020.
Others from the city questioned the economic return for the community.
“Make the 99 neighborhoods, the schools and crime in the city top priority to help move the city forward,” Susan Palmer told council.
Mayor Randall Woodfin ultimately won support from council for the $90 million investment into the BJCC expansion with a six to three vote.
Council also approved a resolution to dedicate all the project's revenue, at least nine million a year, to a neighborhood revitalization fund.
“Paving streets, repairing curbs and sidewalks, not only getting rid of dilapidated structures but matching funding for new projects, new roofs in our city because it’s not enough just to tear down dilapidated structures,” Woodfin explained what money will be used for.
Woodfin called the vote a positive message for the region.
“When we look at other regions and counties, Mobile and Madison being two examples- they tend to get regional cooperation right,” said Woodfin. “It’s past time we get regional cooperation right.”
“This is the type of project that can begin to build bridges towards more regional cooperation in many things,” said Snider. “So just having all those partners at the table, those stakeholders, it’s a really special day and I think something Birmingham can be proud of.”
Snider says the immediate next step is to finalize the lease with UAB and corporate sponsorships. He says council’s vote was needed to move forward with UAB.