Former Birmingham Bulls owner sets sights on Pelham for professional hockey team
Professional hockey may make a comeback in the Birmingham metro area.
Monday night, the city of Pelham will consider a resolution to lease its ice arena at the Pelham Civic Complex to a new franchise in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Art Clarkson, who owned the Birmingham Bulls in the 90's, says he already submitted an application to the league to begin playing this Fall.
Clarkson tells ABC 33/40 the timing is right and he considers this a good business investment. He says the market for hockey in the south is expanding.
“We were all sad to see them go,” Bailey Hindman, a hockey fan, grew up going to Bulls games.
Hindman plays and coaches at the Pelham Civic Complex. He says there's a growing hockey community in town to make a professional team a success.
“Probably not nearly as popular as football, but there's a lot of medical professionals and engineering folks in Birmingham and Huntsville, in the state where hockey's got a pretty big influence,” said Hindman.
Both UAB and Alabama’s club teams play at the Pelham Civic Complex now, which seats 3,200 to 3,500 people. Little league and men’s teams also use the ice.
Pelham Council President Rick Hayes says if council approves the lease with the pro team, the city would expand to 4,000 seats.
“This fits this league and having the opportunity to upgrade our facility to exactly fit this league is an ideal situation for the team and community,” Hayes told ABC 33/40.
The pitch is to “probably” keep the team branded as the Birmingham Bulls, Clarkson said. He’s checking to make sure the name is available.
Hayes hopes the region will work together to make it a success.
“The crowds were big then and that's before hockey really caught on in the South in general,” said Hayes. “Now we also have teams that are all around us. So this league, you have teams in Huntsville. You've got teams in Columbus, Georgia, Macon, Georgia, Knoxville.”
Those are potential rivalries Hindman looks forward to creating.
“Having the Bulls back in Birmingham would be awesome, having a lot of exciting hockey fights for everybody to watch and it would be a good time,” said Hindman.
Clarkson said the BJCC was his first venue choice but that there were issues that couldn't be worked out. He said the numbers work in Pelham and he likes the location.