BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — It’s been a decade’s long question: Will Birmingham ever go pro? Can the city support a major professional sports team? It’s been proven that the Magic City has the financial capacity to make it happen, and Mayor William Bell is optimistic it will.
“We feel that because of the metropolitan area that we could attract a major sports team, right here in the middle of the city,” said Mayor Bell.
But according to Gene Hallman, president and CEO of Bruno Events team, pro sports in Birmingham are a goal in the not-so-near future.
“The chances are remote, let’s face it. We’re the 45th largest television station market in America – so we’re bigger than a lot of people think, but we’re not an A-list market,” said Hallman.
So what could make Birmingham an “A-list” market to go pro? I’ve come up with three key factors:
#1 – A wealthy owner who is determined to bringing a professional team to the Magic City
“No team is ever owned by the city itself. You have to find investors, people who are willing to put out the big bucks and we’re talking about hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars. And there are individuals like that, doesn’t necessarily need to be from here. But we just have to continue to press and look for people who are interested in making that kind of investment,” said Mayor Bell.
#2 – A facility big enough to house a professional franchise
“You could have a very successful NBA team with about a 20,000 seat arena. There are some teams like Jacksonville that have demonstrated that you can have a pretty good football team. I think we would do better than a Jacksonville,” said Bell.
“There has been dialogue for decades now for a new facility downtown, adjacent to the BJCC – that if it were built, could entice a team to move,” said Hallman.
#3 – An opportunity. Right now, most professional sports aren’t considering expansion
“The first thing you need is an owner willing to move their franchise, who is unhappy with their current stadium arrangement or arrangement in that community. Here recently with two franchises moving to LA, they were unhappy with their deal in St. Louis and San Diego and they saw a new place and a new home, and they saw a better economic deal and they moved,” said Hallman.
“Anytime you hear about team negotiating with a city or looking at the opportunity to move from one location, it always gets my attention because then I start wondering how can Birmingham play a role in that process?” said Mayor Bell.
“I think if you were to ask the city leaders in Charlotte or Jacksonville or Nashville 20 years ago, do you think you’ll ever get a NFL franchise – most of them would’ve said no and look what happened. So never say no. It’s certainly a possibility,” said Hallman.