For decades, there’s been talk about a new football stadium for Birmingham. Saturday, it will finally open, when the UAB Blazers play their first home game at the brand new Protective Stadium.
“Today represents the city of Birmingham, with our collective partners, being the best version of ourselves,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin during a ribbon-cutting for the stadium Thursday.
Though a downtown stadium had long been debated, the idea finally moved forward when the BJCC, city of Birmingham, UAB, Jefferson County Commission, Protective Life Insurance company and other entities all worked together.
UAB had used Legion Field as its home stadium until the football program was abruptly terminated in 2014. When UAB restarted its football program in 2017, Woodfin campaigned to get Birmingham a new stadium. Woodfin says the stadium will generate taxes for the city, with some of those taxes going to a neighborhood revitalization fund.
The $200 million Protective Stadium sits downtown as part of the BJCC entertainment district. It has 45,000 seats, three entry gates, five locker rooms and a tunnel with the UAB imprint.
UAB alumnus and super fan Jesse Taylor has waited for a new stadium dedicated to the university’s football team for years.
“UAB is a big deal in Birmingham. It’s kind of like the economic engine, not just of Birmingham, but the whole state.” Taylor said. “It’s going to be so unreal. It’s going to be an emotional day. I have no doubt.”
The multi-purpose stadium also will be home to the Birmingham Bowl, Alabama High School Athletic Association football championships and The World Games opening and closing ceremonies in 2022.