During its brief Nov. 26 meeting, the Birmingham City Council turned its eye to the future of the city’s entertainment industry, approving a contract to host state high school football championships at the in-development Protective Stadium and setting a public hearing to designate one area of the city an entertainment district.
The council voted to approve an agreement with the Alabama High School Athletic Association to host its football championships at the city’s under-construction Protective Stadium in 2021, 2024, 2027 and 2030. The $175 million stadium, which will seat roughly 45,000 people, started construction last December.
As part of the agreement, the city will provide up to $125,000 in economic incentives to the AHSAA; in turn, the resolution states, the championship games will generate an estimated $10,000,000 in economic impact for the city.
The agreement puts Birmingham in rotation with Tuscaloosa and Auburn as the AHSAA’s three host cities. Birmingham’s Legion Field hosted the championships from 1996 until 2008.
“This championship used to be in our city every year. It brought thousands of people to our city, our hotels, our businesses,” Mayor Randall Woodfin told the council Tuesday. “We lost it. It’s been rotating between Tuscaloosa and Auburn (since then) …. We wanted this game back in the city of Birmingham.”
The AHSAA agreement had been part of the meeting’s consent agenda but was removed by District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt, who asked for information on how the games “were impacting the schools.” Woodfin and District 4 Councilor William Parker were both visibly confused by Hoyt’s question. After Parker explained that participants in the games would be determined each year by the AHSAA’s playoff structure, Hoyt appeared satisfied. The item passed unanimously.
“I just hope that we don’t lose it again, quite frankly,” Hoyt added just before the vote. “I hope that we go to great efforts to maintain this game.”
Upon its completion, Protective Stadium also will host home games for the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s football team and will serve as the annual home of the college football postseason’s Birmingham Bowl game.
The council also voted to hold a public hearing on Dec. 17 to consider an ordinance officially designating parts of the city’s Five Points South neighborhood an “entertainment district.” If passed, the bill would nullify the city’s public drinking laws within that district’s boundaries; the council has not yet announced where those boundaries will be.
District 3 Councilor Valerie Abbott, whose district includes Five Points South, said that neighborhood residents are mostly “enthusiastic” about the change.
If approved, Five Points South would be the third such district in the city, following Uptown Birmingham and Pepper Place, which were named entertainment districts in 2015 and 2019, respectively. Last year, the council passed a bill that would allow for the operation of pedal buses, the passengers of which would be able to drink while travelling between entertainment districts.