As a Diana Ross classic blared across the speakers in the grassy area in front of Birmingham’s Uptown District, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said he never thought the mountain was too high to achieve the goal of a new stadium downtown.
“At a certain point, no mountain is high enough if you’ve got enough people pushing and pulling with you at the same time, in the same direction,” Woodfin said after Protective Life was announced as the title sponsor of the stadium, the construction of which could begin this summer.
The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and Protective Life Corporation announced today a 15-year agreement for the naming rights sponsorship of Birmingham’s new multi-use stadium, which now will be called Protective Stadium.
“Each step makes it more real, more tangible,” Woodfin said. “This is just another step within the process as we continue to move this project forward.”
Protective committed to pay $1 million per year for 15 years for naming rights at the stadium. The insurance company joins the BJCC Authority, city of Birmingham, Jefferson County, UAB and other corporate partners in funding the new stadium.
BJCC Board Chairman Dennis Lathem said he’s been on the board since 1998 and something like this has been an ongoing project since then. While the finish line is now within sight, he acknowledged that there’s still some running to do.
“This is the last big step of putting it all together, the public-private partnership (with) Protective Stadium naming rights,” Lathem said. “It’s all clicked in together. We’ve just got to buckle down and finish the race.”
Lathem said there’s still a lot of construction, a lot of planning, a lot of steps before the vision of a new stadium is realized. He said work on the project has been active the past several months with the relocation of utilities, site preparation and geotechnical surveys.
Tad Snider, executive director of the BJCC, said visible construction should have begun by mid to late summer. Lathem said the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the business community came together to accomplish what sometimes seemed like an impossible dream.
“What we’re seeing here today is the culmination of a lot of courage by a lot of people,” Lathem said, “to step up and help out and make this community a better place.”
John D. Johns, executive chairman of Protective, echoed that sentiment.
“The fulfillment of this dream confirms,” Johns said, “that truly amazing things can happen in this community when we focus our energies on coming together to create our future.”
Snider told more than 100 who assembled for the announcement that they were seated close to where the south end zone will be. He added that Protective Life is fully committed to the project.
“We’re going to work together for the next 15 years to make this a great part of the community,” he said. “We’re certainly going to see a lot of football. We’re going to see some concerts. We’re going to see some family entertainment that’s outdoor oriented. Who knows? Soccer, maybe one day, international soccer.
“What I think you’re going to see though is everything around us is lifted up and grown and developed,” Snider continued. “All of a sudden, this interstate (59/20) is not such a divide between the central business district and North Birmingham.”