Tag: sports tourism
It’s almost become a tradition for football fans in the Magic City. Every few years, yet another professional football league comes to Legion Field, with aspirations to bring some semblance of high-level gridiron action to The Old Gray Lady on Graymont.
This time, the Alliance of American Football promises to help fans get over that difficult spell after the end of the traditional season and create an attraction that brings entertainment and dollars to the economy of a city, state and region that’s a sports hotbed.
Playing in the spring, the AAF bills itself as a developmental organization that gives up-and-coming players a chance to advance or return to the National Football League. Read more.
Across the front of the press box at the new BBVA Compass Field is a slogan that is familiar, but just a little different: “Fútbol Capital of the South.”
Those who have lived in the Birmingham area for a while should remember a similar legend, “Football Capital of the South,” that was displayed across the front of Legion Field’s old upper deck. The main tenants of the new field are hoping they can achieve legendary status in a different kind of football, as the game is known in almost all of the rest of the world.
Birmingham Legion FC, the Magic City’s first ever fully professional soccer club, pays homage to the Old Gray Lady on Graymont Avenue with its name. Read more.
The arrival of the Birmingham Iron, the city’s entry in America’s newest pro football league, marks the latest in a series of franchises that have plied their trade at Legion Field. But they are not the only game in town.
Birmingham has gone from just one minor league team two years ago — the Barons, who have played baseball here since 1885, with a few breaks along the way — to four. In another year or two, that number is scheduled to increase to five, marking the first time Birmingham has hosted professional teams in the five major sports, according to BirminghamProSports.com, a site that documents Birmingham teams throughout the city’s history.
That’s a milestone for a place long known for its love of all things athletic. Before this, teams with the strongest claim to professional status were those sponsored by industries in the early 1900s. The Iron have gotten off to a fast start in the inaugural season of the Alliance of American Football, winning their first three games before losing two. Read more.
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Even with more athletic fields at the Hoover Met Complex, greater Birmingham needs additional sports facilities to compete with cities such as Westfield, Indiana and Elizabethtown, Kentucky.
Never heard of those cities? If you have a child who competes on a “travel ball” team, you probably have. A study commissioned by the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau says that those two cities are Birmingham’s primary competitors for large sports tournaments.
The bureau released the study’s findings Sept. 27. It was conducted by Phoenix-based Huddle Up Sports and is based on a survey of available sports venues in metro Birmingham. The company also conducted interviews with various stakeholders in the sports tourism industry, a segment of the local economy that caters not just to college and professional sports organizers and fans but also to followers of youth and amateur sports tournaments that bring in hundreds of teams, competitors, families and officials.
Although metro Birmingham has made a big push in sports tourism, it still is falling behind other cities, some of which are much smaller in population but which have gone all-in on the burgeoning sports tourism sector. Read more.
On a Saturday morning in Hoover, high school girls jumped and spiked, as coaches and parents cheered in an assortment of volleyball games in the annual Juanita Boddie Tournament, an event that draws teams not just from metro Birmingham, but from surrounding states.
The tournament used to be a fixture at Homewood High School but now calls the Finley Center its home. And what a home it is — a dozen or more courts in action at any given moment, more available for warm-ups, plus a snack bar, trainers’ facilities and much more.
Just steps away, you’ll find a new group of ball fields with high-tech lighting, artificial turf fields and the capability to hold up to a dozen games at once. There’s another baseball diamond with natural grass, built to the same field size as the original facility in the complex, Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. The Met is the former home of the minor league Birmingham Barons, twice host to the NCAA Men’s College Cup soccer championships and still home to the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament and Hoover High School’s nationally famous football team.
Still under construction nearby are five more fields for football, soccer, lacrosse, or rugby — basically any sport using a rectangular field — and 16 tennis courts. The complex has all of that plus an RV park in the middle, an original part of the complex.
Hoover Buys in to Burgeoning Industry
The Hoover Met Complex expansion marks the city’s major buy-in to a burgeoning industry that’s generally known as sports tourism. It’s sometimes referred to as “tourno-cation,” which is a combination of “tournament” and “vacation.” That’s generally applied more to mega-complexes located in areas already known as tourist hotspots, such as Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach or Orlando. The idea is to draw large tournaments with dozens, even hundreds, of teams.
John Sparks moved to Hoover a couple of months ago to manage the new complex, after a stint as a manager with the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. He says the complex is already one of the top two or three of its kind in the Southeast, based on the size, the types of fields, and the ability to deal with wet weather thanks to artificial turf. Read more.