BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Long known as an enthusiastic sports city, Birmingham is looking toward the future with new sporting events on the books and new facilities under construction.
The city has been chosen to host the first and second round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament for Division I men’s basketball and the Division I women’s basketball southern regional in 2025. The decision follows a collaborative effort by the City of Birmingham, the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, Knight Eady, and the Southeastern Conference. Games will be played at the BJCC’s 15,000-seat Legacy Arena, currently undergoing renovation and expansion.
“It’s our pleasure to welcome these great NCAA events back to Birmingham,” John Oros, Jr., president and CEO of the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. “While we can’t predict an economic impact that far in the future, we do know that historically these events generate millions of dollars for the local economy. We’ve long enjoyed our relationship with the NCAA and look forward to continuing that alliance in the coming years.”
With the impact of COVID-19, many building plans around the country have come to a halt. In Birmingham, however, two important projects are progressing nicely.
Currently underway on the campus of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, the new Protective Stadium will be home to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers football. With a 45,000-person capacity, the facility will also host soccer, concerts, large conventions, and other events. The stadium is on schedule to be complete in the fall of 2021.
Underway is a $100 million renovation of Legacy Arena, also on the campus of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. The arena closed in April to begin the 18-month renovation. Major reconstruction of the exterior façade will give the arena a more open and light design. Enhancements will also improve the fan experience, circulation to and within the space, and modernization to elevate amenities for visitors and performers.
New facilities in Birmingham will be coming online in time to host portions of major amateur sporting events booked for the city.
The world is coming to Birmingham and the city has been preparing for the event for quite a while now. The World Games 2022 Birmingham is an 11-day sports celebration held in the year following the Summer Olympic Games. The games represent the highest level of competition for more than 3,600 international athletes in more than 30 sports, including lacrosse, archery, water skiing, and sumo.
“The World Games 2022 Birmingham marks the 40th anniversary of the event,” David Galbaugh, vice president of sports sales and marketing for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau, said. “This will be the largest sporting event Birmingham has hosted to date and the first time the games have been held in the U.S. since 1981. Working with World Games officials and other partners, we are confident this will be a tremendously successful event.”
In May, the World Police and Fire Games Federation awarded the 2025 World Police and Fire Games to Birmingham.
The 2025 Games, which will take place June 27 to July 6, will feature more than 10,000 first responders competing in 1,600 medal events. The full lineup of sports is expected to include more than 55 disciplines, ranging from traditional offerings such as cycling, golf, softball, and angling to unique competitions like “ultimate firefighter” and “dragon boat.” Events will take place at more than 35 venues across the greater Birmingham area and will be free and open to the public.
“It’s encouraging to be able to look past COVID-19 to a time we can once again host major sporting events,” Galbaugh said. “This event is expected to have a $75 million impact and will host an expected 150,000 athletes, supporters, and spectators in our community.”
The 2025 World Police and Fire Games will further establish Birmingham as a premier sports event destination, building on the success of the city’s large-scale sporting events such as the 2017 National Senior Games and The World Games 2022 Birmingham.
“With the World Games and the Police and Fire Games, Birmingham will host two of the top international amateur sports events in a four-year period, further establishing our area as an international sports destination,” Galbaugh said.