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THE HOUSE PARTY
UAB football is back after a two- year hiatus. The excitement in Birmingham can be felt all around town. It’s electric! Friday night UAB kicked off the return of football with a ‘UAB House Party’ with vendors and a concert by former UAB quarterback and country music star Sam Hunt, in Uptown Birmingham. Over 20,000 happy and excited UAB fans, supporters and employees attended the free House Party concert to kick off the return of football.
“As a former quarterback for UAB, Sam Hunt was behind our vision early on in the decision making on how we were going to celebrate the return of UAB football and he was on board with helping us make the weekend special,” said Christopher Clifford, Associate Vice President for Business and Auxiliary Services, UAB. “He understood the special nature of the weekend and how excited everyone would be when the big weekend finally arrived. He wanted to do something to give back to his alma mater so he greatly reduced his rate and brought his tour to Birmingham for the House Party held in Uptown last Friday night. It was because of his generosity, we were able to open the concert to fans, supporters and the public for free.”
The BIG DAY = A BIG WIN
Saturday morning the hash tag #thereturn was trending early on Twitter as UAB fans prepared to head out to Legion Field, the current Blazer stadium. Some improvements such as the addition of a state-of-the-art scoreboard were added to Legion Field to enhance the gameday experience. UAB representatives are not aware of any other specific improvements that will be made to Legion Field in the near future. Legion Field is managed by the City of Birmingham’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
Earlier Saturday morning, ESPN’s College Game Day anchors made a point of commenting on the return UAB football. The Blazers took the field at 2:30 pm to play Alabama A&M in front of 45,000 faithful fans. The final score was in UAB’s favor 38-7. UAB travels to Indiana this weekend to play Ball State and then they are back home on Sept. 16 against Coastal Carolina.
THE BEGINNING OF THE RETURN
The rationale given for eliminating the Blazer football team was financial sustainability. However, eliminating the team paled in comparison to the backlash from fans and on social media that President Watts and the university received after the program was removed from campus. The decision came as a huge blow to the student athletes who had hopes of playing at UAB.
The spark: A young boy from Ohio named Bennett sent in a dollar to the UAB Football program that he had earned for scoring a goal in his youth soccer game, according to this NCAA article, young Bennett stated “Dear UAB,” he wrote. My name is Bennett. I love Ohio State, but I think you should have football too. Here is one dollar to help!” Bennett was on-hand at the opening game Saturday to participate in the pre-game festivities.
After that the rest is history a group of Birmingham businessmen, led by Hatton Smith, CEO Emeritus of Royal Cup Coffee, came together to help raise the money to bring back the program. Funds coupled with resolutions from the municipalities surrounding Birmingham. UAB Football was on its way back.
By the first of August, season ticket sales surpassed 10,000, which is more than UAB has ever sold. Support from the community has been consistent from the fundraising effort to season ticket sales. Maintaining that momentum in support of program and the team is key going into the future. State-of-the-art facilities also are key to maintaining momentum.
EXCITING NEXT STEPS
The BJCC commissioned the Kansas City firm Populous with the goal of positioning the BJCC to enhance its competitiveness regionally over the next 20 years. The master plan proposes extensive renovations and expansion of Legacy Arena, upgrades to the convention center’s exterior aesthetics and entrances and a new open-air stadium by the Uptown District. The arena and stadium would serve as anchors for a vibrant and connected campus with an enhanced guest experience that would be attractive to tourists and locals alike.
A new stadium would add excitement to a City already pumped to have its football team back, but it also would allow UAB to play in stadium in closer proximity to campus.
“UAB supports the vision the City of Birmingham has for the BJCC area and we hope the project becomes reality,” said Christopher Clifford.