The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Friday, April 17, 2009

Western Tribune Column April 15, 2009 Legion Field

Before the ink had dried on the contract that moves the high school Super 6 Championship games from Birmingham to Auburn and Tuscaloosa, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford had the Old Gray Lady torn down and tennis courts and a lake built.

At least in that never idle imagination of his.

I believe he said he would wait until a new facility was built before calling in the wrecking ball, and that’s a good thing, considering the Magic City Classic, which features the Alabama A&M Bulldogs and the Alabama State Hornets, along with the SWAC Championship, still need a place to play. They might actually enjoy participating in a new domed facility.

But what about the most frequent user of the stadium each fall? UAB plays its home games at Legion Field, and might feel that a North Birmingham dome, even further from campus than the current venue, is not the ideal place for them.

Gene Hallman, CEO of the Alabama Sports Foundation, said, “The biggest problem with Legion Field these days is its age. In comparison to Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare, it clearly comes up short relative to modern conveniences.”

Right, Gene. Except its age is virtually the same as Bryant-Denny, and just twelve years older than Jordan-Hare. It’s not age, but upkeep. And the reason there has not been upkeep and modernization as with the other stadiums is that Birmingham has lacked the kind of leadership it needed over the last several decades to stay on top of things and move the city forward in all areas, including sports.

Certainly we’ve had big sporting events here such as the 1996 Olympic Soccer matches and SEC Football Championships prior to 1994. But the successes of the past were because of business people like Hallman, not elected officials who could really make a difference in upgrading the facility.

I have some good memories of Legion Field, the best of which is without a doubt the 1972 Iron Bowl when as a college freshman I watched Auburn defeat Alabama 17-16. Punt, Bama, Punt.
And Olympic soccer ranks up there, too.

You know how I feel about preservation, and you know that I would rather see the Old Gray Lady given more than the “facelift” that the mayor says he gave. A “Nip/Tuck” style complete overhaul and the stadium could compete with the two aged contemporaries that have overtaken her.

And then let’s bring the Iron Bowl back.

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