UAB takes steps toward off-campus football stadium

UAB takes steps toward off-campus football stadium
Florida running back Adarius Lemons, top left, is upended by UAB cornerback Darious Williams, lower left, as cornerback Broderick Thomas (22) comes in to help during a game last November. The Blazers are moving toward an agreement to begin playing their home games in a proposed stadium in downtown Birmingham. (John Raoux/AP)

The University of Alabama System board of trustees approved a memorandum outlining the terms of a future 20-year lease between the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex Authority and UAB for use of a proposed stadium at the complex for home football games.

“We appreciate the boards’ support of this important project,” UAB Athletic Director Mark Ingram said.

The board approved the outline of a future lease and authorized a future memorandum for marketing opportunities during its meeting Friday.

“This will be a transformational facility,” UAB President Ray Watts said.

The proposed open-air stadium with fixed seating of 45,000 and the capability to expand to 55,000 is part of a $300 million master plan for the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) that also includes a Legacy Arena makeover and an outside piazza renovation. The project also has commitments from the City of Birmingham and Jefferson County. The new stadium will replace Legion Field as UAB’s football home.

Watts and trustees praised the collaborative nature of the project.

“This is a cooperation among groups that have not accomplished something like this in a long time,” Trustee Finis St. John said.

A rendering shows the proposed stadium at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. (contributed)

Higher profile

The new stadium at the BJCC will help raise the profile of the football program, which returned to the field in 2017 two years after UAB reversed its decision to shut down the program.

“It is really becoming an energy center in downtown Birmingham,” Ingram said. “For us to be part of that is very exciting.”

In 2016, the trustees pledged to support an on-campus football practice complex and the possibility of a long-term home for the Blazers off campus at a proposed football stadium complex at the BJCC in downtown Birmingham.

The lease, which will be negotiated at a future date, would commence Aug. 1, 2021. The rent for the first 10 years would be $25,000 per regular season game, $15,000 per post-season game at the stadium, and $10,000 for the spring practice game.

The memorandum would assist the authority in going to the bond market next month, Ingram said. The agreement represents a steady revenue stream for the facility.

“They will use this agreement to say this is a guaranteed income stream for this defined period,” Ingram said.

A crowd watches the UAB Blazers play at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Under a proposed agreement moving through the approvals process, the Blazers would move their home games from the Old Gray Lady to a new stadium at the BJCC in 2021. (Jimmy Mitchell)

Details of the deal

The financing for the project will come from bonds and bank loans, Ingram said. The project is seeking $4 million annually from private corporate sources and the university. UAB’s portion, including the rental fees and the proposed marketing agreement, will be about $500,000, Ingram said. About $150,000 will be from the rent and $350,000 from marketing and some naming opportunities in the complex.

The second memorandum, which the board authorized but has yet to be drafted, would outline the terms of an agreement for UAB or its affiliated entities to provide $350,000 for the marketing opportunities at the stadium complex.

The lease memorandum includes a termination clause in the 10th year if either party defaults on the terms of the agreement. After the first 10 years, the rent can be adjusted by the parties by mutual agreement.

As part of the agreement, UAB will host six to 10 home games and other football-related events. Any post-season games UAB hosts or the Conference USA championship will be at the stadium. The football program will have 20 complimentary practice days each year on any day another event is not scheduled, and exclusive use of the UAB locker room at the complex.

The BJCC will operate and maintain the complex.

The BJCC will be the vendor for all ticket sales for UAB games at the complex. UAB will retain 100 percent of the ticket sales (including suite ticket sales) minus sales tax, but the ticket price will include a $2 facility fee that will be allotted to the BJCC.

A ground view of the proposed stadium in downtown Birmingham. (contributed)

Room to grow

The proposal is for a stadium with about 45,000 fixed seats with capacity to expand to 55,000 as needed, Ingram said.

For the first decade, 100 percent of the suite license revenues will be pledged to the financing of the stadium complex. The suite license agreements for each year will be between the license holder and the BJCC, which will receive the payments directly. At the end of the 20-year lease, the parties can renegotiate the suite license revenue.

The BJCC will provide UAB with three complimentary suites and three suitable accommodations for coaching staffs and visiting athletics directors.

The parties will work together to determine the scope and allocation of club seating.

The two will split the net revenues from parking and concessions at the stadium complex during UAB games. The BJCC will manage the operation of concessions and parking at the complex with input from UAB.

The BJCC will retain the revenue from the concession stands and pouring rights for soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, but UAB will receive 50 percent of the net revenue from all concessions during UAB football games.

UAB will have the rights to the sale and revenues of any tailgating areas outside of the traditional parking spaces in areas designated for the purpose in the planning for the stadium.

The tailgating plan is still being developed.

“We will get it; we are just not sure what will be there,” Ingram said.

UAB will sell all the advertising on digital media for the games. The BJCC will install and maintain the digital media equipment. The two will agree to a list of protected advertisers for each party.

UAB will get 100 percent of the revenue from digital media sold for its games. The BJCC will get 100 percent of the revenue from media sold for static signs in the complex.

The architectural plans will include permanent exterior and interior signs that say “Home of the Blazers” as part of a sign plan that will address UAB branding needs while also maintaining flexibility for the stadium’s use during other events.

This story originally appeared in The Tuscaloosa News.

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