Once known as the BJCC coliseum, the now-renamed Legacy Arena opened four decades ago to anticipation and acclaim with a John Denver concert on Sept. 28, 1976.
Since then, it has been a hub of sports and entertainment for millions of fans attending shows ranging from Elvis Presley to Pink, from Michael Jackson to Jay Z, Birmingham Bulls hockey and UAB Blazers basketball to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to Monster Jam over the last four decades.
Construction of the coliseum in 1976 forever changed the entertainment landscape of Birmingham – and its addition in Birmingham was ahead of its time, said BJCC Executive Director Tad Snider.
“The foresight of civic, business and political leaders beginning in the mid-’60s and into the early ’70s in having the vision for such an ambitious project is quite remarkable,” Snider said.
“As a part of the larger Civic Center development, at the time of its opening, the Coliseum looked to borrow the best from The Forum in Los Angeles, New York’s Madison Square Garden, the Omni in Atlanta to create a highly versatile venue on par with anything else in the country,” he said. “Those aspirational goals resulted in a venue that has served the greater Birmingham community for 40 years.”
Legacy Arena today continues to provide the community with many entertainment options, including major concert tours, sporting events, family programs, religious events and world-renowned speakers.
The BJCC is home to more than 200,000 square feet of exhibit halls, an array of meeting rooms and three entertainment venues including Legacy Arena, which is the state’s largest indoor event space. The BJCC campus also includes Alabama’s largest hotel in the 757-room Sheraton Birmingham, the 294-room Westin Birmingham Hotel and the Uptown District.
In late 2015, the BJCC Authority commissioned Kansas City firm Populous to update the master plan for the BJCC, focusing on improvements and enhancements to the complex including Legacy Arena. Many conceptual improvements were recommended, including updates to the exterior façade, improved entrances, improved flow of the concourse areas, enhanced food and beverage locations, a new suite level and club/VIP areas, and other amenities to improve the overall guest experience for sporting events, concerts and family-oriented programming.
Should plans move to execution, the extensive renovation would position the arena to expand its value to the community for years to come.