Art Clarkson sets goal of restoring glory days of the Birmingham Bulls

Art Clarkson sets goal of restoring glory days of the Birmingham Bulls
Art Clarkson gives an award to Bulls player Lancy Brady. (contributed)
Art Clarkson is all decked out in his old Birmingham Bulls cap and polo shirt. The former owner of the minor league hockey team wants to bring it back with play at the Legacy Arena at the BJCC. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

Art Clarkson wants to bring back the Birmingham Bulls, the professional hockey team he owned for six years in the 1990s that played at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

“I can go anywhere and people ask me, ‘When are you going to bring back the Bulls? When are you going to bring back the Bulls?’” Clarkson recounted. “Basically, I look at it almost as unfinished business.”

And he wants to do it now.

“If we don’t do it this year, I’m not doing it,” he said.

The former Bulls majority owner said he has a group of potential investors but declined to name them.

“I’ve got several people who do want ownership in it,” he said. “I don’t want to put their names out until we get a green light. But I’ve got four or five people who would like to invest in it.

“I don’t see myself as the main investor,” Clarkson added. “I don’t see myself as the majority owner of this one.”

Clarkson has visions of the new Bulls playing in the Southern Professional Hockey League. SPHL is a 10-team league that includes the Huntsville Havoc and franchises in Georgia (two), Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia, Arkansas, Indiana and Illinois.

League Commissioner Jim Combs confirmed that he and Clarkson have talked.

“Obviously, they need facility upgrades and any facility movement would have to happen very quickly,” Combs said of Clarkson’s wish to join the league for the 2017-18 season. “I haven’t seen that kind of movement yet, but we’ve had some initial discussions. It would be great if things could work out positively. It may be a little late at this time.”

 

Tad Snider, ‎executive director and chief executive officer of the BJCC, said he has talked with Clarkson about the possibility of hockey returning to the Birmingham market at Legacy Arena.

“Mr. Clarkson is aware appropriate due diligence will need to be performed by the BJCC based on information he will need to provide relative to any potential deal structure as well as scheduling and capital commitments required by the BJCC to facilitate the return of hockey,” Snider said in a prepared statement.

“While we’ve had initial conversations, there are many remaining steps in evaluating this opportunity, many of which are dependent on Mr. Clarkson,” Snider said.

Clarkson cites his track record as an owner of sports teams.

“I’ve had a successful baseball team. I’ve had a successful hockey team. I’ve had a successful arena football team up in Huntsville,” he said. “I’m not coming in here as an unknown in my own community.”

Clarkson also spent five years in Green Bay, Wisconsin, resurrecting the Green Bay Blizzard indoor football team from 2010 to 2015.

Art Clarkson holds a picture of a large crowd who turned out for a Birmingham Bulls hockey game about 20 years ago at what is now known as the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Clarkson wants to bring back the Bulls, with them playing at Legacy Arena at the BJCC. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

“My attitude is I’m not very good at a lot of things but I’m good at this,” he said. “Before I retire, I want to do this for my community and I want to do this for myself. If it’s passed me by, so be it, but I think we can do something for this city.”

Peggy Seibert was a member of the Bulls booster club in the ’90s and she’s enthusiastically hoping they return.

“I’ve been onboard with bringing them back since they left,” the Hoover resident said. “We had season tickets and I was president of the booster club for about five years and I also worked there in ticket sales.

“It was successful when Art had it, very successful,” Seibert said. “I just think it would be great.”

 

Related Stories