The Birmingham Bulls are back, although the team will play in Pelham.
General partner Art Clarkson announced at a Wednesday press conference at the Pelham Civic Complex that professional hockey will return to the metro Birmingham area and the ice at Pelham will be its home.
The latest edition of the Bulls will play this fall in the Southern Professional Hockey League, which approved the new franchise Tuesday.
“It’ll be a 28-game home schedule, 56 games home and away,” Clarkson said. “We will start the last week of October and we will finish (the regular season) the first week of April. Then we’ll have the playoffs and win the championship next year.”
The man who is making his second stint as owner of a professional hockey team in this market said he and others – especially officials in Pelham – have worked hard the past year to make this happen.
“Now we will work harder to be an asset to the greater Birmingham area,” Clarkson said.
Pelham Mayor Gary Waters said the city “stuck our toe in the water” three years ago but said things weren’t right for a move into pro hockey. Now, he says, the time is right.
“We know we can provide for them to be competitive in all areas,” he said.
The mayor said upgrades to Pelham Civic Complex will begin soon. Those upgrades will be done in phases, he said.
“We’re behind the curve slightly on the infrastructure improvements but we know what they are,” Waters said. “We’re going to expedite the process.”
The plan is to increase capacity in the main rink from 3,000 to about 5,000.
The announcement drew an excited group of fans of the 1970s team and resurgent 1990s squad. Eli Gold, the voice of University of Alabama football, was in that number; he originally came to Alabama as the voice of the first group of Bulls.
He left the 2017 press conference with a set of season tickets.
Joe DeLeonard was another Birmingham hockey fan in attendance. He had camp information, schedules and a banner from the old days of the Bulls.
Tony Berenotto was also there. He remembers going to Bulls games 17 years ago with his son, Joshua, who was 10 then. Father and son wouldn’t miss the announcement of the return.
“He’s pretty pumped about this,” Berenotto said of his son, “and so am I.”
Clarkson said he hopes to have the schedule in place in a month or so. Other stockholders are Jeff Tenner, Kevin Guy, Chris Early, Mike Stockard, Randy Brown, Kurt Dinga, John Higgins and Adam Rubin.
Fans weren’t waiting for that schedule, or a seating chart to reflect the revamped arena. Clarkson and his staff of two were busy on the phone, fielding calls for season tickets.
For tickets, call 205-620-6870.