December 09, 2015

Birmingham’s newest sports venue, BBVA Compass Field at UAB, officially debuts

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Officials from BBVA Compass and the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Wednesday officially debuted the city’s newest sports venue, BBVA Compass Field, and marked the start of its final phase of construction by having an MLS midfielder lead students from Glen Iris Elementary through drills on the Blazers’ pristine soccer pitch.

The field, named in honor of the BBVA Compass Foundation’s $1.5 million gift to the university, recently saw its first competition: The UAB women’s and men’s teams played their final home matches of the season on the field on Oct. 30 and Nov. 7, respectively. On Wednesday, media and other members of the community at large were given a close-up look at the now game-ready playing surface, while the Houston Dynamo’s Rob Lovejoy joined UAB soccer players and coaches to teach soccer fundamentals to the students of Glen Iris.

“We’ve long recognized UAB’s importance to the economic and cultural future of Birmingham, and we’re proud to stand here today at BBVA Compass Field,” said BBVA Compass Chairman and CEO Manolo Sánchez, who was on hand for Wednesday’s event. “It will showcase one of the world’s most popular sports and serve as a gathering place for everyone in UAB’s diverse community. Our goal is to contribute in whatever way we can to the momentum that’s pushing UAB and Birmingham to such tremendous heights.”

With the playing surface in place, the next phase of construction will include the stadium structure.

bbva soccer kidsThe Houston Dynamo’s Rob Lovejoy joined UAB soccer players and coaches to teach soccer fundamentals to the students of Glen Iris.“We are excited that our teams have already been able to play a game at the site of their future home, and we look forward to a bright future for BBVA Compass Field and UAB Soccer,” said UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram. “We are grateful for the generosity BBVA Compass has shown that gave life to this project and are excited to recognize and celebrate their continued support today.”

Located south of University Boulevard just east of I-65, BBVA Compass Field will be the first impression visitors have as they enter campus from I-65.

“The community and UAB are connected in mutual support and growth like never before,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “I am proud this facility and the BBVA Compass name will welcome students, faculty and staff, patients and guests to our campus.”

BBVA Compass has a strong record of engaging with the communities it serves through the global sport of soccer. BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston is the home of the Houston Dynamo. The two organizations have been working together since 2012 to help boost Houston’s burgeoning East End as part of their joint “Building a Better Houston” initiative.

Birmingham itself is no stranger to soccer. The city had the highest ESPN audience in the country for the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match between the United States and Mexico, according to socceramerica.com, at almost twice the national viewership average. The city was also among the top 18 U.S. markets in television ratings records during the 2014 World Cup. Last summer, more than an estimated 35,000 fans attended the U.S. Women’s National Team’s match at Legion Field.

Under the leadership of UAB Men’s Head Coach Mike Getman, the UAB men’s team has won six Conference USA titles and made seven NCAA appearances.

“Recruits will know they are joining a program that is first class, and that the university and our community support the team,” Getman said. “We have already seen benefits in recruiting.”

Head Women’s Coach Harold Warren helped coach the University of Southern California to a National Championship in 2007.

“The new facility will help make UAB a top contender when putting in bids to host Conference USA and the first round of the NCCA tournament,” Warren said. “The ability to attract ACC, Big 12 and Big 10 schools for play helps the program’s competitive growth.”

UAB coaches and players joined the celebration.