Protective gift jump-starts fundraising for new football facility

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Birmingham-based Protective Life has committed $500,000 — the first and largest corporate gift to the UAB Athletic Foundation — to support construction of the proposed $15 million Football Operations Building. It is expected to house office space, meeting and film rooms, athletic training facilities, locker rooms and a weight room.

Johns“When the future of UAB Football was in question, the Birmingham business community, recognizing the importance of UAB athletics to the renewal of Birmingham, stepped up and provided the funding needed to keep the program alive,” said Johnny Johns, Protective CEO and University of Alabama System Trustee. “But the job isn’t finished. UAB Football cannot reach its potential without quality facilities for coaches and players. That is why community support for the Football Operations Building project is so important. We hope our gift will encourage others to do what is necessary to ensure that UAB Football can be successful and sustainable in the future.”

The University of Alabama System Board of Trustees expedited the first two stages of the necessary approvals in February. Since that time, UAB Athletics has been advancing the building design with architects and soliciting private donations to support the project. Once the design is completed and approved by the board, bids for the construction can be solicited and approved, and work can begin.

"UAB Athletics has more momentum and financial support than ever," said UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram. "Our donors — old and new, including UAB undergraduates who voted in favor of a new self-imposed athletic student fee last fall — continue to support us at unprecedented levels."    

“ We hope our gift will encourage others to do what is necessary to ensure that UAB Football can be successful and sustainable in the future.”

The two primary UAB Athletic Foundation philanthropic campaigns include the $15 million campaign to build the Football Operations Building and Finish the Drive, which continues to collect the $17.2 million in pledges made to support operational costs associated with the reinstatement of football, bowling and rifle.

"Our donors have made tremendous progress toward our Finish the Drive goal," Ingram said. "As we focus on facilities, Protective Life's generous gift has given us early momentum. We are grateful that trustee Johns and Protective Life believe in our vision for sustained excellence in UAB Athletics. We would like a first-class facility up and running as soon as possible, and gifts like this one make us very optimistic that meeting our aggressive timeline is possible."

UAB Football will return to competition in 2017, and Ingram says it is the department's goal to have the Football Operations Building operational by that time.

UAB Football Coach Bill Clark, who signed a top Conference USA recruiting class in February and recently completed 2016 spring practice, says the importance of this facility to the future of UAB Football cannot be overstated. 

"We already have excitement in and around the program and are working hard toward 2017," Clark said. "Watching shovels hit the dirt and steel come out of the ground will boost the energy even more — in our recruiting, on the practice field, in the meeting room and in the weight room. Our return is very real, and this facility is a tangible symbol that we are coming back to be stronger than ever."

UAB Athletics Foundation board member and ARC Realty Chairman Tommy Brigham has played a key role in securing donations among a diverse group of businesses and individuals, and he has been active in developing new relationships for UAB Athletics while enhancing existing ones.

"This community is investing in UAB Football like never before, and we are making great strides in all of our fundraising efforts," Brigham said. "This gift will be the first of many significant contributions to the Football Operations Building that will propel UAB Football to new heights and, most important, be a big part of the continuing renaissance taking place in the City of Birmingham."