IMG 0333Ceremonial digging during the groundbreaking of the football operations building. Photo by Spencer PortisTamara Imam - Managing Editor

Monday, Aug. 29, the first day of classes for the fall semester, coincided with the groundbreaking of the new football operations building and the ushering in of a new era for UAB.

Less than two years after the dismantling and subsequent revival of the football program, around 500 people gathered at the site of the existing football building on the corner of University Boulevard and 11th Street to celebrate the future of the football program. In addition to students, student-athletes, faculty and UAB fans, the president pro tempore of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees among other trustees, former UAB president and the founder of the football program Scotty McCallum and the late Gene Bartow’s wife Ruth Bartow were in attendance.

The ceremony kicked off with a performance by the Marching Blazers on the football practice field, which was lined with green-and-gold-adorned shovels in the ground.

President Ray Watts delivered the opening remarks, thanking both the UAB and Birmingham community and the Board of Trustees.

“In the last year our community has come together to provide more support for UAB athletics than we’ve ever had in our history and we cannot thank you all enough,” Watts said. “This has been an unprecedented community engagement activity. The community across all of UAB and across Birmingham and across the state.”

According to Athletic Director Mark Ingram, the facility, which he anticipates to be “one of the most efficient facilities of its kind in the country,” was designed by local architects Goodwyn Mills & Cawood in conjunction with Kansas City architects HOK.

“We’ve had — or I’ve had — other athletic directors, more than I can think of off the top of my head, who’ve seen the design and are calling to ask how did we come up with this,” Ingram said.

Ingram also noted that M.J. Harris Construction, the contractors tasked with the project, has assured him that the facility will be completed both on time — by next summer — and under budget. The 46,000 square foot building will be equipped with a locker room, training room, meeting rooms, offices, a weight room and an attached covered field, which will be known as Legacy Pavilion.

Ingram believes that the addition of the operations building will give the football program an unprecedented edge when it comes to training.

“This facility is going to be a tremendous advantage to our teams so that we can practice in inclement weather,” Ingram said. “This is something that we’ve not had before and I know that it’ll be special to everybody and certainly football. This program has been given a second chance and this facility indicates that we’re making the most of it.”

Head Coach Bill Clark, chair of the UAB Athletic Campaign Committee Hatton Smith and CEO of Legacy Community Federal Credit Union Joe McGee also gave remarks at the ceremony.

“Right across town we’re gonna be looking for something else real soon too,” Clark said in a nod to the future football stadium in Uptown.

“While we’re just breaking ground today, we will soon see tangible evidence of our progress. The impact that this facility has on recruiting for UAB is immeasurable,” McGee said. “Let’s just be honest, some of these high school athletes are coming from facilities that are superior to what exists here today. But today that changes.”

Following the opening remarks, several members of the UAB Athletics Campaign Committee among others put on gold hard hats and headed to the practice field to participate in the ceremonial dig. Former football players also participated, digging up the dirt of the field they once practiced on.

“It’s going be a new era so to speak. It’s gonna be a new step for athletics at large,” Provost Linda Lucas, Ph.D. said. “I think getting football back is going to be a step up for us… and someday when that stadium is built in Uptown I think we ought to have dragon prints down 20th Street.”

Libby Yon, a nursing student, is looking forward to the addition of the new facility. 

“Living in the south, football is not just a game, but for many, a way of life. So with the addition of the new football center, students and residents around downtown Birmingham will have more opportunities to attend football games to cheer on [the team with] friends and family,” Yon said. “I am excited for this football season because I believe that these games will help our community to come together and strengthen bonds between athletes, students, and even family. Plus, with the urbanization of the downtown Birmingham area, I think the new football center will continue to add to the growing charm of The Magic City.”


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