Does UAB really need a new stadium?

By on September 28, 2011
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Driving around Birmingham, I spot my favorite billboard. Big, white block letters framed by UAB green proclaim, “Our nationally ranked team wears scrubs.” As I pass by it, a twinge of pride passes through me as I envision the brightest doctors and nurses around gearing up every day to fight and win against disease.

However, it’s not just the high-caliber medical staff that makes UAB a champion in this field; it’s also the university’s continued investment in the sciences that really makes this possible. So to hear that there are plans to spend 75 million dollars on a new home football stadium strikes me as a gross deviation from what has made UAB great.

Though UAB’s graduate schools are ranked among the highest in the country, the same cannot be said about UAB’s football team or stadium. Legion Field now stands as an antiquated relic. Built in the roaring 20’s, our aging home turf feels gigantic when hosting UAB games. Every year the 71,000-seat stadium fails to beckon ever reticent Birminghamians to satisfy their enthusiasm for football.

It does not help that Alabama is a hot bed for great football, with the SEC titans Alabama and Auburn capturing the attention of most. Or that UAB’s Conference USA team continues to post dismal losses like last week’s embarrassing 49-10 loss to Tulane. Or that local sports reporters like Doug Segrest remark that all we seem to do is “flounder with fundamentals.”

The solution to our football woes, according to Dr. Garrison and the Board of Directors, is to build a new stadium on UAB’s campus. This 75 million dollar project hopes to create a venue more conducive to student participation instead of having bothersome shuttle runs from campus to Legion Field.

So far, the Board and Dr. Garrison have high hopes for this initiative, and the current economy with its low construction costs and favorable interest rates provides an ideal time to begin the project.

One important note of dissent came from trustee Joseph Espy, who emphasized the importance of student support for the initiative. Espy cautioned, “I want to look at how much student involvement we have. That is a key factor in moving this forward. Are the students willing to participate and use the facility?”

Epsy’s concerns are right on the mark. If the students never show up, spending millions of dollars on a new football stadium will seem foolhardy at best. I encourage the Board to look at student involvement in other athletics as well. How often are soccer games well attended on campus?

Take Bartow Arena, for example. Despite having a more competitive basketball team, student attendance is moderate at best unless the Blazers are playing a rival like Tennessee. In light of the dearth of student participation at UAB sporting events, spending all of these dollars on a stadium is likely a million dollar mistake.

I disagree with John McMahon, Chairman of the Athletics Committee, who says, “It’s a great time to build a project (because) construction costs are very low.”

If plans for the stadium are in such an early stage, it troubles me that contract negotiations have become such a large component of the process.

Although cost is important, the student body and I entrust that Dr. Garrison will focus instead on the necessity of another stadium and the importance of keeping our scrubs-wearing champions on top.

Majaliwa Mzombwe
Staff writer
maja@uab.edu

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  • Andrewv

    This article is so missguided its not even funny.

  • Nick Price

    Great write up and argument. Why not build up the reputation of the academics…maybe even work on rounding out the science power house with a stronger humanities base…

    • Josh, class of 1999

      Because, like it or not stronger academics do not and will not ever provide the enormous amounts of advertising and promotion of the university as a whole as a football program does. Interest from recruits has increased exponentially since rumors of the stadium were made public. A stadium can indeed be the spark that lights the blaze.

      Perhaps the writer should read “New Lights in the Valley” and discover that athletics (including football) were discussed as far back as the very beginning as an independent campus in the regressive U of A System. The first public discussions occurred in the early 1980s…almost a decade before a team took the field. Building a program the right way without falling into the pit of rule skirting and backroom dealings that has sadly become tradition at the two football powerhouses in the state takes time. UAB football is just now entering adolescence and deserves the tools to grow its full potential. FOX Sports just this week called UAB football “a diamond in the rough…”

      I truly hope this student writer is not going into any research related field because he/she must subscribe to the instant gratification club that is seemingly so prevalent today. Anything worth doing deserves the tools and support to accomplish their goals. If this writer had been around in the 1950s and 1960s as UAB was trying to emerge from its branch status, the subject of this article would have likely been on the subject of UAB spending millions of dollars to buy up many square blocks that now comprise the center of the academic campus. Surely at that point the six blocks surrounding the hospital should have been enough.

      UAB was built by progressive forward, outside of the box thinkers. They understood there are certain things any university must have to be considered as a top level university. Research, academics and athletics are all crucial tools in this day and age. As Dr Volker stated, “We would do Birmingham a great disservice if we dreamed too-little dreams.” That statement is the credo of this great university. Are we going to stop dreaming now? That would be a shame and a disservice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nick-Turner/1128901253 Nick Turner

    “So to hear that there are plans to spend 75 million dollars on a new home football stadium strikes me as a gross deviation from what has made UAB great”

    Meaning that UAB can only be great at one thing? Last time I checked was a good thing to be diverse. The medical progams at UAB are obviously important, as should be noted by how much funding is currently allocated from sources both internally and externally related to the school. UAB has done many fantastic things for the city of Birmingham, why does it have to stop at medical? It’s a gross deviation to want to increase the visibility and access to other areas of interest to other people, both students and non students, concerning UAB? To me this sounds like you do not have ANY idea as to what UAB has gone through with athletic trials and tribulations. You seem to not have a grasp on the reality of the struggles UAB has gone through just to even have sports teams and attempt to be successful.

    “It does not help that Alabama is a hot bed for great football, with the SEC titans Alabama and Auburn capturing the attention of most.”

    That attitude sounds like you are a FAN of Alabama or Auburn football…not UAB football…I do not know this to be true, but if that is the case, your opinion about UAB football would obviously be not in favor of UAB as the bias would be slated to favor Alabama or Auburn football…and if that is the case, why on earth would you write an article about UAB football in the first place???? (the answer to that is either for self interest or to promote an Alabama or Auburn agenda) First …your assumed Alabama or Auburn football interest has no place or relevance to UAB football…

    “One important note of dissent came from trustee Joseph Espy, who emphasized the importance of student support for the initiative. Espy cautioned, “I want to look at how much student involvement we have. That is a key factor in moving this forward. Are the students willing to participate and use the facility?”
    Epsy’s concerns are right on the mark. If the students never show up, spending millions of dollars on a new footbakk stadium will seem foolhardy at best. I encourage the Board to look at student involvement in other athletics as well. How often are soccer games well attended on campus?”

    The idea to look into other athletic programs and the amount of student participation is great…however, it must be noted that your comparison of soccer to football is quite funny. You know as much as the next guy that in the USA, soccer is not nearly as popular by comparison. Frankly, the attendance has been on the constant uprise as student housing has started to develop. Remember that UAB for quite some time was a commuter university…meaning that most students lived off campus.

    “Take Bartow Arena, for example. Despite having a more competitive basketball team, student attendance is moderate at best unless the Blazers are playing a rival like Tennessee”

    The UAB Blazers, in effect, started their entire athletics program with the creation of a men’s basketball team in 1978. Setting the standards high from the start, UAB hired former UCLA, University of Illinois and Memphis head coach Gene Bartow. Known to many as the “Father of UAB athletics”, Bartow led the Blazers to almost instant success. In 2004, the school once again gained national attention when it upset No. 1-seeded Kentucky in the second round of the tournament and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. Since their inaugural season, the Blazers have made 15 appearances in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament including 3 Sweet Sixteen appearances and 1 Elite Eight appearance. UAB has also appeared in the NIT a total of 11 times, including 2 appearances in the NIT Final Four.

    After only 34 years of basketball, UAB has had 31 winning seasons including memorable wins over Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville, Alabama, Florida, Villanova, Indiana, and Memphis, among others. The Blazers have amassed an impressive 664 wins to only 385 losses since 1978 giving UAB one of the best all-time winning percentages in college basketball. The UAB men’s basketball team has been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll many times in school history and as recently as 2010. UAB has been ranked as high as #9 in the nation. Up until the early 1990s, UAB played its home games at the Birmingham–Jefferson Convention Complex. Today, UAB plays its home basketball games in Bartow Arena where the Blazers have won more than 80 percent of its games. The current head coach, Mike Davis, was named head coach of the Blazers in the spring of 2006 and became just the fourth head coach in UAB basketball history

    Get your facts straight…maybe your “BAMA” vision was clouded at the time of writing the article..but nowhere…and I mean nowhere…does it say or is it written down that TENNESSEE is a rival of UAB basketball…seriously bad reporting.
    My father graduated from UAB in the late 70’s. He has been and always will be the biggest UAB Blazer I know. His dedication, love, and attitude displayed for UAB athletics is no joke. He and many people just like him, have fought long and hard to get this stadium. I was lucky enough to witness Gene Bartow coach. There are community colleges around the country that have football stadiums. I went to one. For someone to support only specific division of the school and not the whole school as an entity is kind of strange. I feel that your lack of understanding, lack of enthusiasim, and general mis-guided testimony of facts, for UAB athletics shows exactly why UAB struggles in athletics. Legion field might be a dump now, but it is not due to UAB…we can blame ALABAMA football for that. To be honest, the low attendance to UAB football games is due to the poor facilities that we as UAB are somewhat happy to have. If we did not have Legion, where would we play?!!! If a safer environment was provided, you will see a higher attendance by students (because it is colse to the majority of on campus student housing), families (as there will not be a constant fear of crime, as well as an increase in business as would be natural by the increase of people to the area.

    I am tired of UAB athletics not being given a chance to prosper. It is time to advance UAB in all areas possible, not just to focus on the great aspect and put everything else on the back burners. That is not what an institute of our caliber should succomb to. So I say,

    “GO BLAZERS!!!!”

    Nick Turner
    nicholasrajeshturner@gmail.com

  • David

    Wow…

    The writer of this article is way off base. To speak of something with such conviction yet likely never having attended a UAB athletic event yourself is bold to say the least.

    1) Tennessee is not a rival. If you actually followed UAB sports or had any knowledge about the situation, you would know our 2 primary rivals are Memphis and Southern Miss.

    2) You bring up soccer attendance at UAB as if to make a point about lack of support. UAB soccer has been near the Top 15 in soccer attendance nationally.

    3) What on earth about building up and strengthening our football program (and athletics as a whole) detracts from the medical and research focus of the university? The implication that we can’t do well at both flies in the face of reason, namely because the 2 are not closely related. But if in fact you want to make the argument that they’re connected, stronger athletics actually helps improve the academic mission of universities.

    Some of the brightest students, faculty, and researchers indeed LIKE sports. If you build something in athletics that appeals to them in combination with solid research facilities, you stand a VERY good shot of bringing in that intellectual talent to UAB. Successful athletics is also about as good of advertising as you can get. A successful UAB athletics department gets the UAB name out into mainstream America much quicker than discoveries and research published in Nature or the New England Journal of Medicine.

    I understand this would seem to be an editorial piece of sorts, but let’s try to stick to the facts first of all. And secondly, let’s try to be a little insightful rather than pushing the anti-UAB athletics rhetoric that quite frankly no one except the misguided actually buy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tyler-Cantrell/20514653 Tyler Cantrell

    I understand your view point on not thinking a football stadium is necessary. But if you are going to make an argument at least get your facts straight. Spelling football correctly would be a start but the UAB men’s basketball team have never played Tennessee at Bartow Arena, so I’m not sure how they are a rival. You really need to do more research on where they money for the stadium would be coming from. I promise you it wouldn’t affect a penny of money that is going to the medical school. The money is coming from stadium naming rights, suites and Luxury boxes (mostly purchased by private Bham companies who need UAB football to succeed), and private donations (some are coming in from your doctor friends). Every dollar invested in UAB returns $16 on average. That is mostly the medical field and they would never suffer because of the football stadium. Articles like this are why I have never really taken the Kscope seriously. The advancement of the football team is not vital to the medical school. There can be no mistake though that the advancement of football is critical to the advancement to the regular education side of UAB. I encourage you to study UCF and what has happened with their stadium. They are averaging more fans and making more money as a result of there stadium. Not to mention there entire university has gotten increased exposure from their improved football team.

  • Jason

    When did we let ratards write for the UAB newspaper?

    • Guest

      Those dang “ratards”. Is that retarded rat? Someone help me please!

      • Guest

        The Hangover

  • Ryan

    You should learn who UAB’s rivals are before you write for the school newspaper, go back to math class.

  • Guest

    The misguided opinion aside, Kscope needs an editor because we are not building a footbakk stadium.

  • Clint

    Do the staff writers not have a staff editor that reads these things before they get posted? When did Tennessee become a rival, and when is the last time the Vols were in Bartow Arena? I’ll keep my complaining to facts and leave the grammar alone.

    There’s a reason that the Kaleidoscope has gone from a really good student publication to an embarrassment.

    I guess there are too many champions wearing scrubs to bother giving any champions a pen, a computer or a staff writing position.

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