Birmingham holds ceremonial groundbreaking for dome

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham's domed stadium took a major step towards becoming a reality

on Tuesday. Mayor Larry Langford as well as state and local lawmakers broke ground at the site of the $530 million project.

The city council voted last week to pay $8 million dollars to begin design work on the project. Mother Nature didn't cooperate with the grand plan for this groundbreaking when high winds blew over a big banner that was meant to be a backdrop for the groundbreaking. But after 16 years of talking about a project like this, Mayor Langford, former Mayor Arrington, and state and local officials pressed ahead with a vision of what they say will be a major economic engine.

"We're going to grow, we're going to become the city we should've become, and we're not gonna apologize to anybody for anything," Langford said.

"We don't have a choice, once we made this first step in saying let's put the design together, there was no turning back," City Council President Carole Smitherman said. "Does this mean we won't argue anymore? Yes we will. But out of that argument we'll have a facility that we can be proud of."

The project is projected to cost $530 million and take more than 5 years to build. Langford and the BJCC say the economic impact could be in the billions and it may create 8,000 jobs during construction.

But the project has its detractors, and a group of them showed up across the street to try and shout down the mayor with shouts of "shame on you" and "go to jail."

"This is a waste of taxpayer money," protester Ian Hoppe said. "If you can show me a dome anywhere in this country that makes money, I would be very impressed. This is ridiculous. Larry Langford has run so many things into the ground, and this is just one of those."

"I hope one day they will come to understand that in order to grow, a city has to invest in itself," Langford replied. "We don't always have to agree, but it's a done project now. That being the case, I want to invite them personally to come see when it opens what they were opposed to, and i think it will change their minds."

BJCC officials say it will be 1-2 years before they are ready to sell the bonds needed to finance this project.

Those bonds will be paid by the increase in business license fees passed last year by the city

council.