Council says stadium will bring more economic growth opportunities, some citizens oppose

Council says stadium will bring more economic growth opportunities, some citizens oppose
(Source: BJCC)

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A big day for backers of a new stadium and expansion of the BJCC.

The $174 million dollar, up to 55-thousand seats stadium would be built next to the BJCC. The commitment is part of a major renovation plan for the convention complex.

Mayor Randall Woodfin campaigned on putting neighborhoods first. The mayor told the council he believes this is a major economic development project which will lead to more revenue for the city to invest in communities, roads and schools.

Critics urged the council to spend the money first on those projects before the stadium and BJCC. The head of the BJCC says the projects will lead to neighborhood investment.

"The stadium is one piece of the puzzle that developers who are interested in that area keep looking at. As all of that finalizes, there will be additional development around that," Tad Snider, Executive Director of the BJCC said.

The vote was 7-0-1. The one vote was an absentee by councilwoman Lashunda Scales.

Lashunda Scales stated, "I would ask for there to be a referendum of the people so the people can have input. This is the kind of money being invested in any project. Not just this project but any project of the city."

A second vote will have to take place to approve the funding. The clock is ticking. Interest rates could go up which could cost the city millions of dollars if they delay. The county has mandated that groundbreaking has to take place this year or they walk away from the project.

Others spoke out against the project.

"What we want is hope back in our neighborhood. The only way to bring hope back is to bring money back," Robert Walker with Wahowma Neighborhood Association said.

Some parents are worried about the impact on their children's education.

"We got good kids in this school system. They need a lot more things to do after school, during school, before school. They need something different. Put the money to education," Tammie Smith of North Birmingham said.

Others believe the city may not need to spend money on a new stadium.

"Legion Field, regardless of how much work that needs to be done, let's take care of that first. Then the surrounding area," Gwendolyn Cook Webb with Foot Soldiers International said.

These groups and others plan to continue to speak out against the stadium until the council's final funding vote which has not been set.

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