ComebackTown giving voice to the people of Birmingham and Alabama.
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Did he spoil Birmingham?
When the World Games ended last month, it seemed like Birmingham was the big winner.
Birmingham seemed to have closed out the World Games without a hitch.
Lots of positive PR.
Big pats on the back from political and business leaders.
Negative headlines hit.
“The World Games have a $14 million deficit.”
The deficit is actually bigger– $15,656,173 to be exact, with the possibility that some vendors, many of them local, will not be paid. (As of this writing, there is an attempt to make up for the lack)
This brings back memories of three years ago when the Birmingham Iron and The American Football League went bankrupt and many vendors were petrified.
Now there is the expected negative chatter on social media throwing at Birmingham.
Some commentators are reinforcing the historical negatives that Birmingham cannot properly understand.
Was the organization of the World Games a mistake?
The answer is, it depends.
It depends on our reaction and our reaction.
When the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce visited Charlotte in 2004 to learn about Charlotte’s successes, we were told about the gamble made by Charlotte’s elected officials in the 1970s to invest large sums of money in Charlotte’s airport. It took a while for the airport to arrive and many of the politicians were voted out of office. However, because of that gamble, Charlotte became a major airport hub that contributed significantly to Charlotte’s growth and prosperity.
Many of our community leaders have complained for years that our unwillingness to take risks is why Birmingham has not progressed as expected.
Most business owners understand that if you want to be successful, you need to make some strategic plays.
Sometimes these gambles pay off – sometimes they don’t. The goal is to cut losses as quickly as possible and build on successes.
Birmingham debated for years whether to build a new football stadium. Finally, in 2021, the Defense Stadium was opened. The Protective now hosts home games for the UAB Blazers, Birmingham Legion FC football, as well as the annual Birmingham Bowl. Birmingham Bowl 2021 was a huge sellout. Every third year the stadium hosts the AHSAA “Super Seven” high school football championship.
The USFL played most of its 2022 games at the stadium, and the Protective hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2022 World Games. Garth Brooks performed in a wildly successful performance at the Protective, and great concerts are likely to follow.
None of this would have happened if Birmingham hadn’t taken the risk to build a new stadium.
Taking advantage of this learning experience
Our World Games were a huge success! We’ve never done anything like this before and we pulled it off.
Birmingham is a city with a population of less than 200,000 – with a metro area of 1.1 million people. The 2025 World Games will be played in Chengdu, China, a city of more than 16 million people.
Ron Froehlich, a Birmingham resident who has worked at every World Games since 1981 and global president of the World Games for 25 years, noted that The World Games depend on national government support. Froehlich said he’s not surprised Birmingham has struggled financially. Germany, England and all other countries funded their host cities. Birmingham raised $30 million from sponsors – ten times more than previous World Games cities combined, but received zero federal dollars.
The World Games opened our eyes to the progress Birmingham has made. Venues like Protective Stadium, the newly remodeled Legacy Arena, the stunning CrossPlex; the new creative City Walk BHAM, located under the brightly lit I-59/20; and the newly lit historic Sloss Furnaces received a facelift.
Birmingham’s leaders collaborated with each other…politicians, corporations and universities.
Jefferson County and Birmingham along with 15 other cities sent officers, patrol cars and equipment. Even the state of Alabama shared 91 state troopers.
We have discussed regionalism for years – but this was regionalism in action.
Now is not the time for negativity.
Let’s grab our big win and run with it.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. He is a past chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham) and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
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