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A look at the revamped Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex

There was no ribbon-cutting during the reopening of Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

And why would there be? You don’t generally cut a ribbon at a housewarming. That as much as anything is what was celebrated Thursday morning as dignitaries who joined to bring the rebirth of the decades-old facility came to celebrate the early Christmas present they and all of metro Birmingham have received.

“Most people in our community have experienced some kind of … they’ve got a memory of an event here, a memory of something that was special to them,” said Tad Snider, executive director and chief executive officer of the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center Authority. “In this push running up to Sunday night’s first basketball game, it is welcoming everybody back to somewhere they’re familiar with, back to their house.”

Rebirth of Birmingham’s Legacy Arena from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The Birmingham Squadron, the G League affiliate of the National Basketball Association’s New Orleans Pelicans, will open its home slate of games in Legacy Arena at 5 p.m. Sunday. They will be the latest in a long and amazing list of artists and entertainers who have performed at Legacy Arena.

Dolly Parton, Drake, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, Rihanna, Elton John, John Denver, KISS, AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Journey, Taylor Swift, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Jay-Z and Britney Spears are just some of the top-flight acts who have taken centerstage.

Cornell Wesley, director of the city of Birmingham’s Department of Innovation and Economic Development, used his turn at the microphone to speak to national promoters of today’s marquee acts, telling them they, too, are welcome.

“Bring us Adele. Bring us Beyoncé. Bring us Jazmine Sullivan,” he said, prompting some “amens” from the audience. “Bring them here to Birmingham. We’re positioned and we’re ready to receive.”

The event celebrated the completion of Legacy Arena’s $123 million, 20-month comprehensive modernization and renovation.

Legacy Arena opened Sept. 26, 1976. Known initially as the BJCC Coliseum, the opening act was John Denver, performing in concert on Nov. 19, 1976.

“When it was designed in the early 1970s, the vision for the arena was to transform Birmingham’s entertainment options, making us a destination for popular musical acts, productions and sports. It achieved that in spades,” Snider said. “This is, literally, the place of memories. Today we’re proud to begin Legacy Arena’s second act.”

Features of Legacy Arena include:

  • 15,030 fixed-seat capacity.
  • Center-hung high-definition videoboard with active lower ring.
  • 360-degree LED display ribbon board.
  • Full lighting systems upgrade.
  • 48 concession windows.
  • 12 suites, two clubs.
  • 156 women’s lavatories, 123 men’s lavatories, four family lavatories.
  • Three nursing mothers’ rooms.
  • Kulture City sensory room.
  • 11,500 off-street parking spaces within a 10-minute walk.
  • Four locker rooms.
  • Two artists’ suites and a crew catering area.

WHAT’S NEW?

  • Southwest entry plaza with floor-to-ceiling windows, creating a feeling of space and light.
  • New seating with modern comfort, expanded leg room and spacing.
  • 360-degree LED ribbon board display with 767 feet of active display.
  • Comprehensive LED lighting system upgrade with next-level capabilities, from full-spectrum color flooding to custom effects.
  • Expanded loading dock with seven bays instead of two.

Dennis Lathem, chairman of the BJCC Authority board of directors, said it’s appropriate that the reopening of Legacy Arena comes when Birmingham is marking the 150th anniversary of its incorporation as a city.

“Work on the BJCC complex began right around the 100th anniversary back in 1971,” Lathem said. “Since that time, municipal leaders and the corporate community have collaborated here to create opportunity. Legacy Arena’s renovation is a strong example of that, honoring those community leaders who first gathered in the ‘70s to cast a vision for what this place could mean to the people who live here.”

SCHEDULED EVENTS

  • December 2021 – March 2022 Birmingham Squadron.
  • March 8, 2022 – Billie Eilish concert.
  • March 25, 2022 – Eric Church concert.
  • July 2022 – The World Games dancesport and gymnastics.
  • 2023 – NCAA men’s basketball tournament, Rounds 1 and 2.
  • 2025 – NCAA women’s basketball tournament, Sweet 16 and Elite 8.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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