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Birmingham Squadron takes flight to rave reviews in first home game at Legacy Arena

Birmingham tipped off a new sports experience Sunday night and fans made it clear they are hungry for more.

An announced crowd of 4,872 turned out at the revamped Legacy Arena to see the first home game of the Birmingham Squadron, the G League affiliate of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

That crowd made itself apparent from the beginning, waving the white Squadron towels they were given as they filed in through the new glass doors at the south end of the building.

They whooped. They hollered. They clapped. They cheered. And their contributions to the atmosphere didn’t go unnoticed.

“It was great,” said John Petty Jr., the former University of Alabama standout who came off the bench. “A lot of people showed up. The energy was great in the new arena. Everything about it was just fun.

“Sadly, we didn’t pick up the W,” Petty said of Birmingham’s 123-114 loss to Mexico City, “but there are plenty more here and we’re ready to come back and work again.”

Fans made it clear they’ll be along for the ride.

Mitchell June of Hoover sat in the stands behind the Squadron bench. He and his wife, LaTonya, bought single-game tickets for themselves and their eighth grade son, Mellow, to try it out, and they liked what they saw.

“It’s fantastic,” June said. “This gives you the feel of a real basketball arena. I’ve gone to the (Atlanta) Hawks‘ arena and you get the same feel. The lights are bright. It’s beautiful, it’s clean and it feels like a real NBA arena. I like the concessions and like the environment. It’s really nice.”

Birmingham Squadron holds inaugural home opener in renovated Legacy Arena from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Nearby, 18-year-old Josh Stalcup rooted for the home team with an unbridled passion. He ranks the Legacy experience with the Squadron on par with an NBA game he attended.

“I went to a Golden State game earlier this year,” he said. “This is just as good. This is just as good. The atmosphere is great. I love the team. It’s incredible.”

Troy Whetstone and his wife, Jeanisha, were seated on floor level with their children, 5-year-old Peyton and 10-month-old Pryce. They are big supporters of the parent Pelicans and travel every year with a large group to see them play.

“When we heard that they would have a G League team in Birmingham, we called up our rep and we signed up for season tickets here for Birmingham since we live in Birmingham,” the Bush Hills resident said. “We got a good deal courtside. We’re here and we’re lovin’ it.”

Homewood’s Benjamin Jones was floor level next to the Squadron bench. He was joined by his wife, Taylor, and their children – Ben, Caroline and Catherine.

“We just really enjoy local sports and it’s great to have a professional basketball team in Birmingham,” he said. “We just wanted to see these guys, some of whom are local – Jared Harper and John Petty – just to cheer on the local guys and have a great basketball team in Birmingham.”

Attorney Courtney French bought season tickets on floor level for his wife and family, his mother and his sister. He summed up the experience as “incredible.”

“We are here having a wonderful time in this beautiful new arena that’s been renovated, Legacy Arena,” he said. “To have an NBA G League team here in Birmingham is just amazing. It’s a great family event.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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