The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

16 hours ago

Auburn’s David Housel tackles more than sports in ‘From the Backbooth at Chappy’s’

(David Housel/Contributed)

When David Housel retired from Auburn University in 2006, after a legendary career as athletics director for the Tigers, it wasn’t long before his wife urged him to get busy again – and a deli on Glenn Avenue in Auburn was the beneficiary.

“Susan wanted me to do something to get out of the house,” Housel recalls. “I started going to Chappy’s to drink coffee, read the paper. Pretty soon, Kenny Howard would meet me there, and it just kind of grew from there.”

In short order, friends of Housel began to gather, first a few one day a week and then, just prior to the pandemic, 12-16 people nearly every day of the week.

They meet at Chappy’s, where a plaque commemorates Housel’s booth, and they talk – about sports, of course, but about pretty much anything that’s on their minds.

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Housel began to write essays about those mornings, posting them to Facebook. He’s now compiled more than 100 of those pieces into a new book, “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s: Stories of the South: Football, Politics, Religion, and More.” It’s officially released next week at a series of book signings at Chappy’s in the Auburn area from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. each day: Tuesday in Auburn, Wednesday in Montgomery and Thursday in Prattville.

“Consider this Housel unleashed,” the author says. “Most of the stuff I’ve written in my life has been about Auburn on an Auburn platform. Even after I retired, I was a representative of Auburn, even though I wasn’t working there. This is not an Auburn book. It’s about football, politics, religion and more.”

“From the Backbooth at Chappy’s,” with a foreword by Auburn graduate and acclaimed journalist Rheta Grimsley Johnson, evolved as Housel’s morning gatherings at Chappy’s evolved, though he began writing the essays fairly early in the process.

“When something is in your mind, in your heart, in your head, if you’re a writer, it just has to come out, and it just comes through your fingers,” Housel says. “Turns out people like to read it, so I got the Facebook page. I shared thoughts and essays and that kind of thing. It was not a planned thing.”

When COVID-19 came along, Housel decided to listen to a few folks who told him his musings would make a good book.

“I had been thinking a lot about it, and it was time to do it,” Housel says.

Housel has written six other books. Most have to do with Auburn sports history, but one, “From the Desk of David Housel,” is similar to “From the Backbooth at Chappy’s.”

“That one was primarily sports, but it had some other things in it,” Housel says. “This one is about the other stuff, but it has some sports in it.”

Though the three topics in his book’s title – football, politics and religion  – are often the subjects people are warned not to bring up if they want to keep the peace, Housel and his friends don’t shy away from any of them. Housel especially gravitates toward religious topics.

“I like the ones that I hope make people think,” he says of his essays. “The good Lord gave us a mind, and we’re supposed to use it. Too few people who call themselves Christians do what the Lord said and use their minds. … Faith has got to be built not on challenging God but questioning God. I think God likes that, because it shows we’re engaged and that we care.”

Now that the pandemic is ending, the Backbooth at Chappy’s events are slowly but surely returning to normal. On Mondays, Housel eats two eggs scrambled, lean bacon and a helium biscuit; on Tuesdays maybe a parfait with granola; on Wednesdays, it’s blueberry pancakes, and Fridays a waffle.

What remains constant is the conversation. And the writing.

“I’m still writing the Backbooth, and since the first of the year, I’ve written a couple I think are book-worthy,” Housel says. “I started out doing maybe one a week, but I’m old enough that I don’t have to meet a self-imposed deadline. When the spirit moves me, I write.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 week ago

Buzz builds around Birmingham G League basketball franchise and its new BJCC digs

(BJCC/Contributed)

David Lane has a secret. Make that secrets. Plural. Like the name, logo and team colors of the New Orleans Pelicans‘ new G League franchise coming to Birmingham for the 2021-22 season. You can ask for the details, but the general manager won’t tell. Patience, young grasshoppers.

Wait. Is that it? Grasshoppers? Starting a franchise from scratch isn’t new to Lane, whose last professional challenge was helping birth a minor league baseball team in Fayetteville, North Carolina, named the Woodpeckers. In 2019, their first year of existence, they cracked the top 25 in merchandise sales among all 160 minor league clubs.

You’ll have to wait just a bit longer for the Birmingham name drop. Lane also has seen internal renderings of under-construction Legacy Arena, the new digs of the Fill-in-the-Blanks, but why spoil that surprise? All in due time, but fortunately for Magic City basketball fans, due time is coming faster than Birmingham native Eric Bledsoe on a fast break.

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The city’s first professional basketball franchise since the short-lived Bandits played one season in the Continental Basketball Association in 1991-92 will make its home debut in January. The organization decided to start the season on the road in November and December rather than play some home games in local college arenas until Legacy Arena is ready for takeoff.

“You only get one chance to make a first impression,” Lane said. “We want the focus to be on Legacy Arena. That will be our home.”

The team’s home office has shifted from the kitchen table in Lane’s condo to temporary space in the Forum Building, which is part of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC). Eight employees have been hired in addition to Lane, who said, “It’s starting to feel like an organization.” Finalizing and announcing radio and TV partners is on the horizon, as is offering ticket packages to a sports-hungry population.

You can feel Birmingham buzzing as you drive along the new downtown stretch of Interstate 59/20 – complete with its color-changing accent lighting – past the gleaming glass facade of the arena, which will provide a massive window into the excitement inside. Long-time visitors won’t recognize the place inside or out because, explained Tad Snider, the BJCC Authority’s executive director and CEO, “everything inside was stripped down to the concrete shell. We’re putting a new building inside the old shell.”

If launching a new franchise inside a new arena weren’t ambitious enough, those wheels are turning while construction continues at the other end of the BJCC campus on Protective Stadium, a brand-new outdoor multipurpose facility. Its anchor tenant, the UAB football program, is scheduled to play its first game there Oct. 2 against Liberty University.

Keeping those projects on schedule and on budget would’ve been a challenge in the best of times. Doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic increased the degree of difficulty for the BJCC’s team of staffers, contractors and subcontractors. And yet, within the next eight months, football and basketball will be played in those sparkling new facilities.

Snider has worked with the BJCC for more than two decades. He’s a Birmingham native. Being a part of this transformation, he said, “is tremendously rewarding. It’s going to impact this community for the next 40 years.”

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said the decision by the Pelicans to place their G League franchise in Birmingham helped validate the city’s decision to take on this massive infrastructure upgrade, which represents a combined investment in the arena and stadium of $330 million.

“When we made the commitment to invest in the renovation and expansion of the BJCC, we were focused on securing big-time events and opportunities,” Woodfin said. “We’re thrilled the G League will soon call Legacy Arena home. The 2022 World Games will hold opening ceremonies at Protective Stadium. Then March Madness will return to Birmingham in 2023.

“Sports fans who visit Birmingham will have a transformed area to cheer their favorite teams while enjoying great food and nightlife, not just at Uptown but in all of our entertainment districts. We are stamping Birmingham as a destination city.”

The Pelicans’ G League affiliate will be at the heart of that transformation. Both Woodfin and Snider expressed their appreciation for Gayle Benson, governor of the Pelicans, and her belief in the future of Birmingham.

“It demonstrates a strong commitment from the Benson family and their organization to this city,” Woodfin said. “The team will not only play in Birmingham, but they will be housed in a separate practice facility. The team’s corporate offices will be located here, and the team has made a verbal commitment to work with the city’s youth and connect with the community on various levels. Also, with the Pelicans having Kira Lewis Jr., who played at the University of Alabama, and Eric Bledsoe, who played at Birmingham’s own Parker High School, we know there will be lots of local fans following this team.”

This team that will be known as? Lane, the GM, will say only that the name “has ties to the community.”

It won’t be long before everybody knows their name and then, come January, settled in their new home. Cheers.

This story originally appeared on the New Orleans Pelicans’ G League site.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

Nick Saban hosts annual Nick’s Kids Golf Tournament in Alabama

(Solomon Crenshaw Jr. / Alabama NewsCenter)

Nick Saban relishes a return to normal. The coach of the Crimson Tide football team is glad players are coming back to camp, back on campus doing normal workouts.

Thursday, Saban was off campus but back on familiar grounds as he welcomed participants in the 15th Nick’s Kids Golf Tournament. The annual fundraiser returned to normal operations after a year where it, like so many things, were at least scaled back because of COVID-19.

“We’re excited to be able to get back to normal with a lot of things,” the coach said on the front lawn of Old Overton Golf Club. “Anything that we do that gets us back to normal makes me really, really happy. This is an event that we always look forward to and really missed being able to do last year so it’s great to be back here.”

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Nick Saban shares thoughts on a number of topics at Nick’s Kids Golf Tournament from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

One feature of the tournament is a pair of contests on the 17th hole. Golfers take their chance at putting their tee shot closer to the hole than the Tide head coach. Additionally, a hole in one nets a golfer a new Mercedes-Benz.

Taking on the first set of golfers, Saban was not only closest to the pin. He nearly put the ball in the hole.

Asked if he would have claimed the car with a hole in one, the seven-time national championship coach said yes. Saban, who co-owns several Mercedes dealerships as a partner in Dream Motor Group, said he formerly rooted against someone acing the hole. He has since rethought the situation.

“We pay insurance on the car” possibly being won, Saban said. “We pay it no matter what so you might as well have somebody win it.”

The Nick’s Kids Foundation is the official charity of Nick and Terry Saban and their family. The nonprofit is dedicated to raising awareness and resources for deserving organizations throughout Alabama and the Southeast.

The couple invest their time and energy hosting luncheons, golf tournaments, scrimmages and other events to benefit the foundation. It culminates in the Annual Fall Giveaway, when proceeds are given in support of children, family, teacher and student causes.

“This is something that we look forward to every year,” Saban said. “Miss Terry’s done a great job sort of orchestrating help for a lot of young people to have a better opportunity to be successful in building 18 houses for needy families with Habitat. It’s something we really have been committed to.”

The 18th house is under construction. When this year is done, more than $10 million will have been raised since the couple arrived at the University of Alabama, the coach said.

“The legacy of this Nick’s Kids thing is all about my dad,” Saban said. “I’ve told this before many, many times, that he drove a school bus and picked up kids and let them participate in athletic events to have a better chance to go to college and get an education, which a lot did. This is kind of an extension of his legacy that we’re happy to be able to promote.”

Notable Nick’s Kids projects include:

More information about Nick’s Kids is available online at www.nickskidsfoundation.org, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Nickskidsfoundation, @NicksKidsFdn on Twitter and @nickskidsfdn on Instagram.

(Courtesy of Alabama News Center)

2 weeks ago

U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team selected in Alabama for Tokyo games

(U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Team/Contributed)

The 2020 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team has selected the 12 athletes that will represent the United States in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer.

The national team members were chosen from 16 athletes who competed at a team selection camp at Alabama’s Lakeshore Foundation Olympic & Paralympic Training Site this past week.

“We believe that we have put together a great balance of functional athletes that will give us a chance to compete for the gold medal,” said U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby head coach James Gumbert. “This team is one of the most driven and focused I have ever worked with, and their desire to finish what they started is inspiring. During the past year many of us have experienced so many hardships and setbacks, but these elite athletes have stayed on point and continued to push each other to be the best they can be.”

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Gumbert says the veteran players have been pushed by the new talent in the program and everyone has embraced the challenge to play to the highest standard. The team captains will lead a seasoned veteran class toward the postponed Tokyo Games.

2020 U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby team

  • Chuck Aoki, Minneapolis
  • Jeff Butler, Austin, Texas
  • Chad Cohn, Tucson, Arizona
  • Joe Delagrave, Holmen, Wisconsin
  • Lee Fredette, East Moriches, New York
  • Ray Hennagir, Deptford, New Jersey
  • Joe Jackson, Maricopa, Arizona
  • Chuck Melton, Richview, Illinois
  • Eric Newby, Nashville, Illinois
  • Kory Puderbaugh, Boise, Idaho
  • Adam Scaturro, Lakewood, Colorado
  • Josh Wheeler, Tucson, Arizona

Team alternates

  • Ernie Chun, Phoenix
  • Jake Daily, Belleville, Illinois
  • Liz Dunn, Pittsburgh
  • Montrerius Hucherson, Tallassee

U.S. Paralympic Rugby Team staff

  • Mandy Goff, high performance manager and team lead
  • James Gumbert, head coach
  • Sue Tucker, assistant coach
  • Jim Murdock, ATC/medical coordinator
  • Bob Murray, equipment and bench staff
  • Chuck French, equipment and bench staff
  • Meg Smith, sports psychology provider
  • Sharon Moskowitz, strength and conditioning
  • Amy Claire McMurtrie, dietician
  • Lexi Coon, photographer
  • Jen Allred, press officer

“I want to thank each athlete for their incredible sacrifice, hard work and commitment to their effort to represent the United States in Tokyo this summer,” said Lakeshore President Jeff Underwood. “I have watched all these players work and they have not made the coaches’ decisions easy. With this talent, the U.S. Paralympic Wheelchair Rugby Team looks strong. To the athletes, congratulations, good luck, and bring home the gold!”

USA Wheelchair Rugby high performance Manager Mandy Goff said the one-year delay has not deterred the team.

“When the Games were postponed last March, we made a promise to each other that we would finish what we started, and we aim to do just that,” Goff said. “Over the last 14 months we have gone through a lot together and I think that, in addition to their hard work and dedication, it’s going to be what propels us to the top of the podium.”

The team will return to Lakeshore for two more training camps, June 10-21 and August 7-17, before leaving for Tokyo.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

3 weeks ago

2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl Week to feature inaugural HBCU Combine in Mobile

(City of Mobile/Contributed)

The Reese’s Senior Bowl on Wednesday announced that, in collaboration with the National Football League, it will hold the HBCU (Historically Black College & University) Combine in Mobile, Alabama.

The 73rd annual Reese’s Senior Bowl will kick off on February 5, 2022, at 1:30 p.m. CT at Hancock Whitney Stadium.

With representatives from all 32 NFL clubs traveling for Senior Bowl week in the past, hosting this event in Mobile ensures maximum visibility for HBCU players – one of the event’s key objectives.

Select players from four HBCU conferences – CIAA, MEAC, SIAC and SWAC – and other HBCU institutions will be invited to participate in the event. Alabama is home to more HBCUs than any other state in the nation.

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“We are incredibly excited the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the NFL have chosen Mobile to host a combine specifically for Historically Black Colleges & Universities,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson in a statement. “Our region has a rich history of HBCU institutions, and the Reese’s Senior Bowl is the perfect partner to showcase the skills of HBCU student athletes. Our relationship with the Reese’s Senior Bowl and the NFL as well as the state-of-the-art athletics facilities at the University of South Alabama have solidified what we already know: The draft starts in Mobile.”

Held at the University of South Alabama and patterned after the NFL Combine, the HBCU Combine will include the gathering of comprehensive medical information, interviews and on-field evaluations of football skills and acumen. This year’s event was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Reese’s Senior Bowl is honored to be collaborating with the National Football League to host the inaugural HBCU Combine in Mobile, Alabama,” stated Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy. “Over the years, the Senior Bowl has served as a showcase for some of the top Black college football players in America, including seven of our game’s 56 future members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and this event will help many more HBCU players secure further attention and exposure from all 32 teams.”

An HBCU Scouting Committee, comprised of current and former league executives, will reportedly evaluate and select the participants. The Senior Bowl will provide medical and football personnel to capture important pre-Draft information and deliver a world-class experience for HBCU prospects.

“Throughout NFL history, HBCU athletes have exemplified a standard of excellence both on and off the field,” concluded Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of Football Operations. “The HBCU Combine is part of honoring that legacy and making every effort to accelerate exposure of HBCU draft prospects to all NFL clubs. The game is better when all have the opportunity to compete.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 weeks ago

UAB providing venues and more in support of World Games 2022 in Alabama

(The World Games/Contributed)

The World Games 2022 (TWG2022) and UAB have partnered to add competition venues and other support for the international event coming to the metro area next year.

The Birmingham Organizing Committee for TWG2022 and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) announced Monday that UAB will host several competitions across its campus, including at BBVA Field (lacrosse), UAB Track and Field facilities (tug of war) and UAB’s University Recreation Center (racquetball and squash).

“UAB is uniquely situated and prepared to support The World Games and ensure that Birmingham makes the most of this great, unique opportunity to showcase our city and state to the world,” said UAB President Ray L. Watts. “The UAB community looks forward to being gracious hosts for athletes and spectators alike, and our campus and its amenities offer a beautiful and modern setting that will leave a lasting, positive impression.”

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UAB will serve as the foundation sponsor for TWG2022 Legacy Memorial and the presenting sponsor of UAB Athlete Village, which will offer housing in UAB residence halls for athletes, coaches and officials. UAB Medicine will be the presenting sponsor for athletics and spectator medical services at TWG2022 venues.

The university will also provide language services for international athletes and visitors.

“This is an enormous partnership for The World Games 2022,” said TWG2022 CEO Nick Sellers. “Not only is UAB opening up their world-class campus as host for competitions and ‘Athlete’s Village’ for many of our athletes and coaches, but their partnership extends to several other areas, including leadership and support for our entire medical committee. Having this academic, athletic and medical cornerstone of Birmingham as a major partner of The World Games 2022 represents a strong commitment from our community to this historic moment.”

The official partnership announcement came Monday at BBVA Field, featuring remarks from Sellers, Watts and TWG2022 Chairman Jonathan Porter.

TWG2022 is an international multisport event organized with the support of the International Olympic Committee and will take place in Birmingham July 7-17, 2022. An anticipated 3,600 athletes will participate in more than 30 sports throughout TWG2022.

Other venues that have been announced include Protective Stadium (opening and closing ceremonies), Legion Field (Flag Football @TWG2022 Presented by the NFL), Birmingham CrossPlex (inline hockey, artistic roller skating, indoor and outdoor speed skatingwheelchair rugbylifesavingfinswimming and canoe polo), Boutwell Auditorium (sumokickboxing and Muaythai), Hoover Metropolitan Complex (softball), Sloss Furnaces (sport climbing, breaking, parkour and beach handball), Birmingham-Southern College (fistballkaratewushuju-jitsu and orienteering), Oak Mountain State Park (waterski/wakeboardcanoe marathon and middle distance orienteering), Barber Motorsports Park (drone racing and canopy piloting), Avondale Park (target archery and field archery) and John Carroll Catholic High School (flying disc).

Birmingham-Southern will also house athletes for TWG2022.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 weeks ago

Alabama softball lands No. 3 overall seed for NCAA Tournament, headlining Tuscaloosa regional

(Alabama Athletics/Contributed)

The 2021 NCAA Softball Tournament bracket was revealed on Sunday evening, with the University of Alabama earning the No. 3 overall seed. They will be joined by Clemson, Troy and Alabama State this coming weekend at Rhoads Stadium for the Tuscaloosa Regional.

This is the Crimson Tide’s 22nd-straight postseason bid and follows Alabama’s SEC Tournament triumph on Saturday. Sunday’s news also continued the Tide’s streak since 2005 of achieving a top-16 national seed.

NCAA Regional action at Rhoads Stadium begins Friday, May 21, with Clemson (42-6) facing Troy (36-15), followed by Bama (45-7) vs. Alabama State (19-27).

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In history, UA is 59-9 (.868) in NCAA Regional play and has won every regional round since 2005, the longest active streak in Division-I softball. Alabama has won 40 consecutive games in regional play, stretching back to 2007.

Other Yellowhammer State teams in different regionals for the tournament include Auburn and South Alabama. The Tigers are in the Tallahassee Regional, while the Jaguars will compete in the Gainesville Regional.

More information about this year’s NCAA Softball Tournament can be found here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 weeks ago

Alabama softball wins 2021 SEC Tournament

(Alabama Softball/Twitter)

The University of Alabama shut out top-seeded Florida on Saturday night to win the 2021 SEC Softball Tournament Championship at Rhoads Stadium.

The 4-0 victory secured the sixth tournament title in program history and its first since 2012. The Crimson Tide remain the only program to win an SEC Tournament on its home field, now having done so this year and its previous title.

The latest win was the Bama softball’s 44th victory in an SEC Tournament, tying LSU for the most of any team all-time. Alabama achieved its shut-out behind another masterful performance from pitcher Montana Fouts (22-3), who went the distance with 11 strikeouts. The complete-game shutout is the first since Tennessee’s Monica Abbott in 2006. Fouts was named the SEC Tournament MVP, striking out a tournament-record 39 batters over her three appearances.

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“Winning the tournament at home means everything after all the adversity we’ve faced and the injuries we’ve overcome this year,” she commented. “To us, this win signifies that anything is possible and that we can accomplish anything. It feels great to be a part of this university and for our team to contribute our own SEC championship, but we aren’t done yet and we have bigger dreams.”

In addition to Fouts, Bailey Hemphill, Alexis Mack and Taylor Clark earned SEC All-Tournament accolades.

Alabama, ranked No. 3 nationally, is now 45-7 on the season and awaits is postseason draw with the NCAA Tournament selection show Sunday at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

“The SEC was tough this year,” stated head coach Patrick Murphy. “I think everyone will realize just how great the SEC and the level of talent is when the All-American list gets released in a few weeks. There are so many great athletes throughout the SEC and in softball, specifically. I think softball, if not number one, is the second-best sport in the SEC. The championship tradition and coaches here at Alabama are a great fraternity to be in. I heard from so many other coaches last night wishing us good luck. It is a difficult job and we wanted to do the same thing and add to the success of our other sports. That’s why I love being a spring sport, it gives me an opportunity to learn from the fall and winter coaches. This team had grit and resiliency and it’s been a fun group to coach.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 month ago

The Regions Tradition is back after a year off, but its support for the community never waned

(Regions Bank/YouTube)

In 2020, the global pandemic caused innumerable events to be cancelled, including the Regions Tradition, a major of the PGA TOUR Champions. Golfers and fans stayed home and a community event that had been happening for more than 25 years took an understandable back seat to safety.

But an important aspect of the tournament never missed a beat. In a year when the tournament wasn’t held, the support for the many nonprofits that benefit from the tournament — including the primary beneficiary – Children’s of Alabama – continued.

In all, the tournament raised more than $1.2 million for charity in 2020, a record for the tournament, pushing the total raised to more than $19 million over 25+ years.

Some of the monetary support from the tournament comes from attendees and individuals, but the vast majority of those funds come from corporate donations and support from businesses.

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And as has happened in the past, this year as the tournament opened for play with the pros, another event just down the road was occurring – thanking those businesses and supporters for continuing the tradition of community support – in 2020, 2021 and beyond.

Coming together for common good

“This event is so important to our community,” said Tony Luebiter of CB Richard Ellis. “It supports so many organizations here, and until you’re a part of it you probably don’t realize the impact it makes.”

That sentiment was one shared by many of the businesses and suppliers that support the Regions Tradition, many of whom participated in an annual sponsor and vendor golf outing hosted by Regions.

“The Regions Tradition is not just about golf,” said Brett Couch, head of Regions Corporate Real Estate and Procurement. “It’s about community. It’s about helping Children’s Hospital… Participation from our vendors is critical to the overall Regions Tradition success.”

Many of the participants in the event have been long-term supporters of the tournament.

“We’ve been supporting the tournament for more than ten years, said Jeff Elliot, sales representative from Dell Technologies. “Dell gives millions of dollars to charity. We support many global efforts, but we also focus on local efforts and the communities we serve. That commitment to communities and engaging with them is something that Dell and Regions share.”

And it’s that commitment to community, and Children’s of Alabama in particular, that attracts such passionate support: “Children’s is such a huge aspect of the tournament. Supporting them and the work they do makes a difference,” said Rich Slaby, of KL Discovery.

More than charity, golf or business…

And when it comes to 2021, getting out and enjoying the sunny skies and a beautiful day of golf is icing on the cake. And an opportunity to return to some semblance of business — as close as we can come to normal.

“For more than 15 months, we’ve not been face-to-face,” said Luebiter. “This type of event reminds me how important it is to be with your customers and supporters, to share ideas and ask questions. It’s been so long. I just appreciate the opportunity to be able to meet with my customers – and other people – in a safe and secure way, outdoors.”

“I just appreciate Regions,” said James Kemp of KMS (Kemp Management Solutions). “The way we do business is similar – that we do well when we are doing good in the community.”

It is no surprise that the people and organizations that Regions looks to and depends on to serve their customers are the same ones that share a similar passion for the community and are critical in making a difference in the community. It’s a legacy of service that extends beyond business relationships – and beyond pandemics – to ensure that the community and vital services within it continue to receive the support they need.

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

1 month ago

Executives with Regions Bank and the PGA TOUR discuss equity and community engagement at the Regions Tradition

(Regions/Contributed)

The Regions Tradition, a PGA TOUR Champions major sponsored by Regions Bank, brings players, fans, and businesses together for five days of golf benefitting Children’s of Alabama and a variety of other local charities. The tournament also brings together two organizations that are investing time and financial resources to create greater equity in their industries and the communities where they work and play – Regions and the PGA TOUR.

At the 2021 Regions Tradition, Marsha Oliver, vice president of Community & Inclusion for the PGA TOUR, and Leroy Abrahams head of Community Affairs for Regions Bank and president of the Regions Foundation, joined Clara Green, head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion with Regions Bank, for a wide-ranging discussion tied to their organizations’ shared interest in lifting communities and their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion journeys.

“It’s really one of those rare moments where we get the chance to talk with one of our partners about the work that they are doing in diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Green. “I just love to see how the dots continue to connect across the efforts of both organizations.”

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Takeaways from the discussion

Oliver – on PGA TOUR initiatives to increase access and diversify the sport of golf:

“The image of golf has long been deemed a homogenous sport—access, cost, customs. Those are the barriers that are contributing to that reality. The PGA TOUR began a relationship with an organization called the APGA. It’s the Advocates Tour. Their sole mission is designed to bring greater diversity to the game of golf, to introduce minority golfers to the ability to play at the professional level,” said Oliver. “We will identify the top five Black collegiate players across the NCAA Division I, II and III Programs, and we will give them the opportunity, scholarship them on to play on the Advocates Tour, in the APGA Tour. And then, from there, they will get stipends to go on to our Korn Ferry qualifying tour, which is our elite preparatory tour. Those are the efforts that we believe can help change and increase the access and the opportunity for more diverse golfers.”

Abrahams – on Regions’ vision to advance racial equity through philanthropy

“There are groups of individuals that have not been able to participate to the same level in the economic prosperity of our country. How do we target those individuals? Because, by lifting the group that’s not participating, we lift everyone,” said Abrahams. “If you think of the ways wealth is created in this country, it’s home ownership, business ownership, and then over the past — call it 20 years or so — it’s really been access to broadband, access to things that enable people to have more digital connectivity. So, by again focusing in these places (through the Regions Foundation), we believe we’re helping to advance the cause of equity overall in our community.”

The Tradition Continues

Over the history of the Regions Tradition and its predecessors, the event has raised more than $19 million for charity. Today, the tournament’s primary beneficiary remains Children’s of Alabama, a hospital serving the needs of children and young people across the Southeast. Visit regionstradition.com for more news on this year’s Regions Tradition.

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

1 month ago

Satterfield Technologies created the iconic Regions Tradition 3D tee markers

(Regions/Contributed)

They’re noticeable to spectators in person and to viewers on TV: the unique 3-D Regions Tradition tee markers in the shape of the bank’s iconic bike brand.

Forrest Satterfield created them in 2015 because, well, someone asked if it was possible. That’s what Satterfield likes to do – take the ordinary and make it extraordinary.

“When the Bruno Event Team (which coordinates the Tradition) first reached out to me, I’d just received my first funding from an investor — $25,000,” Satterfield said. “I had one 3D printer, one scanner, and I was running everything out of my apartment. I was terrified. I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent.”

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Six years later, Satterfield Technologies, LLC is flourishing, responding to a global pandemic by creating N95 face masks for front-line healthcare works with a 3D printer.

Satterfield majored in biomedical engineering at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where as an undergrad he learned to merge medicine, science and business. A key turning point was a class project focused on dune buggy races. He was tasked with creating a business model and made his first pitch at Barber Motorsports Park, where he made the sales pitch and first came on the radar of the Bruno Event Team that manages the Indy race there, as well as the Regions Tradition and the SEC Baseball Tournament.

Satterfield quickly pivoted, from business pitch to business partner for the Bruno team.

”We haven’t turned down a project yet,” Satterfield said. “Our motto is: seek stories, solve problems.”

When people ask for something unique, he produces.

For Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival, Satterfield Technologies created the popcorn bucket trophies given to award winners. For the Tradition, he created a 360-degree immersive video one can use with a virtual reality device to get a feel for the Greystone Golf & Country Club course, where the Champions Tour major is held each year.

Another project created a water filtration system, turning undrinkable water into clear, pristine liquid for safe consumption – sans an actual filter.

And, at the onset of the global pandemic, Satterfield Technology created the custom-fit, 3D-printed N95 masks for emergency room doctors and nurses.

“Before, the masks came from overseas and the supply system was disconnected,” he said. “I wanted to dive into what made them work, strip away everything else, and it took about a month to develop. We were able to produce high-quality products in a 30-by-30 manufacturing room, and we believe they outperform all others on the market.”

Satterfield Technologies calls itself a modular adaptive manufacturing company. While he’s branched out in a dozen directions, the heart and soul of this small business remains the medical side.

“Our main focus is on affordable medical devices,” Satterfield said. “Everything we do is through the lens of how it effects your health. So many things we use today have unintended negative consequences.  We’re changing that. By closing the gap, you’re able to communicate between the hard science and the hard engineering. We solve the tough problems without sacrificing long-term health.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

1 month ago

Alabama A&M football earns national championship among HBCUs

Alabama A&M coach Connell Maynor, center, celebrates his team’s 40-33 victory in the SWAC championship game vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff. (Alabama A&M Athletics)

The spring 2021 football season was a series of working and waiting for the Alabama A&M Bulldogs. Time and again, the squad got ready for a scheduled game only to have that game postponed or canceled because of COVID-19.

But with the season ending May 1 with a Southwestern Athletic Conference championship and then Monday’s announcement that A&M is the champion among historically Black colleges and universities, coach Connell Maynor said the frustration was definitely worth it.

“We just try to control what we can control, keep our guys safe as possible and just keep fighting and working and being prepared,” the third-year Bulldogs coach said. “We didn’t have a lot of game action and game speed, so we just had to try to do some extra running and stay prepared and fight.

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“Now that the season is over with, of course it’s worth it,” he continued. “That’s why we practice, why we watch tape and lift weights and do what we do, to have an opportunity to win a championship. Yes, it’s well worth it.”

For the third time in his athletic career and second time as a head coach, Maynor can answer to the title of national champion. He becomes one of the few coaches to lead at least two teams to an HBCU national championship, having led Winston-Salem State to the crown in 2011 and 2012.

Maynor also won the national championship as a player in 1990 with North Carolina A&T. The coach was hesitant to rank one national championship over another, saying each has its place.

“All of them are different,” he said. “This was a different program, a different level, FCS. This is right up there, even though it was a shortened season.

“We still had to play the games and everybody had to deal with the same issues,” Maynor said. “We had no advantage and no disadvantage on anybody because we all played under the same circumstance. A championship is a championship and this ranks right up there with them all. They all are special.”

A&M finished No. 1 in the final Spring 2021 Boxtorow FCS HBCU Football Coaches Poll and the final Spring 2021 Boxtorow FCS HBCU Football Media Top 10 Poll.

The Bulldogs opened the spring season hoping to win the SWAC East Division and the resulting berth in the Spring 2021 Cricket Wireless Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) Football Championship. The path to an HBCU national title was to have then gone through the Celebration Bowl, where the SWAC champion would face the winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC).

“We already knew if we won the SWAC then we would have a chance to play for a Black college national championship in the Celebration Bowl,” the coach said. “Since they didn’t have a Celebration Bowl and we were already ranked No. 1 in the Black college polls, and we won again (Saturday), of course that made us Black college national champs.

“At one time,” Maynor said, “it just became the normal that we weren’t playing, so we just tried to work on the fundamentals and stay ready.”

In the coaches’ poll, the Bulldogs (5-0) were first with 150 points with all 15 first-place votes, followed by the 130 of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which A&M downed 40-33 in the SWAC title game Saturday in Jackson, Mississippi. The SWAC rivals were 1-2 in the media poll, with the national champions again grabbing 150 points and 15 first-place votes and the runner-up 134.

Alabama State of Montgomery was No. 6 in both polls.

Maynor wants to make national championships an every year bid.

“We want to be able to sustain it,” he said. “We don’t want this to be the first and the last. We want to make this thing to be annual.”

“The national championship is an historic accomplishment and we are very proud of our coaches, student-athletes and staff,” said Director of Athletics Bryan Hicks. “This year they have faced not just challenges on the field but the challenge of competing during a pandemic that has changed how we do things. It is a credit to them to have accomplished this in that environment.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

1 month ago

Birmingham golfer prepares to represent Team USA

(Regions/Contributed)

His story isn’t about losing his leg in a motorcycle accident more than a decade ago. It’s about so much more.

Birmingham resident Chris Osborne is also a champion golfer, poised to represent the United States as they take on Team Europe in one of disability golf’s premier match play events, The Cairns Cup, taking place May 2022 in London.

“We’re really excited about the Cairns Cup,” Osborne said. “Golf is one sport that really equalizes – a lot of people grew up playing it, I started at about 12 years old. I play with my daughter, my son and my wife. It’s just one of those things where you can get out there and feel some sense of normalcy.”

That sense of normalcy was felt by Osborne as he hit the greens at Greystone Golf & Country Club for the post-COVID return of the Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am. He calls it a full circle opportunity.

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“I covered this event as a news broadcaster, first as a camera guy, then I worked my way up through the ranks and worked it as a reporter, and then as a spectator when I was not in the media,” Osborne explained. “Now, to play in it, it just culminates all the years that I have been in Birmingham, so it is very special.”

Osborne notes the most special part of it all, is that it benefits Children’s of Alabama and other local non-profit organizations.

“Knowing the charities that this benefits, it is just incredible the work that they do. And for Regions to be able to put this on and make sure those sacred entities in our community are supported, is great,” Osborne said. “Being in the health industry with the health department, we work very closely with Children’s on a number of different projects and we know the work they do and certainly they deserve the utmost support.”

As the day came to an end – and Osborne looked ahead to London – he offered words of inspiration for others.

“Anybody who is disabled that is looking for an outlet – it may not be golf – but I always encourage people to find something. What is your something? And once you find that something, enjoy that something.”

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

1 month ago

College football’s biggest names turn out for 2021 Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am

(PGA TOUR Champions/Facebook)

If the sky had been any indication, you might have mistaken the gray and mist for a round at the birthplace of golf. Still, the Regions Tradition returned to smiles and excitement, drawing appreciative crowds outside after a year’s sabbatical forced by the global pandemic.

Day one at Greystone Golf & Country Club featured more than golf weather. The annual Regions Tradition Celebrity Pro-Am features some of the biggest local celebrities and most prestigious names in golf – back again to support the tournament and the many organizations that benefit from it.

Fans were able to get up close and reasonably personal with SEC football coaches and former players. Among the notables participating in the 2021 event were:

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  • Nick Saban, coach of CFP national champion Alabama.
  • Bryan Harsin, first-year coach at rival Auburn.
  • Kirby Smart, coach at Georgia.
  • Charles Barkley, NBA legend and Birmingham native.
  • Bo Jackson, 1985 Heisman Trophy winner and a Birmingham product.
  • Greg McElroy, ESPN college football analyst.
  • And more …

Check out some of the sights and sounds of the pro-am, and visit regionstradition.com for even more photos and coverage from today.

Did you know?

Over the history of the Regions Tradition and its predecessors, the event has raised more than $19 million for charity. Today, the tournament’s primary beneficiary remains Children’s of Alabama, a hospital serving the needs of children and young people across the Southeast.

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

1 month ago

UAH hockey fails to gain conference; Program will be suspended immediately

(UAHHockey.com/Facebook)

The inability to secure a conference affiliation for the University of Alabama in Huntsville hockey team has resulted in a suspension of the university’s troubled program.

A year ago, UAH announced its plans to discontinue the men’s ice hockey program as one of several cost-saving measures forced by the financial uncertainties associated with COVID-19.

UAH hockey received $750,000 in private philanthropic support to extend the program for the 2020-2021 season through a grassroots effort led by alumni and fans. The university’s administration worked to secure membership in an NCAA Division I hockey conference. Hockey is UAH’s only Division I sport. The university’s other athletic programs compete in NCAA Division II. Conference membership is a vital component of a sustainable funding model, making it a requirement for the continuation of the UAH hockey program, according to university officials.

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UAH officials and former UAH Hockey All-Americans Taso Sofikitis and Sheldon Wolitski, leaders of the alumni group that provided private funds to support the 2020-2021 season, agreed that the university would discontinue its hockey program if unable to secure a conference home by this spring.

As of this week, UAH has not secured a conference affiliation for the upcoming season, and therefore announced plans on Wednesday to suspend its hockey operations, effective immediately. If UAH ultimately secures conference membership, it plans to promptly reinstate its hockey program. However, UAH will not be eligible for conference play for at least one year upon receiving a conference invitation.

“We have been inspired by the unwavering support we have received from our UAH alumni and our community, and that inspiration has driven our tenacious efforts to secure a conference home, which is the foundational element of a successful and sustainable hockey program,” stated UAH President Darren Dawson. “Despite our hard work, UAH has not received an invitation for conference membership, and thus we must unfortunately suspend our hockey program.”

In collaboration with the alumni group and with guidance from UAH’s Hockey Advisory Board, the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) and the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) were identified as potential home conferences that would provide for a long-term, sustainable hockey program. UAH subsequently submitted proposals to AHA and CCHA for consideration. The CCHA did not accept UAH’s proposal, and AHA has yet to formally respond to UAH’s proposal.

The timing of this announcement gives UAH student-athletes the opportunity to transfer and play at another institution amidst the uncertainty of the program’s future at UAH. Student-athletes who would like to join another institution’s roster will be released without penalty and are free to transfer immediately. For student-athletes on the men’s hockey team who wish to complete their education at UAH, their current scholarships will be honored for the duration of the students’ academic careers.

“I am endlessly grateful for our outstanding hockey student-athletes and staff, who chose to compete for UAH, despite an uncertain future, and made lasting contributions to our athletics program,” said UAH Athletic Director Cade Smith. “I also am appreciative for the unyielding support of the alumni group – especially Taso and Sheldon, who have been generous with their time and financial support as we have worked tirelessly to secure a conference membership invitation.”

Wolitski commented, “Although the suspension means that the 2021 – 2022 season will not occur, I want to be very clear that this is not the end of UAH hockey and, in fact, could be an opportunity for a new beginning. Taso and I have worked diligently with UAH administration, including Dr. Dawson, to develop a plan outlining UAH’s effort to secure conference membership.”

“If we achieve entry into a new conference, our multi-year, sustainable funding model will serve as the foundation of a reinvigorated UAH hockey program,” he added.

Ray Garner is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News.

1 month ago

Alabama Athletics launches program helping student-athletes build, elevate their personal brands

(UA/Contributed, YHN)

The University of Alabama Athletics Department, one of the most recognizable and influential brands in all of sports, on Tuesday announced it has created The Advantage, a comprehensive program that will seek to provide Crimson Tide student-athletes with the education and tools necessary to build and elevate their personal brands.

In working with both campus partners and external entities, The Advantage will reportedly focus on brand management, maximizing personal social media platforms and financial literacy.

“We are excited to launch this new program, which even further demonstrates our commitment to fully developing our student-athletes,” stated Greg Byrne, Alabama director of Athletics. “We are blessed to have incredible resources on campus with our institution, allowing us to better fit our specific needs and evolve The Advantage, as needed.”

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This comes as UA has ranked in the top two in royalties generated among the Collegiate Licensing Company’s partner institutions each of the last 11 years and was No. 1 in five of the last six seasons. Over the last five years, officially licensed Bama products were sold in over 9,000 unique retailers, and during the last decade, over 60.3 million units of officially licensed Alabama merchandise has been sold by licensees.

Most recently, the Crimson Tide set the 48-hour post-national championship win record for NCAA merchandise sales across all sports.

The latest announcement continues the university’s commitment to supporting the goals of its student-athletes. Prior to the 2020-2021 academic year, Alabama partnered with Socialie, one of the top content distribution platforms, which has been instrumental in providing student-athletes, coaches and staff direct access to photos and videos. For the month of April, Tide student-athletes added nearly 140,000 followers on social accounts connected through Socialie for an overall total of 2,235,124 followers on connected personal accounts combined. In 2020, Alabama athletics social channels generated north of 1.1 billion impressions, while the previous month totaled more than 50 million interactions on the sport Instagram and Facebook accounts alone.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 month ago

Junior Regions Tradition kicks off annual golf tournament week

(Regions Bank/Contributed)

The Haughery family arrived at Greystone Golf & Country Club early Sunday morning, as they do many weekends. By day’s end, they were trying to figure out how to get the spoils of the day home.

Son Simon competed in the age 14-15 boys group in the Junior Regions Tradition, sponsored by Alabama Power. A week after finishing second in another tournament, Simon couldn’t find his groove Sunday, finishing in the middle of the pack.

“That’s just golf,” Simon said with a grin.

Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth watched her brother play a few holes with the earliest group on the back nine, then headed to the driving range and first tee to compete on her own.

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She admitted she was nervous, having never played Greystone before. But all evidence pointed to the contrary as she won the Girls’ nine-hole, age 10-19 division by six shots. The win earned her a replica Regions Tradition trophy, modeled after the Claret Jug, and a brand-new green Regions bike.

For parents Michael and Beth, the Junior Regions Tradition offered quality family time, with the bonus of the bike to take home as a rather pleasant surprise.

“When she teed off, she was just a hole in front of her brother, so I got to watch both of them,” Michael said. “This is a really special day and a special event. The kids get to play on the same course the pros will this week for a major. And I work for Charles Schwab, one of the Champions Tour’s national sponsors. That’s a nice twist.”

The 2021 Regions Tradition opens play on Wednesday with the celebrity pro-am, followed by the first round Thursday. The Tradition is an annual major on the PGA TOUR Champions schedule.

Letting the juniors play on the same course as a major – just days before the Tradition kicks into high gear – came about after a conversation over a year ago between George Shaw, the Tradition’s tournament director, and Ian Thompson of the Birmingham Golf Association.

“George said, ‘How about we have the junior tournament at the same venue the week of the tradition,’ and then he got it done,” Thompson said. “Having a junior tournament this close to a major is very unusual, so this is a really extraordinary event that the young golfers and the BGA are very grateful for.”

While many of the young golfers participating in the Junior Regions Tradition may have only cursory knowledge of the Hall of Fame golfers about to take over Greystone for the week, the Haughery children have long been fans.

“We were out here for the Regions Tradition five or six years go,” explained mom Beth. “And on the first tee, (Champions tour veteran) Brad Faxon rolled a golf ball to Simon. When Simon picked the ball up, he realized it was signed.”

A casual fan before, Simon was inspired to play competitively.

(Courtesy of Regions)

2 months ago

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama draws crowd of 63,690 — ‘This place is absolutely gorgeous’

(Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

Jeff Wynn said he was in heaven Sunday as he was finally able to take in the spectacle of IndyCar racing at Barber Motorsports Park.

The Eutaw resident said it has been five to 10 years since he’s attended an IndyCar event, but never at the Birmingham track just outside Leeds.

“Every single time, something happens that week,” Wynn said. “I was supposed to come two years ago and it rained out and I couldn’t get a chance to go that Monday. Last year with all the restrictions and everything, I didn’t really want to chance it.

“Even now, I’m kind of skeptical,” he continued, “but everybody’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing, so I’m kind of happy about that.”

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Wynn and his nephews Cameron and Brenden were among the estimated 63,690 who took in at least part of the three days of racing of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama fans enjoy a great day at the races from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The marquee event of the weekend produced an unanticipated finish as Spaniard Alex Palou recorded the first victory of his career. It was his debut in the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, the team’s first win at Barber and its 114th in IndyCar.

Palou is the 14th driver to stand atop the podium for Ganassi. He crossed the finish line 0.4016 seconds ahead of Will Power, who has twice won at Barber. It was the tightest margin of victory in the 11 IndyCar races on the 17-turn, 2.3-mile course.

But Palou was hardly the only victor. Counted among the winners were the fans who came from far and wide to take in a live sporting event, something many have missed since the pandemic first spanned the globe.

There was no fan shuttle this year and thus no remote parking at the Outlet Shops of Grand River. That reduced the crowd by about 25%, said Gene Hallman, CEO of Zoom Motorsports.

This was the second live event of the weekend in which Hallman and the Bruno Event Team were involved. They also coordinated the McDonald’s Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola, the football meeting between Alabama State and Alabama A&M universities that was pushed back from October 2020.

“I would give them A-pluses in terms of people feeling comfortable being back out in crowds,” Hallman said. “I believe we created an environment in both where there were many COVID restrictions in place. Secondarily, there’s a real sense people want to get back out. They really miss the human interaction that comes from attending a live sporting event.”

The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama had a mix of first-timers and frequent visitors. Count the Formentano family among those who long ago learned the route to Barber.

Chris Formentano, 33, of Chelsea said Sunday was the second time his family has come to the track. Sons Peter, 3, and Walker, 2, played on the grassy hill while his wife, HannaKate, held their third son, 1-month-old Oliver.

The family always comes with Chris’ father, Alfredo Formentano of Hoover. The seeds for his love of racing were planted by his father.

“I’ve been coming here from the beginning, the first time they had the Indy race,” the elder Formentano said. “It’s just kind of a family thing. I’ve been watching car racing – like Formula 1 and Indy – a long time. My dad got me into Formula 1. This morning, I got up at five minutes to 8 and the Formula 1 race in Italy raced live. I watched it and then we all packed up and came here. All-day racing.”

Sylacauga High sophomore Brooklyn Leonard said her first trip to Barber was like a minivacation. Her boyfriend, Justin Love, introduced her to the sport.

“It’s really, really exciting,” the 16-year-old said. “I’m pumped up about it. I’m also really, really nervous, but I love the atmosphere here. It’s been really, really nice. To be around all these people and watching the racing, it’s, like, so fun.”

Christy Reynolds of Wabash, Indiana, attended races at Barber for the first time. She was with her husband, Dylan, who’s been to four or five, and their 2-year-old son, David.

“I love IndyCar and this place is absolutely gorgeous,” Dylan said. “Combine the two things and it’s a great trip, worth the trip from Indiana every time.”

Especially as everyone crawls out from COVID-19 isolation.

“That’s the great thing,” Dylan said. “We’ve all been cooped up for most of the year, but out here if you want your space, it’s easy to find. There’s pretty good masking in front of the trams and crowded areas, but you can find a seat where you’re on your own and feel safe with your family and watch some great racing.”

Michael and Myra Campbell relaxed on the grassy hillside as cars zoomed by. A Texas native, she was thrilled that her move to Pelham meant being close to a track where open-wheel racing is done.

“It’s my favorite,” she said. “We love this park.”

“The beautiful thing about Barber’s is it’s outdoors,” Michael said. “Literally, they call it the Augusta of Racecourses. As you look around, everyone’s able to come outside, enjoy a beautiful day here in springtime in Alabama. It’s just so refreshing to see folks finally able to breathe without a mask, mask if they choose, sit outside and finally get out and enjoy the day.

“It’s a wonderful day and it’s a wonderful way to spend it.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

2 months ago

The World Games 2022 launches sustainability program in Birmingham — ‘Will be a legacy’

(The World Games 2022 Birmingham/Facebook, YHN)

The World Games 2022 (TWG2022) this week unveiled a sustainability program designed to ensure The Games have a lasting positive environmental impact on its host city of Birmingham.

A multi-sport event that will take place in the Magic City from July 7- 17, 2022, The World Games 2022 will see an anticipated 3,600 athletes from over 100 countries participate in more than 30 different sports.

As part of this week’s announcement, Vulcan Materials Company joined TWG2022 as the official Sustainability Sponsor of The Games. In doing so, Vulcan joins more than 40 other companies in support of The World Games 2022.

“Vulcan is pleased to be the Sustainability Sponsor of The World Games 2022,” stated Vulcan Materials CEO Denson Franklin III. “In addition to helping support bringing the world to Birmingham, Alabama in 2022, we are furthering our longstanding commitment to sustainability in our operating areas across the country. We continue to live The Vulcan Way: doing the right thing, the right way at the right time.”

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The International World Games Association is extending this commitment to sustainability and will work alongside the Birmingham Organizing Committee to ensure a positive global environmental impact.

“Sustainability has always been one of the core values of The World Games and, for example, we have never required the host cities to build new venues for The Games,” commented IWGA CEO Joachim Gassow. “Now more than ever it is time to act for the environment, and of course we at The World Games want to be doing our share. We always encourage our local organisers to work for sustainability, and we are happy to see the initiatives of the Birmingham Organising Committee.”

Initiatives announced by the Birmingham Organizing Committee include:

• Tree planting to beautify the city, cool Birmingham streets and positively impact air quality.
• Installation of Solar Energy Stations around The Opening and Closing Ceremonies. The Solar Energy Stations will be created by local solar developer EnPower Solutions.
• Repurposing of signage as either garden compost or in the creation of totes or art pieces.
• Food rescue which will allow partner Grace Klein to provide more food to Birmingham’s hungry and prevent food waste.
• Creation of Birmingham’s first zero-waste venue.

“Each of these initiatives will be a legacy of The Games,” said Nick Sellers, CEO of The World Games 2022. “One of our goals from the beginning has been to leave Birmingham a better place than it was before The Games. All of these initiatives will help us accomplish that goal.”

RELATED: The World Games Birmingham announces another batch of venues

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Auburn’s Unique Thompson selected 19th overall in WNBA draft

(Auburn WBB/Twitter)

Unique Thompson on Thursday evening became the ninth WNBA Draft pick in Auburn University history when she was selected by the Indiana Fever with the 19th overall selection.

Thompson, who attended high school at Mobile’s Faith Academy, was the seventh player taken in the second round.

“I’m excited, I’m happy,” Thompson commented. “The nerves aren’t there anymore. I’m just ready to go. I’m ready to get to work. (Representing Auburn in the WNBA) means so much to me. Auburn is where I started to build my legacy, this is where my hard work began, so it means everything to me.”

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Thompson became the first Auburn Tiger drafted to the WNBA since DeWanna Bonner and Whitney Boddie were selected in 2009.

“I wasn’t even paying attention at first,” Thompson said of when her name was announced on the ESPN broadcast. “And then I heard everybody start screaming, and I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I kind of expected it (being selected by Indiana), I had a long conversation with them on Zoom the other day and I just got off the phone with Teaira (McCowan), Victoria (Vivians) and a few of my other new teammates. I’m looking forward to getting there and getting started.”

Thompson led the Tigers in 2020-21 with 17.8 points and 12.8 rebounds per game, averaging a double-double for the third straight season. Her 12.8 rebounds per game led the SEC, and her 5.4 offensive rebounds per game led the nation. She was one of two players nationwide to have two games this season with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. For her efforts this season, she was named to the All-SEC Second Team and a WBCA Honorable Mention All-American.

The Theodore native finished her career Auburn’s all-time leading rebounder with 1,156 and all-time leader in double-doubles with 58.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Montgomery native, Alabama star Jasmine Walker taken No. 7 overall in WNBA draft

(SEC/Twitter)

Jasmine Walker on Thursday evening was selected by the Los Angeles Sparks with the seventh overall pick in the 2021 Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Draft.

Walker becomes the seventh Crimson Tide player to be drafted in the WNBA’s 25-year history and just the first since 2005. She is only the second-ever Bama player to go in the first round, joining Tausha Mills, who went No. 2 overall to Washington in 2000.

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This comes after a season for the record books for Walker, who set the program’s single-game scoring mark with 41 points and working her way into every three-point top 10 list. She earned several accolades along the way, including WBCA Honorable Mention All-America honors and SEC All-First Team recognition; Walker also was a finalist for the Katrina McClain Award, which is presented annually to the best power forward in women’s NCAA basketball.

Walker averaged a near double-double in 2020-21 with 19.1 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and was the only player in the SEC to rank in the top five in points and rebounds for the season.

She is a Montgomery native who played her high school ball at Jeff Davis. Walker was named the 2016 Alabama Miss Basketball and the 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year for Alabama.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

The World Games Birmingham announces another batch of venues

(The World Games/Contributed, YHN)

The organizing committee for The World Games 2022 Birmingham on Tuesday announced the next three competition venues for The Games: Oak Mountain State Park, Barber Motorsports Park and John Carroll Catholic High School.

Signage has already been installed at all three venues, per a press release.

The World Games 2022 is a multi-sport event that will take place in the Magic City from July 7- 17, 2022. An anticipated 3,600 athletes from over 100 countries will participate in more than 30 different sports throughout The Games.

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Through this extraordinary Olympic-style sports experience, elite athletes from all over the globe will compete for gold in multi-disciplinary competitions. However, the big winner is set to be Alabama.

With fans traveling from worldwide destinations to Birmingham and experiencing venues around the greater metropolitan area, The World Games 2022 will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact.

“The excitement about the competition at these venues grows as we unveil each one,” The World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers stated. “We’ve announced 11 venues to date and have six to go. All of these venues are world-class and we look forward to seeing fans from all over the world witness history as athletes compete for gold in July of 2022.”

Oak Mountain State Park will play host to several water-based competitions, including Waterski/Wakeboard, Canoe Marathon and Middle Distance Orienteering.

Since it was established by the Alabama State Lands Act of 1927, Oak Mountain State Park has grown to 9,940 acres making it the Yellowhammer State’s largest state park.

“We are honored that Oak Mountain State Park will play a role in The World Games 2022 in Birmingham, and we are tremendously excited about hosting orienteering, canoe marathon, waterskiing and wakeboarding events at the park,” said park superintendent Kelly Ezell. “It’s going to be a truly exciting time for the competitors, the spectators and our park. We believe Oak Mountain is one of Alabama’s treasures, and we can’t wait for people from all over the globe to see amazing athletes compete in one of our state’s most scenic places during The World Games.”

At Barber Motorsports Park, fans will be able to watch Drone Racing and Canopy Piloting.

The Barber Motorsports Park is an 880-acre, multi-purpose racing facility located on the eastern fringes of Birmingham. It was built by George Barber and includes the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum, which has been named the “World’s Largest Motorcycle Museum” by the Guinness World Records. The motorsports park, which opened in 2003, has a 17-turn, 2.38-mile (3.83 km) road course, designed by Alan Wilson, viewable from several naturally wooded or grass-covered banks.

“We at Barber Motorsports Park are excited to be part of The World Games 2022,” commented owner and founder George Barber. “The Greater Birmingham Area will be center stage for the world in the coverage of all the events associated with The World Games. This includes the events held at Barber Motorsports Park. The Park and Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum are honored to part of this historic event.”

Flying Disc will take place on John Carroll’s campus.

“John Carroll Catholic High School is proud to be a partner of The World Games 2022 and we look forward to welcoming many of the athletes, and their fans, to our beautiful campus next summer,” remarked John Carroll principal Anthony Montalto. “The opportunity to be a part of an endeavor that includes other first- class businesses and community leaders in our city is a privilege. We want to thank The World Games officials for their diligent work on behalf of the city of Birmingham, and we offer our support in making this event the most successful one in The World Games history.”

Previously announced The World Games 2022 venues include Legion Field, Birmingham CrossPlex, Boutwell Auditorium, Sloss Furnaces, Birmingham-Southern College and Avondale Park. The under-construction Protective Stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 months ago

Tide’s A-Day festivities to include national championship, Heisman presentations

(The Heisman Trophy/Facebook, Alabama Athletics, YHN)

The University of Alabama’s latest national championship football team will be honored at the conclusion of this Saturday’s Golden Flake A-Day Game, which will kick off at noon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

During the game, DeVonta Smith will be honored on two occasions. A Maxwell Award presentation is scheduled for the first quarter break while the university’s copy of the Heisman Trophy will be presented to Smith at halftime.

As soon as the game concludes, which is estimated to be around 2:00 p.m. CT, the 2020 College Football Playoff and SEC Champions will be honored at midfield.

Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and quarterback Mac Jones will address the crowd and the 2020 national championship flag will be raised in the stadium for permanent display.

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There will be 10,000 Alabama football posters for the A-Day Game with 5,000 available when the gates open and another 5,000 national championship celebration posters ready for fans as they exit after the conclusion of the celebration.

General admission public tickets are being offered at $5 and can be purchased here.

Stadium capacity has been set at 50% for this year’s A-Day Game. Facial coverings are required for entry into the stadium and are supposed to be worn at all times except when eating or drinking, Alabama Athletics has said.

ESPN will televise the game with Kirk Herbstreit and Joey Galloway providing analysis from the field, Joe Tessitore calling the action in the booth and Lauren Sisler reporting from the sidelines.

One of the many great traditions at the University of Alabama, which is always open to the public, is the annual Walk of Fame Ceremony at Denny Chimes. At approximately 10:15 a.m. on Saturday, Saban — along with 2019 and 2020 captains (Tua Tagovailoa, DeVonta Smith, Anfernee Jennings, Xavier McKinney, Mac Jones, Alex Leatherwood and Landon Dickerson) — will address the crowd. The captains will then leave prints of their hands and cleats in the concrete as they join a long list of Tide legends.

The team will then hold its Walk of Champions, scheduled for 10:50 a.m., when it arrives at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Following the A-Day Game and national championship recognition, Saban will present the spring awards to the team at midfield to wrap things up.

Game day information can be accessed here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 months ago

Alabama falls short in overtime loss to UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen

(Twitter/AlabamaMBB)

The Alabama Crimson Tide’s magical basketball season came to an end Sunday night, falling to the UCLA Bruins 88-78.

The Tide started the matchup off very slow, allowing UCLA to jump out to a 7-1 lead in the opening minutes of the game.

Bama star Herb Jones got in foul trouble very early on, with back-to-back charges called on him. As the senior leader of coach Nate Oats’ team, Jones is a big part of what Alabama likes to do on defense as well as offense.

With two fouls in the opening 45 seconds of the game, it looked like the Tide were going to be in for a long night. However, when Jones hit the bench, Bama started its comeback.

Jahvon Quinerly entered the game and helped things up 7-7 after six minutes of play. The guard had the most points of any player on the court, scoring 20 total.

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Johnny Juzang for UCLA and the rest of coach Mick Cronin’s team started to fight back midway through the first half.

The Bruins came clawing back into the game, and with under seven minutes left in the first half finally grabbed the lead again for the first time since the opening minutes. After UCLA rallied back to grab a 27-25 lead, it was back and forth down the stretch until a late run for the Bruins put them ahead of Alabama.

At the half, UCLA managed to pull ahead 40-29 over the Tide thanks to the play of Juzang and Jules Bernard.

Bernard scored 13 points off of four three-point shots, including one with a foul after the make. However, Alabama was not ready to give up on the opportunity to keep dancing.

The Bruins hit their last four three-point shots at the half. Yet, to start out the second half of play, UCLA missed their first three shots of the half. All three were from beyond the arc.

Bama went on a 7-0 run to start the second half to slowly chip away at the lead that UCLA had carried with them into the half.

The Tide then went on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 40 early in the second half.

Juzang and Bernard started out the second half cold, combining to go 0-5 from deep to start the half as it took six minutes for UCLA to score a point.

UCLA later tied the game at 61 a piece on the first of a pair of Jaime Jaquez, Jr.’s free throws up with 45 seconds left, and then remained tied with a miss on the second. Jones for Alabama then also went one of two for free throws on the other end.

With less than 30 seconds left, the Tide led by one, and UCLA managed to get the ball down low to big man Cody Riley for the Bruins to flip the lead of one to their side.

Alabama then had 15 seconds left down one with the ball in their possession. Herb Jones got fouled in the final seconds and comes up to the line to possibly put the game away. Jones missed both free throws.

On the other side, the Bruins hit two free throws to give them a three-point lead over the Tide with only five seconds remaining in the game.

Alex Reese for the Tide, who has been battling injury and has seen his numbers decline slightly in the last few weeks, was given the ball for a last-second desperation shot.

Reese hit the deep shot from the March Madness logo to send the game to overtime.

UCLA took over the game in overtime to defeat Alabama 88-78 and advance to the Elite Eight.

Alabama’s trip to the Sweet 16 was its first time doing so since 2004.

The team that has lived by the three all season was not able to live by the three on Sunday. Instead, Bama went just 7-28 from deep.

Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.