There really isn’t much I can add to this lede from an article yesterday at AL.com:
Birmingham will get a domed stadium in the next few years whether the public wants one or not. That was the message shared by Gene Hallman, CEO of the Bruno Event Team and Executive Director of the Alabama Sports Foundation at a Birmingham CREW luncheon on Tuesday.
“We don’t need public support,” Hallman said. “I don’t mean to be arrogant, but we aren’t running a campaign like we did in 1998 where we need a vote– we are looking to fund the stadium using existing funds from the city, county or state. The best thing we can do is just get it done and then tell people why it’s a good thing we’re doing it.”
Then, because he couldn’t help himself, Hallman told people why he was doing it anyway:
“Right now we are turning down a number of conventions and trade shows because we have nowhere for them to go,” Hallman said. “It’s shocking the number of associations that exist out there that need a place for their convention or trade show. They need to be able to make Birmingham their destination.”
This, as Heywood Sanders makes clear in his excellent new book Convention Center Follies, is an even worse idea than a city like Birmingham building a domed stadium in hopes of getting an NFL team, because there is at the moment a massive convention center glut in the U.S., to the point where many if not most cities that expand their convention facilities don’t actually get any additional convention business.
As for how Birmingham would fund a domed football stadium tapping only existing public tax dollars — what it would take to do this without a referendum — Hallman didn’t say, because he doesn’t have to tell you, okay? He just knows he doesn’t want any votin’, because last time Birmingham did that people voted the wrong way, and we can’t have that, can we?
Hallman does make one valid point, which is that if Birmingham is going to go after a team in any sports league, it should be the NFL, because “the NFL shares its revenue equally among all 31 teams,” so a small market like Birmingham could legitimately survive. Er, except for the part where the NFL has had 32 teams for the last 12 years. But hey, the guy’s been busy pushing for a domed stadium in Birmingham since 1996, you can’t really expect him to keep up with current events, now can you?