ReturnCity giving a voice to the people of Birmingham and Alabama.
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Did Birmingham screw it up?
When the World Games ended last month, it seemed that Birmingham was the big winner.
It seemed that Birmingham had made it to the World Games without a hitch.
Lots of positive PR.
Big pats on the back from political and business leaders.
Negative headlines hit.
“$14 million shortfall at the World Games.”
The deficit is actually higher–$15,656,173 to be exact, with the possibility that some vendors, many of them local, do not charge. (As of this writing, there is an effort to make up the shortfall)
This brings back memories three years ago when the Birmingham Iron and the The American Football League went bankrupt. and many sellers were scammed.
Now there is the expected negative talk on social media about Birmingham.
Some commentators are reinforcing the historical negatives that Birmingham can’t seem to get it right.
Was it a mistake to organize the World Games?
The answer is, it depends.
It depends on our reaction and our response.
When the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce visited Charlotte in 2004 to hear about Charlotte’s successes, they told us about the gamble made by Charlotte’s elected officials in the 1970s to invest huge amounts of money in Charlotte Airport. It took a while for the airport to catch on 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 the reason Birmingham has not progressed as expected.
Most business owners understand that if they want to be successful, they need to make some strategic bets.
Sometimes these bets pay off, sometimes they don’t. The goal is to cut losses as quickly as possible and take advantage of successes.
Birmingham debated for years whether to build a new football stadium. Finally, in 2021, the Protector Stadium was inaugurated. Today, Protective hosts home games for the UAB Blazers, Birmingham Legion FC, and the annual Birmingham Bowl. The 2021 Birmingham Bowl is sold out. Every other year, the stadium hosts the AHSAA “Super Seven” high school football championship.
The USFL played most of its 2022 games at the stadium and Protective hosted the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2022 World Games. Garth Brooks delivered a wildly successful performance in Protective and big concerts are likely to follow.
None of this would have happened if Birmingham hadn’t taken the risk of building a new stadium.
Taking advantage of this learning experience
Our World Games were a great success! We had never done anything like this before and we succeeded.
Birmingham is a city with a population of less than 200,000, with a metropolitan area of 1.1 million people. The 2025 World Games will be played in Chengdu, China, a city of more than 16 million people.
Birmingham resident Ron Froehlich, who has worked on every World Games since 1981 and World Games World President for 25 years, noted that the The World Games depend on the support of the national government. Froehlich said he’s not surprised Birmingham is in financial trouble. Germany, England and all the other countries financed 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. Places like the Protector Stadium, the recently remodeled Legacy Arena, the incredible CrossPlex; the creative new City Walk BHAM, located below brightly lit I-59/20; and the newly lit historic Sloss furnaces received a lighting facelift.
Birmingham’s leaders collaborated with each other…politicians, corporations, and universities.
Jefferson County and Birmingham, along with 15 other cities, sent officers, patrols 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 negativism.
Let’s take our big win and run with it.
David Sher is the founder and publisher of ReturnCity. He has been president of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham) and City Action Partnership (CAP).
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