Legion Field, in Birmingham, Alabama is the home of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Blazers of conference USA. It has a natural grass surface and a seating capacity of approximately 83,091. It also serves as the second home to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.
It has been the site of many a classic gridiron confrontation in its 68 years of existence. The first game on November 19, 1927, a "local" battle that saw Howard (Samford) defeat Birmingham-Southern 9-0; since that time, the stadium has played host to hundreds of high school, college and professional football contests.
The stadium was constructed in 1926 with an original capacity of 21,000; the cost of the original construction was $439,000. The stadium was named in 1927 in honor of the American Legion and stands as a memorial to those who gave their lives in the service of this country.
The stadium has grown significantly over the years. With the most recent renovations, Legion Field now has a capacity of 83,091. The expansion moved the stadium to 10th among the 110 Division I football stadiums in the country.
Source: Alabama Live and UAB Sports Information
November 15, 2006 Nancy Lynette King Shirley wrote: I live in Chelsea, Alabama. I have often wondered if the two lions in front of Legion Field had any documents about where they come from. My Grandfather (William Edward Whalen) was a stone carver and he carved the two lions in about 1927. He worked for Reed Brothers Stone Company in Birmingham. He also did stone work on the front of many places in Birmingham such as the office at Forest Hills Cemetery, Barber Milk Company on 6th Ave. So., 2 homes on Montevallo Rd, Steiner Bank Building on 1st and 20th, Redmont Park, work on the front of Jefferson Co. Courthouse, work on the front of Gibson School, Alabama Electric Co. building and work on the front of the Tutwiller Hotel. My Mother and aunt remember these but said he did many more. I wondered if this information would be helpful to anyone. When my children were younger, I took them to the park and took their pictures by the lions. I wonder now if a name might have been carved into them showing where they came from.
In 1926, construction began on an unpretentious facility that would seat 21,000 spectators. The stadium consisted of the west stands, a press box, and a small seating area on the east side. In 1927, as a means of honoring and providing a memorial to the American Legion and those who gave service and their life to this country, the stadium became known as Legion Field.
In the dedication game of the stadium, before 16, 800 fans, Howard College (now Samford University) defeated Birmingham-Southern College by a score of 9-0. Many prominent coaches, athletes and public figures have graced the sidelines of the stadium now affectionately referred to as the "Old Gray Lady," notably Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, Coach Eddie Robinson, John Stallworth, Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley, just to name a few.
Today, Legion Field proudly offers its home field advantage to the Blazers of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who continue to add to the storied ledger of this formidable landmark.
LEGION FIELD CHRONOLOGY:
1926: Construction begins on Legion Field, a 21,000-seat stadium, at a cost of $439,000.
Nov. 19, 1927: Legion Field debuts as Howard College shuts out Birmingham-Southern College 9-0.
November 2, 1946: Alabama A&M and Alabama State play the first Magic City Classic.
1948: With an assist from the legislature, Alabama and Auburn renew rivalry after 41-year feud. Tigers claw way to 55-0 victory.
1970: natural grass removed in favor of Poly-Turf. An artificial surface remains in place for the next 25 years.
November 28, 1981: Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant became the winningest coach in college football history with his 315th career win as Alabama beat Auburn 28-17.
1995: Artificial surface removed, replaced with Bermuda grass to meet requirements to host 1996 Olympic soccer matches.
1996: Olympics come to Legion Field, USA vs. Argentina men's soccer match draws capacity crowd.
1998: Final Iron Bowl played at Legion Field, as Crimson Tide rolls to 31-17 win.
1999: The annual Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championship is played at Legion Field.
2005: Upper deck (9,000 seats) dismantled.
2006: FieldTurf artificial grass surface installed.
2006: Inaugural PapaJohns.Com Bowl, December 23. The University of South Florida Bulls beat the East Carolina University Pirates, 24 – 7.
BIRMINGHAM MAYOR PROPOSES STADIUM IMPROVEMENTS
February 3, 2011
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Birmingham, Ala. - Mayor William Bell tells the Birmingham News he's interested in
upgrading Legion field.
The mayor told the newspaper he is negotiating with two colleges to bring another Classic
game to the stadium. He declined to name the schools but said they're Southern colleges outside the state.
"They are interested in relocating their game, and Birmingham is a central location for both of those schools," Bell said. "We're in the process of trying to convince schools like that, as well as organizations who sponsor games and events, and hopefully that will add to the number of games we play out here."
Bell said he'll ask city staff for a list of improvements needed for the stadium as the city prepares its budget for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1. He has no cost estimates yet, he said.
"We realize we don't have enough money to go in and redo the entire structure here, but there are some things we can do on a smaller scale, painting and touching up here and there," Bell said. "It's those small things that we can do to improve the quality of the facility."
He said work is needed to ensure the stadium's scoreboard and electronics are functioning properly, noting a malfunction that killed a scoreboard during the BBVA Compass Bowl earlier this month.
Besides the negotiations for a Classic game, the most likely prospect for additional use is in increased promotion of soccer at the site, especially among the area's rising Hispanic population, Bell said.
Alabama Sports Foundation executive director Gene Hallman, who organizes events at Legion Field, including the Magic City Classic, told the News refurbishing the stadium is a good short-term plan.
"It's clearly a viable facility in the short term, but like any facility built in 1927, it's definitely showing some signs of age," he said. "First and foremost we need a viable and long-term strategic plan to get the multipurpose facility built. Then you develop a plan that will upgrade Legion Field till that point."
Hallman listed several needs, including better concession, sound and ticketing systems.
"The bones are strong," he said. "It's some of the enhancements for spectator experience that
need to be improved upon."
ALABAMA TO STUDY ON-CAMPUS STADIUM
November 4, 2010
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Birmingham, Ala. - The Birmingham News says University of Alabama, Birmingham president
Carol Garrison has instructed administrators to research the possibility of building an on-campus football stadium.
"It's a young athletic program; it's a young football program," Garrison told the newspaper after the second of two town hall meetings called to answer questions and hear comments about the 2010-2015 revision to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Strategic Plan.
"I think as we've tried to grow and invest in a university and in athletics across the board, we have gotten to the time and place where it's appropriate for us to be looking at (a stadium)."
Garrison did not commit to a firm timetable for the decision but said steps have been taken to study the feasibility. She asked UAB athletics director Brian Mackin and UAB Vice President of Financial Affairs and Administration Richard Margison to "look at this overall issue and come back with the recommendation of what to do moving forward. That includes looking at all options, including an on-campus facility."
The UAB football team has played nearly every one of its home games at Legion Field since beginning as a Division III program in 1991. The Blazers moved to Division I-AA in 1993 and became a Division I-A participant in 1996. UAB is under contract until 2013 to continue playing its home games at Legion Field.
ALABAMA PLANNING ON-CAMPUS STADIUM
February 10, 2011
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Birmingham, Ala. - The Birmingham News says the University of Alabama at Birmingham
plans to build a horseshoe-style football stadium on its campus and leave Legion Field, according to an updated strategic plan.
University officials plan to present the new campus master plan to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees soon. The stadium is expected to have about 25,000 to 30,000 seats and will sit beside a large plaza with room for tailgating.
"The stadium will serve as a unique landmark within the campus and the City Center," the strategic plan reads, and will include views of the downtown skyline and a connecting walkway to other athletic facilities across University Boulevard.
"We feel it's time, for the growth of our program, to look at our own campus stadium. That is what most members of our conference have. It's very rare that people play in off campus stadiums anymore," Richard Margison, Vice President of Financial Affairs and Administration, told WBRC.
The television station said there is no time table on the project. The stadium is part of the school's long term plan for growth and would have to be approved by their board of trustees.
BIRMINGHAM MAYOR URGES SCHOOL TO RECONSIDER STADIUM
November 10, 2011
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Birmingham, Ala. - Birmingham Mayor William Bell is urging University of Alabama System
trustees to reconsider their decision to ax plans for a UAB football stadium, calling the project a major component in downtown redevelopment.
The Birmingham News said Bell has sent a letter to trustees, saying the stadium was another amenity set to serve as an engine of growth for both the university and the city.
"The economic impact of the football stadium will be tremendous and further, students, alumni, supporters and fans will experience an energy that is beyond what we can imagine today," Bell wrote. "The on campus stadium will change the character and quality of student life as demonstrated by the students themselves having traveled to Tuscaloosa to voice their support."
While Bell pledged continued upgrades at the 84-year-old Legion Field, where the Blazers play, he said long-term growth demands state-of-the-art facilities.
Bell's letter follows a surprise decision by the board to take discussion of the $75 million stadium off its agenda and the release of a statement saying the project wasn't in the best interest of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the UA System or the state. The trustees said UAB lacked both the fan base and financial support to justify the project.
"Part of their statement basically boiled down to 'nobody cared,' and I wanted them to know that's not true," Bell said. "I want to let the board know what an impact this is having on our effort to redevelop the whole area, and I didn't want them to think the city was all right with their decision."
Birmingham's plans for a $60 million ballpark and museum near Railroad Park have been closely tied to UAB's master plan, which included an on-campus stadium for the university. Much of the land for Birmingham's baseball park, designed to return the Birmingham Barons to the city, was acquired through a complex land-swap agreement with UAB, which needed some properties to complete its master plan.
While the decision against a football stadium won't stop Birmingham's ballpark, Bell said the loss of the UAB facility lessens ambitious plans to transform the area into a sports and entertainment destination.