On the move: Tim Eichenlaub, Darryl Karmen, Lewis Communications and more

Tim Eichenlaub.jpgTim Eichenlaub

Moves
• Birmingham-based AloStar Bank of Commerce said Tim Eichenlaub has been named chief credit officer.

Eichenlaub was most recently a managing director at Bayside Capital, a credit-oriented investment firm. At AloStar, he will be responsible for the credit and workout areas.

• Alostar Bank has named Darryl Karmen a director, giving him responsibility for asset-based loan originations in the western United States. Karmen previously served as managing director for Paradox Capital-Babcock Brown, a provider of capital to companies with intellectual property.

AloStar Bank acquired the failed Nexity Bank last spring.

• Lewis Communications has added Kyle Foster and Andrew Sims as Web developers.

Foster worked most recently as an art director and as a freelance Web designer. Sims joins Lewis from Montgomery’s Raycom Media, where he designed interactive news packages for Raycom affiliates across the country.

Lewis Communications is a branding and advertising agency with offices in Birmingham, Mobile and Nashville.

Promotions
• LBYD Inc., a consulting civil and structural engineering firm, said Hunter Hodges has been promoted to project manager.

Hodges is involved with the structural portion of several design-build federal and military construction projects across the Southeast.

• The Alabama State Port Authority has made high-level promotions.

• Linda Paaymans has been promoted to senior vice president of finance from vice president of finance, a position she has held since 2008.

• Bradley Ojard has been promoted to senior vice president of operations from vice president, a job he has held since 2007.

• Jerald Kichler was promoted to vice president, engineering services, and Bob Harris, was promoted to vice president, environmental and program management.

Appointments
• Ida Tyree Hyche has been named president of the League of Women Voters’ Greater Birmingham chapter.

She has served as member of the organization’s board of directors and has been in voter services for many years. She is employed by a federal agency in Huntsville and is a member of the Alabama State Bar.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan organization that seeks to influence public policy and citizen opinion based on its principles and issue positions.

• Greg Knighton, vice president and director of business information for the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, has been named to the EDPA board of directors. 

• Bradley Arant Boult Cummings said Jay Turner has been appointed to the board of directors for the Profit Sharing 401(k) Council of Alabama.

Turner is an associate in the law firm’s Birmingham office and is experienced in employee benefits and executive compensation.

Businesses
• Allstate Insurance Co. said Jacob Leake has opened a full-service agency offering auto, property, commercial and life insurance at 4200 Oakview Lane, Suite A, in Vestavia Hills.

Furthermore
• The Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis Miles P.C. law firm said attorney Ted Meadows has been chosen to help direct litigation related to hormone replacement therapy as part of a Plaintiffs Steering Committee in a case consolidated in Arkansas.

Meadows practices in the firm’s Mass Torts section. The Prempro Products Liability Litigation, as it is called, involves thousands of cases against drug manufacturer Wyeth Pharmaceuticals

Mail announcements to On the Move, The Birmingham News, P.O. Box 2553, Birmingham, AL 35202, email text and JPEG photographs (150 KB minimum, with the file name including the person’s name) to biznews@bhamnews.com, or fax to 325-3282. You can also follow the instructions under “On the Move” at al.com/business/birmingham.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/on_the_move_tim_eichenlaub_dar.html

Books-A-Million elevates Terry Finley to president’s post

terry finley.JPGTerry Finley, shown in this 2002 photo, has been named president of Books-A-Million.BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Books-A-Million Inc. said Terry Finley, the Birmingham-based retailer’s merchandising chief, has been named president.

The appointment is effective immediately. Finley joined the company in 1992, and has served in various roles in its merchandising department. Since August 2009, he has been executive vice president and chief merchandising chief at Books-A-Million.

“Terry has been an innovator and leader at BAM for over 20 years, and I am confident that he will lead our team to new heights as we take advantage of the many opportunities ahead,” CEO Clyde B. Anderson said in a statement.

Finley has served as a directors of Hibbett Sports Inc., another Birmingham retailer, since March 2008.

Books-A-Million also said James F. Turner has been promoted to the post of executive vice president/real estate and business development. He was formerly vice president/real estate.

Anderson said Turner “has consistently provided creative leadership in our real estate efforts.”

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/books-a-million_elevates_terry.html

Birmingham airport modernization project framing one concourse, about to start foundation for second

BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT TERMINAL MODERNIZATION PROJECT

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The steel frame is rising for a new Concourse A and before too long the foundation work should begin for the new Concourse B at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, according to the project’s general contractor.

The work is part of the first phase of project to modernize the terminal at Birmingham’s airport.. The first phase is scheduled to finish by December 2012. The overall expansion and improvement project will cost about $201 million with a target of completion in 2014.

As part of the project, concourses A and B are being removed and replaced with a structure that will double the terminal’s size. The renovation project also will add environmentally friendly elements to make Alabama’s busiest airport more energy efficient and sustainable.



Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Construction Of New Concourse A

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Construction Of New Concourse A
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — Jeff Hart, senior project manager with Brassfield and Gorrie describes the construction of the new Concourse A at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. The Birmingham Airport Authority continues with the Terminal Modernization Project with construction of the new Concourse A and demolition of Concourse B at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport Tuesday August 30, 2011. The first phase of the project will be complete by December 2012. (The Birmingham News/Joe Songer).
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Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/birmingham_airport_modernizati.html

Birmingham expert predicts big banks will boost debit card fees

creditcards.JPG

A Birmingham credit card expert says bank customers should brace for new fees on debit cards as financial institutions seek ways to cope with new rules that will lower fees they charge merchants for debit-card transactions.

Bill Hardekopf, chief executive of Lowcards.com, said some banks have already begun boosting fees for debit cards in advance of regulations that go into effect Oct. 1 and cap so-called “interchange” or “swipe” fees at 25 cents per debit-card transaction, down from the current average of 44 cents.

Birmingham-based Regions Bank said two weeks ago it will add a monthly $4 debit fee for some accounts starting in October.

Regions, No. 1 in deposit share in metro Birmingham with nearly 28 percent, said it collected about $346 million from swipe fees in 2010, when the high rates were in effect.

Wells Fargo has said it will test a $3 monthly fee for debit card users in five states: Georgia, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington. Customers can avoid the fee if they don’t use their debit card or sign up for designated checking accounts.

In June, Atlanta-based SunTrust bank launched Everyday Checking that charges customers $5 per month for debit card use.

Banks fought hard against the changes in swipe fees, which Hardekopf says generated an estimated $16 billion in 2009, according to the Federal Reserve.

“Banks generally give consumers a way to avoid these fees, but they may require a higher minimum balance or a broader banking relationship,” Hardekopf said. “Unfortunately, the customers who can’t afford to carry a higher minimum balance are the ones who will end up paying the fee.”

Regions spokeswoman Evelyn Mitchell said regulations have changed and, as a result, Regions and other banks are adjusting how they cover the costs of providing debit cards.

“For some customers that will mean a monthly fee for a debit card beginning in October,” she said. “One of the benefits of having a complete relationship with us is that we will continue to offer ways for customers to avoid the fee. We know that many consumers enjoy the convenience of using a debit card to make payments and we encourage our customers talk with their banker about which Regions account best fits their needs.”

Debit card usage has now grown to become more widespread than credit cards. Hardekopf says some banks have added reward programs to debit cards to entice customers to sign instead of swipe for a purchase. Signing means the purchase goes through the processing system like a credit card and generates a higher fee for the bank.

“These new rules and restrictions cost banks billions of dollars and they have to make it up somewhere,” Hardekopf said. “It is always the customer who ends up paying more. If monthly fees for debit card users prove successful in these test markets, look for these banks to assess this fee to all their customers as well as for other major banks to follow.”

John Kottmeyer, an adjunct professor of economics at Samford University’s Brock School of Business, said banks that recently encouraged the use of debit cards through reward programs and free checking accounts are now finding these programs and products to be too costly and eliminating most of those perks.

“This is a classic example of the cost of added regulation and the fact that the consumer ultimately bears the burden of the additional costs, in this case in the form of higher fees for banking services,” Kottmeyer said.

“The only ways to avoid the higher fees would be to concentrate banking services in a smaller number of banks or maintain larger balances, both of which would make you a more valuable customer while also giving the institutions some means of generating additional profit.”

Kottmeyer said banking customers should check out financial institutions as fees rise and will vary widely based on where you bank.

“It would be in the consumers’ best interest to shop around for banking services as fees and balance requirements will likely differ among banks,” Kottmeyer said. “It is quite possible that smaller community banks may not raise fees since this type of revenue is not as large a percentage of net income as it is for the larger banks.”

Alabama Telco Credit Union has already attempted to capitalize on fee-related moves by banks, with the credit union promoting the fact that its debit cards will remain free for customers. Birmingham-based America’s First Credit Union, which has 14 branches in the metro area, also will keep its debit cards free for members, said spokesman Phil Boozer.

“It just illustrates that credit unions are looking for alternate ways to make up lost income instead of passing them along to members,” said Patrick La Pine, chief executive of the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, which represents nearly 300 credit unions in Alabama and Florida.

“Credit unions, by their nature, exist to serve their member owners and what’s in their best interest. Adding fees to services is not one of them.”    

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Williams at rwilliams@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/birmingham_expert_predicts_big.html

BB&T in foreclosure proceedings with Miami’s Talmudic University

Talmudic-University-logo.jpg

BBT Corp., which absorbed Alabama’s failed Colonial Bank, has filed foreclosure proceedings on a Florida college of Jewish religious studies.

Miami’s Talmudic University is a prominent training center for Orthodox Jewish rabbis and teachers. BBT filed foreclosure suits in state court in Florida in recent weeks on about $8 million of loans, according to Larry Schantz, the college’s Miami-based attorney.

The loans to the non-profit institution were originally made by Montgomery-based Colonial Bank, which failed in 2009 and closed by regulators. It was absorbed by North Carolina-based BBT Corp. in a deal arranged by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

The bank filed papers on the school’s main campus and two satellite buildings. Both sides said in interviews they expect a solution that will keep the real estate in the college’s possession.

Schantz said that he expects the past-due amounts will be paid within days, restructuring the loan, after generous donations from supporters.

“Banks like to apply pressure,” he said. “About 80 percent of the money is in my trust account already.”

BBT spokeswoman Merrie Tolbert said the bank “explores every possible solution and alternative to help clients” who are in default. Foreclosure is the absolute last option, she said.

“There is more to this story than we are able to discuss, due to client confidentiality,” Tolbert said. “However, I can say that BBT has been working with Talmudic University on modification solutions for more than a year. BBT remains open to amicably resolve the matter.”

Schantz said the college, with about 50 full-time students and hundreds of weekly attendees at various programs, has been hurt by the general economy. It has always been dependent on donations, he said, and a rocky stock market has cut into contributions.

“They also expanded their own real-estate holdings over the past four or five years,” Schantz said.

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Hubbard at rhubbard@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/bbt_in_foreclosure_proceedings.html

Alabamians with iPads seek news on football, God, guns and lingerie

ipad.JPGThe Zite news aggregation site compared topics that iPad owners in Alabama were interested in compared to interest of users in other states.

Alabamians have disproportionate interest in football, God, guns and . . . lingerie, according to an analysis of news consumption habits on iPad computers.

An analysis of how iPad owners use the news aggregation tool Zite found that people in the Yellowhammer state, more than news consumers elsewhere, seek out news about religion. Four of the 10 most disproportionately popular topics in an Alabama ranking released by Zite Friday had to do with faith.

No. 1 on the list — no surprise — was college football. But Tiger Woods came in second and at No. 5, sandwiched between “Bible study” and “guns,” was “lingerie.”

The analysis, posted on the Zite blog late last week, measured not popularity of news topics but proportionate interest, relative to interest in other states.

Culturally conservative topics were high in the rankings in Southern states, and finance and investment were high in the rankings in the Northeast, Zite administrators wrote on a blog. In the upper Midwest, people slurped down a disproportionate amount of beer news.

Most of the rankings were fairly predictable, with residents of Washington state showing interest in computers, aviation and the outdoors, and with Californians into technology and surfing.

As for lingerie’s place in the Alabama ranking, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious explanation. The manager of one Alabama Victoria’s Secret store, who declined to be identified because of a corporate policy against speaking to the media, said she doesn’t know why Alabamians might have their minds on lingerie to a greater degree than residents of other states.

And, she said, she doesn’t know why iPad users, in particular, might be seeking out lingerie news.

“We don’t see a lot of people carrying those (iPads) in here,” she said.

The Zite app, named after the German word “zeitgeist,” tracks an individual’s use of Google and Twitter, logs preferences and then automatically seeks out news that may be of particular interest to the user.

Meredith Klee, a spokeswoman for Zite, declined to disclose download data on Monday, so it’s impossible to know how large a pool of data Zite used to draw its conclusions about Alabama. The Zite application is available only for the iPad.

In a methodology explanation posted on the Zite blog, however, administrators say they reported no findings for states with insufficient data.

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Diel at sdiel@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/americas_ipads_show_what_we_lo.html

Memphis firm acquires Birchall at Ross Bridge apartment community

Birchall Ross Bridge.JPGBirchall at Ross Bridge, an apartment community in the Hoover development, has a new owner.BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A Memphis-based real estate investment trust has acquired an apartment community in the Ross Bridge neighborhood.

Mid-America Apartment Communities Inc., a publicly traded company, has acquired Birchall at Ross Bridge, the company announced this morning. The 240-unit complex is located at 100 Birchall Lane in Hoover.

“We believe the Birmingham economy will support strong leasing fundamentals for the foreseeable future,” Al Campbell, executive vice president and chief financial officer for MAA, said in a prepared statement.

MAA has completed three other acquisitions this summer. In June, it bought apartment communities in Savannah, Ga; Jacksonville, Fla. and Richmond, Va.

Birchall at Ross Bridge was built in 2009. Last year, the National Association of Homebuilders named Ross Bridge the 2010 Best Community in America.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/memphis_firm_acquires_birchall.html

Experts say distinctive districts can foster new growth for Birmingham

Birmingham districts Rubiks cube.jpg

The key to figuring out downtown Birmingham’s future growth may be found in how its districts are defined and which elements are strong enough to build around.

The Central Business District/Financial District is centered around the banking companies and their office towers at 20th Street and Fifth Avenue North. The Civil Rights Institute and 16th Street Baptist Church anchor the Civil Rights District. The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is the centerpiece of the BJCC District.

Even the linear Birmingham Green is defined by the 20th Street “spine” that runs the length of downtown, linking Five Points South to the financial district and crossing some of the other districts.

Five Points South itself, while a large neighborhood, is most defined by its entertainment district where the five streets (formerly streetcar lines) converge. Lakeview District, too, is best known for its restaurants and bars rather than the lake that has long since disappeared as the main attraction.

And new districts are being formed around other downtown centerpieces:

A Theater District will be anchored by the Alabama Theatre, McWane Center and perhaps a revitalized Lyric Theatre.

A Second Avenue North District builds on the eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, shops and residences that make up the block between 23rd and 25th Streets.

Innovation Depot anchors the Entrepreneurial District.

The Birmingham Railroad Park and future baseball park will anchor the proposed Parkside District.

Pepper Place is the centerpiece of a planned Pepper Place District.

There is even some consideration being given to a Federal Office District with the Social Security Building, FBI-ATF, the future Treasury Department Building and others on the northwest edge of downtown.

At a time when “unity” and “regionalism” are buzz words that signify the need for less division and barriers, does it make sense to splinter downtown by creating more and more districts?

“Yes,” according to Ed McMahon, senior resident fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute.

“I think this is a pretty smart move on the part of downtown Birmingham,” McMahon said. “It fits into this idea of mass customization. Everything today is about establishing a niche, a unique identity. If you can’t differentiate yourself from any other place, you have no competitive advantage. This is part of that same idea.”

Unity, regionalism and cooperation are still important elements when it comes to economic development and better governance, he said. But the creation of districts turns the focus inward to what exists versus the external focus on what is missing.

“One of the big economic development mistakes is it’s always about the one big thing or the things you don’t have. ‘Let’s build a domed stadium or an amusement park,’” McMahon said. “Economic development today is asset-based economic development. It’s more about what you do have than what you don’t have.”

Bob Wilkerson, partner and planner with Birmingham’s 2D Studio LLC, said it’s not so much about districts being separated from other parts of downtown as much as it is about them being connected while maintaining their own identities.

“I prefer that we think of these districts as pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that fit neatly together,” he said. “It’s not about division or boundaries, it’s about connections.”

Changing perceptions

The creation of districts is nothing new. Wilkerson shared examples of popular ones in other cities of similar size to Birmingham at this month’s meeting of Operation New Birmingham.

Kansas City’s Power Light District, Austin’s Second Street District, and Cincinnati’s Eighth Street Design District are examples of districts that evolved naturally and then used branding and everything from transit to street signs to establish a true sense of place within the districts.

Wilkerson said all districts have to start with some “truth.” Artificial districts don’t have staying power or feel real, he said.

“You have to define districts by identifying their true character, or the truth of a particular district,” he said. “They start there.”

McMahon agreed.

“It’s got to be more than marketing,” he said. “If all this is is a marketing tool, it won’t necessarily be all that successful. It has to be matched with physical, tangible things.”

Which is not to say branding and marketing aren’t important. Jeremy Erdreich, the Birmingham architect and developer who helped the evolution of the Second Avenue District, said that has to be a component.

“Basically, this city has never been known for branding itself well, in whatever capacity,” Erdreich said. “This is why visitors have either neutral or negative images of the city before they arrive.”

Districting gives the city and its downtown a tool to change those perceptions, he said.

“One aspect of branding is urban sub-districts,” he said. “We have fallen behind many other cities, larger and smaller, that have been aggressively branding urban sub-districts.”

That branding can start with the naming of district and using flag banners with that name like is done in Five Points South, Lakeview and other Birmingham districts. But it requires more, Erdreich said.

Details such as street furnishings, specific materials, plantings, wayfinding devices, transit and parking help brand a district.

McMahon said Chicago does this to great effect with the arches that signify when you’re entering Chinatown or the Grecian gateways that mark Greektown.

“This idea of creating a branded identity makes a lot of sense and it applies at both the district level and at the city and metro level as well,” he said.


Sense of place

There is, however, a danger of sending mixed signals and weakening the “brand” of two districts.

Erdreich pointed to the area around Railroad Park where Five Points South banners started showing up this summer. While the park is technically within the boundaries of the Five Points South neighborhood, Erdreich said the public perception of Five Points South centers on the circle where 20th Street and 11th Avenue South come together.

“The rest of the neighborhood should be divided into sub-districts with their own identities (Parkside, Midtown),” he said. “This helps create neighborhood pride, gives real estate development a focus, orients visitors, and enhances our collective understanding of what makes a city.”

McMahon questioned why the city is spending $75 million to create a Westin Hotel and entertainment district near the BJCC when the seeds for such a district have already been planted by the Alabama Theatre and the future restored Lyric Theatre.

“You’ve got an example of something already there that doesn’t have to be created out of whole cloth,” he said.

Chris Hatcher, director of planning at ONB, said it’s almost up to a district to define itself before the real branding and marketing of a district can begin.

“They are mostly organic,” he said. “Most districts already have a sense of place. There are reasons they are there, reasons people frequent them. When it comes to branding them, we try to take it to a different level.”

That branding should center on the same thing that caused the district to emerge, he said.

“What we look to do is identify that intrinsic characteristic that makes that place different, that makes it unique,” he said.

But even when districts are defined, they continue to take on a life of their own, Hatcher said.

“Districts are not static,” he said. “Districts can grow, especially when you look at corridors.”

Corridors like Second Avenue North, which Erdreich and Hatcher hold up as an example of what is possible.

“We would like to see Second Avenue North District extend all the way to Innovation Depot,” Hatcher said. “Second Avenue North can end up traversing several other districts.”

Though it was already home to long-established businesses like Baldone Tailoring Co., the addition of new venues like Pale Eddie’s Pour House, Rogue Tavern and the Urban Standard and the eclectic What’s On 2nd? have given the corridor a new, distinctive vibe.

“It’s an area that already has recognition,” Erdreich said. “We can enhance that, to create more opportunities for people who want to visit, invest, experience this neighborhood.”

Join the conversation by clicking to comment or email Michael Tomberlin at mtomberlin@bhamnews.com.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/experts_say_distinctive_distri.html

Gurley given reprieve on nearly $5 million bill, chance to argue against quarry verdict

Gurley ReactionThe town of Gurley faces nearly $5 million in payments stemming from a lawsuit that it lost in February over its efforts to prevent construction of a rock quarry. The town’s attorneys will have a chance in October to argue the verdict should be overturned. (Dave Dieter/ The Huntsville Times)

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — A Madison County judge has given the town of Gurley at least a temporary reprieve from having to pay nearly $5 million it owes after losing a court case in February.

MN Materials won a $2.75 million verdict, plus 6 percent interest, against Gurley over the town’s efforts to block the company from building a rock quarry on a 269-acre site in the small community. The interest owed is just over $1 million, according to court records. The company is owned by developers Brian McCord and Brian Nelson.

MN’s lawyers also are entitled to attorneys fees of $1.1 million, Circuit Judge Karen Hall ruled earlier this month.

But last week Hall granted the town’s request to stop MN from collecting on the judgment and agreed to hold a hearing Oct. 13 on Gurley’s arguments that the jury’s verdict should be overturned or a new trial granted.

The jury found that Gurley’s actions to block the quarry effectively condemned MN’s property. Gurley contends that Alabama law does not recognize the “regulatory taking,” which was the basis of MN’s claims.

“The plaintiff’s inverse condemnation claim fails under the plain language of that provision, which only authorizes a cause of action where property has been taken or injured by the construction or enlargement of (the Town’s) works, highways, or improvements,” Gurley argued in a court filing. “Clearly, here, no ‘construction or enlargement’ of the Town’s physical works or infrastructure (support) the plaintiff’s claims in this case.”

subhead

The lawsuit was filed in 2005, but the matter began in 2003 when MN began buying land with the idea of building a rock quarry. The property was next to Gurley, but after word of plans for a quarry became public in 2003, area residents began to complain.

Gurley held a referendum in 2004 and about 90 percent of those voting approved annexing the property into Gurley. Gurley zoned the property for agriculture use, effectively preventing the construction of a quarry.

MN was denied a business license for the quarry in 2004. MN sold the property to Vulcan Materials in late 2004. Vulcan had an option to buy the property from MN for $3.75 million, but it let the option expire and later paid MN $1 million for the site.

MN’s attorneys argued the full option price would have been paid if Gurley had not taken steps to stop the quarry. The jury award covered the balance of the original option price.

Vulcan’s license request in early 2005 was also denied, based on the zoning. MN attorney Michael Vercher said the town had no evidence to justify its decision to deny MN’s license. That decision, Vercher argued, eventually drove down the land’s purchase price.

Stan Simpson was a leader in the effort to block the quarry and was later elected mayor. Simpson also was sued by MN, but the jury found he did not interfere with MN’s business.

Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/08/gurley_given_reprieve_on_nearl.html

Sports pack potent economic punch for Birmingham area

hoover kickoff 2011.JPGHoover High School player Cooper Carden (17) blocks South Panola player Matthew Davis to make some running room for RB Caleb Sims during the ESPN High School Kickoff Classic, in Hoover, Alabama, Saturday, August 27, 2011. (The Birmingham News/Tamika Moore)

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — A prep football double-header at Hoover High School ruled the sports world on ESPN on Saturday afternoon, providing a boost to local hotels and restaurants — and burnishing the Birmingham area’s growing reputation as a sports town.

Games pitting Prattville against Saint Thomas Aquinas of Fort Lauderdale and Hoover against South Panola of Bates Valley, Miss., attracted fans who filled up at least five Hoover hotels and had an estimated economic impact of $2.4 million.

“We are blessed to be able to host this event,” said Hoover Schools Athletic Director Myra Miles.

Miles said the ESPN High School Football Kickoff was a first for the sports network, which had never before aired back-to-back high school games.

And it was the latest in a string of sporting events that officials project will pump in excess of $200 million into the metro Birmingham economy this year, according to data supplied by the Greater Birmingham Convention Visitors Bureau and the Bruno Event Team.

“Sports is a huge economic generator for metro Birmingham,” said David Galbaugh, sports marketing director for the convention bureau.

SPORTS IMPACT

Top sports tourism events in Birmingham area in 2011 and their estimated economic impact:

• Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama: $33 million.

• Regions Tradition golf tournament: $25 million.

• Aaron’s 499 NASCAR race: $24 million.

• Talladega 500: $20 million.

• Magic City Classic: $15.8 million.

• BBVA Compass Bowl: $12 million.

• Black American Softball Association Tournament: $10 million.

• SEC Baseball Championship: $8.5 million.

• SWAC Football Championship: $8 million.

• Alabama Sports Festival: $7.6 million.

• Red Diamond Vulcan Cup youth soccer tournaments: $7.5 million.

• AHSAA Final 48 State Basketball Championships: $6.7 million.

Source: David Galbaugh of Greater Birmingham Convention Visitors Bureau; Bruno Event Team

He said sports-related tourism has grown to become probably the largest single sector of metro Birmingham’s $1.3 billion-a-year tourism business. Its expansion has been significant. One example: The number of bookings for hotel room nights linked to sport events in the Birmingham area has risen 73 percent in a decade, Galbaugh said.

So far this year, there have been more than 152,000 sports event room nights booked in the Birmingham area, on track to top last year’s figure of nearly 186,000, he added.

It’s not all about football, either. The Birmingham Crossplex, an indoor track-and-field and swimming facility that opened last week at the former Fair Park Arena in western Birmingham, is expected to become a major draw for sports fans who need hotel rooms and restaurant meals.

Galbaugh expects the $46 million complex to have an estimated economic impact of $13 million during the first four months of the indoor track season, from December to March 2012.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell sees it as a catalyst not just for growth on the western side of town, but as a venue that can positively impact the entire city.

“Crossplex will give us the chance to showcase our city to athletes and their families, and to viewing audiences of televised events,” Bell said. “Our students will be exposed to national coaches and athletes, and gain opportunities that before were not available. This will be a game changer for them and the city.”

Galbaugh said the Birmingham Crossplex, which he described as one of the top four indoor track facilities in the nation, will further elevate the importance of sports tourism in the metro area. The facility has already booked major track and field events hosted by Auburn University, the University of Alabama, UAB, plus high schools and college teams from across the country, he said.

“It will be huge for us,” Galbaugh said. “And when they open the warm up pool to go along with the Olympic style swimming pool at the Birmingham Crossplex, I expect us to get major swimming events, too.”

Another major sports event is looming on the horizon. In December, Regions Park in Hoover will for the first time host the NCAA Men’s College Cup Soccer Championship. Galbaugh said the final four men’s soccer teams will play games that air live on national television, and the event will generate about $6 million in economic impact.

Of course, Birmingham has always been known as something of a sports town.

Gene Hallman of the Bruno Event Team, which promotes events at the Barber Motorsports Park and other sporting events such as the Magic City Classic, said Birmingham enjoyed a solid reputation as a sports town dating from the days when the University of Alabama Crimson Tide regularly played football games at Legion Field.

But it was something other than football that really put the city on the map.

The game-changer, Hallman said, came in 1984, when the Shoal Creek Golf and Country Club hosted the PGA Championship.

“That was the first major sporting event we held outside of college football and led to the 1990 PGA, NCAA basketball games, the Bruno’s Memorial Classic in 1992 (now known as the Regions Tradition) and the 1996 Olympic soccer games being held here,” Hallman said.

“Birmingham turned heads when we sold more Olympic soccer tickets than the other three cities combined — Washington, Orlando and Miami.”

Hallman said he believes Birmingham is a successful sports town in large part because, unlike most of its rival cities in the Southeast, the events do not compete with a professional sports team.

“When sporting events come here, they don’t have to compete for media attention with a professional sports team,” he said. “We always get great community and business support.”

Other major events that bring in sports tourists are the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at the Barber track, the SEC Baseball Championship, the SWAC Football Championship and the Red Diamond Vulcan Cup youth soccer tournament, which draws teams from as far away as Canada.

Birmingham even felt the love from the tennis world in 2009 when the United States Tennis Association’s Davis Cup matches between the United States and Switzerland. The men’s tournament at the BJCC Arena set the attendance record for a first-round Davis Cup tie in the U.S., attracting 45,708 fans. Tourism officials estimated the economic impact at $8 million.

Bad weather and a less-than-stellar lineup made for a much lower, but respectable turnout of around 8,000 in 2010 when the USTA’s Fed Cup women’s semifinal tournament saw a tie between the U.S. and Russia.

In addition, Galbaugh said the region also reaps benefits from its close proximity to Tuscaloosa. Every time the Alabama Crimson Tide plays home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium, hotels, restaurants and shopping centers across the metro area pick up business from football fans who travel to watch the Tide play.

Last year, half of the 750-room Sheraton Birmingham downtown was filled with Florida Gator fans who came to watch the team play the Tide in Tuscaloosa. “The University of Alabama football games are always a big boost for Birmingham,” said Hallman, whose company helps UA at home games.

The two annual races at the Talladega Superspeedway also rev up hotel, dining and retail spending in the Birmingham metro area.

Despite tremendous growth in sports tourism, Birmingham remains limited in its ability to compete against other cities across the country that have more modern facilities, Hallman said. He said Legion Field turns 85 next year, and the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex was erected in 1970.

“There are other events we could get if we had the infrastructure,” he said. “We’ve got to upgrade our sports facilities.”

Chuck Faush, Bell’s chief of staff, said the mayor still has hopes to build a domed stadium, a half-billion-dollar project he delayed due to lack of funding last year.

For now, Faush said, Bell plans to focus on the $70 million Westin Hotel and entertainment district under construction near the BJCC, a project he hopes will build momentum for the dome.

Faush said the Birmingham City Council’s approval of the mayor’s plans to build a baseball stadium near Railroad Park will show how a downtown sports facility can be a catalyst for economic growth. Don Logan, owner of the Birmingham Barons minor league baseball team, has said he will relocate the Barons from Hoover’s Regions Park back to Birmingham once the stadium is built.

Bell said sports is “a part of who we are in Birmingham,” so it makes sense to capitalize by building facilities that position the Magic City “as the sports hosting venue of the Southeast.”

“Baseball returning to Birmingham signals the return of a team that is our own and has its roots here,” the mayor said. “The return of the Barons means jobs, economic growth and the opportunity for Birmingham residents to rally behind their home team.

Bell, in acceptance remarks when re-elected to a two year mayoral term on Tuesday, said he has not given up on the idea of a domed stadium. In an interview Friday, he said the city is doing projects it can now and will focus on bigger goals down the road.

We have taken strategic steps with developments so that projects are within budget and on time,” the mayor said. “These incremental projects are important because it builds trust and confidence in our ability to start and complete any project of any size.”

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Article source: http://blog.al.com/businessnews/2011/08/sports_pack_potent_economic_pu.html