Friday, December 11, 2009

Populous meets with perspective users of the BJCC multipurpose facility expansion

Yesterday, Populous, formerly known as HOK Stadiums along with the local team of architectural firms met with 18 potential users of the dome, including officials from the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Bowl, and Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau about what amenities they desire in the multipurpose facility expansion.  A 30-minute presentation was shown then, Dennis Wellner of Populous spent an hour soliciting suggestions and answering questions from board members of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex and Councilmen Jonathan Austin and Jay Roberson of the Birmingham City Council at the BJCC.  Also in attendance was Birmingham mayoral candidates Patrick Cooper and William Bell.  However, Cooper left before the Populous presentation began and Bell stayed about 30 minutes into it.  INTERESTING, Cooper and Bell are dedicated to be there to show face, but I wonder if somebody tipped off Bell that Cooper was going to be there since he is a private citizen so that he could one-up on him and be there as well...

The City of Birmingham will not own the Civic Center expansion. The Civic Center Authority does and will. The Civic Center Authority will issue the bonds.  The City of Birmingham will contribute 60% of the money needed for debt service on the expansion. The BJCC Authority will contribute 40% of the money needed for debt service.

The BJCC expansion is not a stadium or a DOME. The expansion is a 1.2 million square foot multi purpose facility. It will be designed so that it can be re-configured for many different events. It will not have a dome roof, but a flat roof that can possibly be used in some environmentally friendly way for power generation or to channel rainwater for reuse.

The 165-170 thousand square foot interior free space is large enough for a regulation football, basketball or soccer playing surface. It can also be use for trade shows, exhibitions, conventions. In addition to the flat floor space the facility will house about an additional 50,000 square feet of meeting rooms. It will be fully integrated into the existing HVAC, electrical, data and AV systems. The physical connection between the existing complex and the expansion will be seamless.

The facility is not, and has never, been planned around an NFL team or any other professional sports franchise. The primary concern for this facility is to provide the overall complex additional free floor space. If such a facility can be value engineered (this is what Popolous has been hired to do) so that 65,000 seats can be placed around the free floor space then it has even more flexibility for more events.

The existing civic center complex has not run down and crumbled into the dirt. More than $50 million has been spent on upgrading the arena, concert hall, meeting rooms, parking and installation of a skywalk system that connects the entire complex together. If you have visited the BJCC lately you would be able to see these improvements.

In 2009 the BJCC has hosted 5 of the top 10 touring acts in the United States! Despite 911 and the current recession, the BJCC has operated in the black seven of the last eight years. The facility hosts close to 2 million visitors every year.

If more people including the media would realize this they would waste their time calling it a "dome" when it is a just a large multipurpose facility then they would just STFU.  Birmingham needs more exhibition space for larger events including concerts, conventions, and sports.  However, this region suffers from "C.A.V.E.-dwellers Syndrome" (Citizens against virtually anything), and they wouldn't say anything about this if it was located in Hoover or Shelby County because it continue to make Birmingham look bad in contrast to the suburban areas.  Small-minded idiots. 

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