News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
SUNDAY, JUNE 5, 2005


Domed stadium no way to rebuild Birmingham

Birmingham is in danger of becoming the state's second-largest city behind Montgomery.

So, the forward thinking leaders of what was once called the Magic City want to build a domed stadium and expand its convention center.

Losing population is only one of the flimsy reasons to spend $567 million on sports and tourism in a city that has trouble keeping its schools roofed, its toilets flushing and its handful of municipal buses running.

We wouldn't be too critical if taxpayers from outside Jefferson County wouldn't have to help pay for the dream of people who want to make Birmingham what it is not.

"I view this as the most important opportunity we have in the early 21st century to jumpstart our city," Mayor Bernard Kincaid said last week after the various players in the project finally met and agreed on basic issues.

But couldn't the Jefferson County Commission spend the $300 million it may pledge and the city its $240 million in more substantive ways?

The concept is propped up on the faulty dream of building it and they will come.

But who's coming?

Major league sports are not interested, and dog racing limps along at what once was a state-of-the-art horse track.

Why would planners of major conventions come to Birmingham when they have New Orleans, Atlanta, Nashville and Biloxi from which to choose?

Gov. Bob Riley hints he would back a $20 million state appropriation under the right conditions. But one of the private developers wants the state also to subsidize his investment by leasing a building he owns downtown.

That may be only the start of annual state contributions to keep the domed stadium from financially collapsing once it opens.

Birmingham should capitalize on its strengths rather than try to become what it's not. And Alabama taxpayers should not be a financial partner in this folly.

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