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Build the Birmingham Dome downtown!

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From \"The Birmingham News\" and Alabama Power Chief Executive Charles McCrary says downtown Birmingham is the best place to build a domed stadium because it would meet a dire need: improving the area\'s convention facilities. McCrary, who headed Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford\'s transition team, said there is nothing wrong with exploring all options as the city considers where to put the dome. But he added that Langford, who supports the idea of placing it adjacent to the Birmingham Race Course, should consider building it on Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex property because that\'s best for the entire community. \"The bottom line is that the BJCC is old and needs a little work,\" McCrary said. \"If the dome goes somewhere else, we\'ve still got the same problem about the need to do something about the BJCC.\" Last month, the Birmingham City Council approved Langford\'s proposals to raise the city\'s sales tax by a penny and double business license fees. McCrary and the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce\'s executive committee were early supporters of the tax raises because part of the proceeds were expected to help build the dome at the BJCC, which has been seeking an expansion for a decade. McCrary said building a dome is a big decision, but \"we just need to make sure we do the right thing for everybody. This has to be well thought out.\" Langford has said he was also considering building the dome next to the race course or Fair Park Arena. He also told a commercial real estate group last month that downtown was a top choice. BJCC leaders say they were caught off guard at Wednesday\'s board meeting when Langford said the site near the race course was his top choice, even though downtown remained an option. BJCC has a lot at stake: BJCC Executive Director Jack Fields said building the dome near the race course would hurt BJCC efforts to attract events to the complex, a public facility that receives funding from the city and the county. \"It would be new competition for us,\" Fields said. Losing the $19 million a year set aside from the business fee increase also would hamper the BJCC\'s expansion plans, Fields said. The increase goes into effect Jan. 1. The BJCC is just about at the funding it needs to issue bonds for the expansion when adding the $19 million set aside from the business fee increase to other dome funding commitments, Fields said. Last year, the city council approved a plan to give $8.8 million to the BJCC expansion. Nearly five years ago, state lawmakers passed three bills that combined generate nearly $10 million yearly in car rental, lodging and alcoholic beverage taxes for the dome. BJCC Board Chairman Clyde Echols said nearly $300 million has been invested in the complex since it was built 35 years ago, but it is in need of a face-lift. The BJCC has spent $25 million over the past five years buying six blocks where the proposed dome and an entertainment district would be built. We have a lot at stake,\" Echols said. \"The reason we call it a multi-purpose facility is that building would house a lot more than just sporting events. We would hold conventions, meetings, entertainment events there as well. That facility would allow us to hold more than one event at one time. We lose business every day because of lack of space.\" Echols said if the dome were built near the race course, it would be limited to use mostly as a sporting venue, which limits its ability to make money. \"San Antonio is a perfect example,\" he said. \"That city is a top 10 tourist attraction, but because they made the mistake of building the Alamodome across the interstate from downtown, they only hold 40 events a year. If built contiguous to San Antonio\'s convention center they could triple the amount of events they could hold there.\" `Think this through\': McCrary said it is vital that Birmingham leaders not rush their decision or make a \"knee-jerk\" reaction on a choice. Langford has said he is studying all options and plans to decide on where to build the dome by March, when he hopes to break ground. \"Everybody needs to take a deep breath and think this through,\" McCrary said. \"I\'m hoping everybody can pull together to make this happen. We don\'t need to get mad at each other as we decide where to put it. We have to evaluate this opportunity as a whole in unity. We need to look at the consequences of not building it downtown.\" Please sign below if you want to help us encourage Larry Langford to build the dome downtown! NOTE: Your e-mail address, zip, or age WILL NOT be made available to the public. ONLY your name and your comments will appear on the public petition whether you choose to remain anonymous or not.


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