Cup could signal change in Birmingham sports scene

Published 2:09 pm Thursday, March 5, 2009

It will be interesting to see whether the Davis Cup tennis matches in Birmingham will have a lasting impact on our state. Ever since the event was announced, there has been a buzz around sports in Birmingham that I haven’t seen in years.

While it is not the same kind of excitement that surrounds college football, I’m actually surprised to see tennis sell so well here. The standard allotment of tickets was gone so fast that they sold out about as fast as student tickets for Alabama football games. Granted, what really sold was the fact that Roger Federer’s country was playing here, and maybe, just maybe, Federer himself might play. Federer isn’t playing, but having Andy Roddick in town is still draw enough.

This is why some sporting events do well and why others fail. This event includes some of the best players in the game. Other professional sports played here don’t include players at the top of the game.

Pro sports fans in this state are picky. They only want the best. If it’s just second-rate, then they can just focus on Alabama and Auburn football. That’s why all of the former pro sports teams in Birmingham haven’t done well. If you can think of the sport, Birmingham has had a minor league team. The only minor league sport that has been successful has been baseball.

There have been numerous pro football teams that have formed, but none of them have lasted. Some of the football leagues have even failed before they even played a game.

I hope Birmingham does make a good showing, but the real question about Birmingham’s sports scene is where does the city go from here? Facilities are always the big concern because Birmingham’s sports complexes are older and not as fan friendly as others. Something must be done about that, especially if the city wants to keep the Final 48 and the Super Six for high school sports.

These two events have been a major part of Birmingham’s sports scene for the last few years, but there is a strong possibility that Auburn and Alabama will host them in the future. Here’s the bottom line: compare Legion Field to Bryant-Denny Stadium and Jordan-Hare Stadium. Actually, there is no comparison.

I’m not saying Birmingham needs a domed stadium, but some kind of new facility is needed badly. I just don’t know if there’s any money available for it.