Ross Bridge's resident sports fans have a lot to look forward to this spring including a major golf event in their own back yard. Birmingham's hottest selling new home community is home to the Regions Charity Classic Golf Tournament.
April is shaping up as a record month for Birmingham area tourism, thanks to three major sporting events. Convention officials expect them to generate a combined $62 million in tourism-related spending.
About $33 million of that will come from the IndyCar Series inaugural IRL Grand Prix of Alabama, set for April 9-11 at the Barber Motorsports road track near Leeds, said David Galbaugh, sports marketing director for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Two events beginning April 24 — the Talladega Superspeedway Aaron’s 499 and the Federation Cup women’s tennis match between the United States and Russia — are expected to have an economic impact of $25 million and $3.9 million, respectively.
Galbaugh said Birmingham area hotels, restaurants and retail shops also could reap benefits from another sporting event not counted in that tally — the University of Alabama Crimson Tide’s A-Day Game on April 17 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
“It will be Alabama’s first scrimmage since winning the national championship, so we could see Tide fans come in early for the game and stay or shop in Birmingham,” he said.
Gene Hallman, whose Bruno Event Team recruited the IndyCar series and Fed Cup to Birmingham, said this year could set a record for economic impact tied to sports-related events in the metro area. He said the Fed Cup impact could be even higher if at least one of the Williams sisters, Venus or Serena, participates in the matches.
“These events reinforce our objective of making the Birmingham region known as a premier host of sporting events,” Hallman said. His group, along with the Alabama Sports Foundation, also promotes the Magic City Classic football game and the Regions Charity Classic senior golf tour event.
A big May, too
May also will be a big month, with the Regions Charity Classic at Renaissance Ross Bridge expected to pump $23 million into the area economy May 14-16. Two weeks later, Regions Park in Hoover will host the SEC Baseball Championship Tournament.
Bill Murray, co-owner of the Tutwiler Hotel downtown, said Talladega race fans and Fed Cup patrons will fill most of his hotel April 24-25, providing a huge boost for the area hospitality industry still hurting from the economic downturn.
“The Birmingham CVB realized a long time ago the value of sports tourism when they hired someone to focus solely on marketing in that area,” said Murray, a past chairman of the convention bureau. “Their staff, along with Gene Hallman and others with the Alabama Sports Foundation, have done a great job of promoting our city as a sports destination.”
Hallman, who formed the Bruno Event Team in 1992, said Birmingham’s reputation as a strong sports town has been built on its successes.
“We got the IndyCar series because of our success with the Davis Cup,” he said of last year’s match, which set a first-round attendance record of 45,700. “That also helped us get the Fed Cup.”
Evens Estinfort, co-owner and chef of Cafe de Paris at 2801 Seventh Ave. South, said events such as the IndyCar series and Fed Cup help promote and support area restaurants. “It allows us to show people outside Alabama the great dining restaurants we have here in Birmingham.”
Hallman said many people don’t realize the impact hosting sporting events has on improving Birmingham’s image. He pointed out ESPN’s live coverage of the Bassmaster Classic last week, which had an economic impact of $19 million.
Mark Noyes of the Sheraton Birmingham said that event alone enabled the hotel to fill all of its 770 rooms most of the week and generated $500,000 in food and beverage sales. “It was huge for our hotel.”
Hallman said adding a planned $530 million domed stadium near the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex would take Birmingham’s sports marketing to the next level. “It will enable us to go after bigger events.”
World-class sporting events such as these are just another reason why owning a new home at Ross Bridge is so exciting.