Alabama Sports Foundation head praises Shelby County role in attracting sporting events

Published 2:46 pm Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The communities in Shelby County help expand the Birmingham metro area’s ability to attract major sporting events, said Alabama Sports Foundation Executive Director Gene Hallman on June 30 at the Greater Shelby Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at the Pelham Civic Complex.

Hallman, the Chamber’s guest speaker, said the “Southern hospitality” shown by Shelby County natives makes it easy to pitch hosting events such as the Regions Charity Golf Classic, which was held at Greystone Golf and Country Club for years before moving to Robert Trent Jones’ Ross Bridge in Hoover.

“I think our biggest attribute when we host events is our Southern hospitality,” Hallman said. “Time and time again, this community rolls out the red carpet and is known for its Southern hospitality.”

Hallman said he hopes the area can influence a few more major sporting organizations to give Central Alabama an opportunity to host some of the top sports events in the world.

Hallman said the recent Indy Racing League event at Barber Motorsports Park, which was considered a success in business circles worldwide, was an example of the area’s ability to be a major player in sports.

Hallman said the Birmingham metro area, which is the 40th largest television market in the United States and the third largest without a professional sports team, uses the lack of professional sports in its pitch to organizations such as the United States Tennis Association, the United States Golf Association and the IRL.

“My pitch is if you come here, you’re going to be a big deal,” Hallman said. “They love that.”

Hallman said Shelby County benefits through economic development associated with Alabama Sports Foundation events in the Birmingham metro area. Hosting top-notch sporting events can draw new business opportunities within Shelby County, Hallman said.

Hallman used automaker Mercedes-Benz, which opened a plant near Tuscaloosa, as an example of a business that was attracted to the state following a visit by company executives during a sporting event.

Hallman said the Birmingham metro area needs to use Indianapolis as a model. Indianapolis reached out to host some of the top amateur sporting events in the United States, which created a new image for the city. The National Collegiate Athletic Association now calls Indianapolis home.

“My personal vision is our region should strive to become known as a great host of a wide variety of sporting events,” Hallman said. “(Indianapolis) slowly but surely changed their image relative to what they were through sports, and now the NCAA is headquartered there.”