Woodfin’s first Council Meeting, Warming Station Opening this week at the BJCC and Legion Field Renovation Funding Withdrawn
In his first meeting since taking office, Mayor Randall Woodfin started by thanking the Birmingham City Council for their service and leadership. “This is a public meeting and we understand our role as stewards,” Woodfin said. “This is not our personal business, it’s the business of the city and I look forward to working together to getting things done for the people who elected us.”
Woodfin turned to the audience and said, “I hope you didn’t come for a circus-like setting because you won’t get it.”
During the portion of the meeting in which the mayor gives his weekly report to the council, his office announced that a warming station will be opened at BJCC South Hall starting on Thursday December 7th, at 5 p.m. when a cold front is expected to arrive. The warming station will remain open until Monday December 11th, when the weather is expected to improve.
“We’ve been accused of feeding people too well. And I’m okay with that,” said Don Lupo, director of the Office of Citizen Assistance. “Our police department has done a great job of bringing people to us. If you see a police officer flag them down and they will get you to the station.”
Normally, Lupo explained, there are between 200 and 300 people who utilize the shelters during cold stretches. For those looking to volunteer, “The best way is to just come. It’s very easy to help us serve the dinner or to walk around and just tell people you love them,” Lupo said.
After a prolonged discussion about possible economic impact that renovations would bring to the area surrounding historic Legion Field — which is owned by the city — the item that would have allocated $30 million for facility upgrades was withdrawn in order for the council to discuss the project further.
The improvements to Legion Field would include new turf, a new scoreboard in the north endzone, upgrading the bleachers and concession areas as well as work on the parking lot. The item was recommended by the Parks and Recreation Committee, which is chaired by Councilor William Parker who subsequently asked the item be withdrawn from the agenda after the council discussed the item. The resolution reads:
“A Resolution supporting $30 million for the 5-year (2018-2023) capital budget for Legion Field, a portion of the $100 million Legion Field Community Redevelopment Project, which will focus on revitalizing the Smithfield Community by addressing housing, infrastructure improvements, improving parks/greenspace, as well as quality of life issues with potential funding partners to include: federal, state, local agencies and/or authorities, educational institutions, foundations as well as the private sector.”
Last Friday, members of the Birmingham City Council toured the newly repurposed Turner Field – once home to the Atlanta Braves, the facility is now the football stadium for Georgia State University — in order to engage with community members and city officials who supported the project and brought it to fruition.
“It’s amazing what they’ve done to transform that facility. [The University of] Alabama plays in a renovated stadium. Auburn [University] hasn’t built a new stadium. The old grey lady needs a shot in her arm too,” Councilor Steven Hoyt said, voicing his support for the proposed renovations.
“For practical purposes it still has opportunities,” Hoyt said. “I really applaud Council Parker and the Parks and Rec Committee for coming up with a plan. Whatever revitalization takes place it needs to address the community as well. We need to look at how we can change the dynamics of that community. I think you’re on the right road.”
The item was withdrawn after a discussion revolving around including members of the community in the planning process. While in Atlanta, Councilor John Hilliard said they had a meeting at a coffee shop that was added to Turner Field after the renovation. He said having a place where community leaders can meet, inspired him to want to push for similar improvements at Legion Field.
“Something that stuck with me was listening to officials of [Georgia State] University talk about how they got the community to buy in. It was fantastic to see what they did to the facility. It was awesome to see how neighborhood people had a chance to buy in to the project. I look forward to those same type meetings here.”
During the discussion, questions arose about how the potential football stadium for UAB would affect the future of Legion Field.
“We stopped investing in our own community. I’m in firm support of investing in Legion Field. It can’t thrive on its own,” Councilor Lashunda Scales said. “We’ve been talking about the city not taking care of its facilities for a long time. Not only is Legion Field historic but it’s structurally sound. Why would you not entertain $30 million for a building that the city owns and manages. What they did with Turner Field is incredible. They’re doing it and they’re revitalizing the community.”
There was no date announced on Tuesday for when the item will be brought back before the Council.
This story is a contribution from Cody Owens, (email@example.com) in the Birmingham City Council Public Information Office. For more information please contact 205.254.2294.