Magic City Classic to stay at Legion Field – for now

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The Magic City Classic will remain at Birmingham’s Legion Field at least until 2026. (Jacob Blankenship / Hville Blast)

One of the oldest rivalry games in college football and one of the most legendary among HBCU schools — the Magic City Classic featuring Alabama A&M and Alabama State — will remain in Birmingham after the Birmingham City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night to keep the game at Legion Field for 4 more years.

Talk of moving the game to Birmingham’s new Protective Stadium — or even moving the game to Huntsville, Montgomery or Mobile — will be stifled for the time being. Here are some more details:

Read more: Magic City Classic to stay at Legion Field – for now

Magic City Classic stays in the Magic City

This year’s Magic City Classic drew more than 67,000 fans. (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

Although talk of moving the game out of Birmingham entirely was just that — talk — but there was a real possibility of leaving Birmingham’s Legion Field, where the game has been held for more than 80 years.

The 81st Classic, a 24-17 win for Alabama State, was the final game played under the current four-year agreement. With the opening of Protective Stadium in 2021 and UAB’s home games moving to the new stadium from Legion Field brought on speculation of moving the Classic to the 45,000-seat Protective Stadium as well.

ASU president Dr. Quinton Ross and AAMU president Dr. Daniel Wims each expressed their desire to keep the Classic at Legion Field leading up to the vote Tuesday night.

“Our intent is to try to maintain that eighty-plus-year tradition in Birmingham at least for the next few years at Legion Field and I think we both agree on that.”

Alabama A&M president Dr. Daniel Wims
Taolgating at the Classic is legendary, and also brings in good revenue to Birmingham. (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

Moving the game from Legion Field would have meant more changes than both schools would likely have wanted. For instance, the attendance at this year’s game topped 67,000 (and that doesn’t include the thousands of fans tailgating outside Legion Field). Since Protective holds about 45,000 and each stadium on the campuses reach capacity at about 25,000 fans, just the simple issue of crowd capacity would have been a problem.

But more than that, Birmingham counts on the Classic for a huge chunk of revenue, generated not only by parking (including tailgating), concessions, and sales tax on all items sold at the game but from the thousands of people that flock to the city for the events surrounding the game as well.

“The Classic is embedded in the culture of Birmingham. It is more than a game, it is an experience. I am elated that we can continue this 80+ year tradition of being two rival schools to one central and neutral location. It’s important we support our HBCUs, who produce some of our greatest leaders, scientists, technologists, innovators and trendsetters.” 

Birmingham City Councilor Crystal Smitherman

The new agreement with Birmingham

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Legion Field is in some disrepair, but the Magic City Classic is set to remain at the “Old Grey Lady.” (Pat Byington / Bham Now)

Earlier in November, the Birmingham City Council Budget and Finance committee approved an agreement that would keep the Magic City Classic at Legion Field, which was what the Council unanimously approved this week.

Both universities received $400,000 from the city following the game this year, and under the new four-year contract, each university will receive $500,000 per year until the contract expires in 2026.

City of Birmingham Chief of Operations Chaz Mitchell pointed out several recent improvements that have been made to Legion Field including:

  • New modern LED lights
  • New turf which is approved for FIFA International soccer games
  • Upgrades to the restrooms

In addition to the major upgrades, Bham Now reported back in December 2021 on 2022 plans to prepare the stadium for the The World Games. 

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Michael Seale
Michael Seale
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