Some stadiums in college football have a mystique. Some stadiums are home to great moments, classic games, and many great players. Legion Field is one of these stadiums "" or at least, it was.
Legion Field, which was opened in November 1927, has hosted 53 Iron Bowls in its history. The Iron Bowl is and always has been one of the best rivalries not only in college football, but in all of sports. 53 times, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers have faced each other at Legion Field. The Birmingham behemoth was the home of every Iron Bowl played from 1904 to 1988.
Legion Field was also the home of the historic first SEC Championship Games in 1992 and 1993. In 1998, Legion Field hosted the Iron Bowl for the last time (a 31-17 Alabama win). Since then, every Iron Bowl has been played on-campus in either Auburn or Tuscaloosa.
Legion Field is still in use, however. In 1991, the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers began playing their home contests at the venue. The magic and mystique of Legion Field, however, has vanished. The stadium has deteriorated. Due to unsafe conditions, the upper deck had to be torn
down. What was once a great place for football has become an old, rusty, lifeless facility, all due to the city of Birmingham's inability to take care of it.
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There are not many concession stands in the stadium, which is definitely a problem. The food served at the few concession stands available is average at best and averagely-priced.
When you go to a venue with as much history as Legion Field, you should be able to feel the history and tradition in the air. You don't feel this way at this stadium, though. The stadium is just"¦. There.
For a place that has hosted so many Iron Bowls and several SEC championship games, you should be able to feel a sense of pride and pageantry in this venue. You just don't. Not even the Bear Bryant tributes outside the stadium could introduce a feeling of tradition at the "Old Gray Lady."
I'm not sure how to put this delicately, so I'll just say it: Legion Field is basically surrounded by a neighborhood known for violence, gang activity, etc. You know, a neighborhood that's referred to as a "hood." When I visited this stadium for a game, the first person to talk to me (outside of the people who came with me) was a scalper. It's an awful location for a sports event. I wouldn't say it's safe to spend too much time in the area surrounding Legion Field.
If you want somewhere to eat, I would suggest going to another part of town. Some great places to eat in Birmingham include O.T.'s Neighborhood Sports Grill, The Cantina, and Bottega Cafe. It's a big city, so there are plenty of options of where to grab a meal. One place in Birmingham you should try to visit is Vulcan Park, home of the Vulcan statue, the largest cast iron statue in the world.
It isn't that there's anything wrong with the fans. The problem is, there are barely any fans. There really is no gameday atmosphere here. There were a few tailgating tents out, and there was a kids' play zone with bouncy houses and things of that nature. That's it. There were barely any people at the game.
Now, keep in mind, the game I visited was the UAB""Southern Miss game. Southern Miss was the #20 team in the country. This was a Thursday night game, so there weren't any Auburn or Alabama games to steal fans away from UAB. The game was nationally televised by CBS Sports. Despite all these factors, not many people showed up to support the Blazers.
The UAB fans that did show up were pretty passionate for the Blazers for the most part, but overall, the atmosphere was "" for lack of a better term "" dead.
Legion Field is pretty easy to get to. Also, due to lack of fans attending, it's very easy to find a parking space. You can show up an hour before kickoff and park 20 yards away from the stadium. Also, there isn't much traffic to deal with (once again, due to the lack of fans). The problem with getting to Legion Field, though, is that some routes aren't very safe. You don't want to go through a dangerous neighborhood to get to Legion Field.
Tickets aren't very expensive at all. They're only $20, so you don't really get cheated out of money. However, when you buy a ticket, you don't really get your money's worth in atmosphere. The stadium is old and rusty. The $20 is worth watching a college football game, though.
The sound system at Legion Field is surprisingly good, so that's a plus. But the jumbotron is really small, and attendance is so bad that gigantic tarps are placed on top of the end zone seats.
UAB has played at Legion Field for two decades, but it hasn't really found it to be a home. UAB supporters have started a move called "Free UAB", which calls for the Blazers to leave Legion Field and begin playing at an on-campus stadium that seats about 30,000, which would be a perfect size for UAB football.
"Free UAB" has gained momentum and even got national attention when ESPN's College GameDay visited Auburn in November for the Iron Bowl. It seems inevitable that UAB will get their own stadium. Until then, they'll be stuck at Legion Field: a legendary stadium with an identity crisis.
For the 2010 BBVA Compass Bowl, over 40,000 Kentucky and Pittsburgh fans filed in to the Legion Field grandstands as the Panthers crushed the Wildcats. Our seats were right in the front on the Pitt sideline, on row three. There's really not a bad seat in the house, but the house needs a little work. Nothing really special in Legion Field.
There's not much to say about Legion Field. Horrible venue...
Having grown up in Alabama and attended Alabama football games at "the Old Gray Lady" I have fond memories of this stadium. I have also attended a coupld of UAB games there. Admittedly, there is very little atmosphere for the UAB games, but I can still feel the history and tradition of this stadium. I wish that the city or a public/private partnership could be worked out to restore it to its rightful place as "Football Capital of The South".
720 29th St S
Birmingham, AL 35233
2901 2nd Ave S
Birmingham, AL 35233
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