Bartow Arena – UAB Blazers
Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Bartow Arena 617 13th Street S Birmingham, AL 35204
Year Opened: 1988
The Dragon’s Den
The University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) is the third largest educational institution in the Alabama University system, after the University of Alabama and Auburn University. It has been the fastest growing university in Alabama, as it has greatly expanded its campus in downtown Birmingham and now has an enrollment of over 19,500 students. Its academic programs in the fields of medicine, business, and the liberal arts are considered among the top in the country.
The school’s athletic teams are known as the Blazers, with a fire breathing dragon as its logo. The trailblazer for sports at UAB was Coach Gene Bartow, who served as the school’s first athletic director, as well as its basketball coach from 1977 to 1996. The “Father of UAB Athletics” was recognized by the school at his retirement with the renaming of the basketball arena in his honor. The arena opened in 1988 and has a capacity of 8,508 in its basketball configuration.
The basketball program has thrived at Bartow Arena, as it has an all time winning percentage of .800. The Blazers have been to fifteen NCAA Tournaments, with three Sweet Sixteen appearances and one Elite Eight appearance. UAB has also been to the NIT on eleven occasions. The Blazers have had 31 winning seasons in their 34 years of existence.
Food & Beverage 4
The concession stands at Bartow Arena events are contracted out to McAlisters Deli, a national chain. The food is of much higher quality than you would find at a typical athletic event. Two McAlister specialties are on the menu… the club wrap ($8.75) and the Deli Classic sandwich ($7.95). The typical stadium and arena standards are also available, including nachos ($5.50), hot dogs ($3.50), popcorn ($3.50), chips ($2.50). Beverages include Pepsi products ($4.50 for a 32 ounce fountain drink) and bottled water ($3.25).
UAB has done a wonderful job in weaving its brand into almost every facet of the fan experience at Bartow Arena. Before you even enter the arena, you’ll definitely want to stop and have your picture made with the statue of Blaze the Dragon. You can’t miss it, as it is right in front of the main entrance of the arena. Once inside, the color scheme of the facility is Blazer green. A recent renovation of the immediate basketball portion of the arena has resulted in the installation of very comfortable padded chair back seats, all clad in green. The basketball floor has a new graphics package, with “UAB” at midcourt and a wooden inlay of colored wood at each end of the court displaying the dragon mascot. If you look towards the rafters, they are filled with banners from the Blazers’ many successful post season appearances.
UAB is an urban school in the midst of Alabama’s largest city, with a population of more than 1.1 million in the metropolitan area. Its 100 block campus is within walking distance of the business district, the medical district and Birmingham’s finest restaurants and nightlife. There is also easy access to recreational areas such as the Railroad Park Greenway and Regions Field, home of the AA Birmingham Barons.
Among the dining establishments you will want to check out before or after a Blazers game are the Highland Bar and Grill, Dreamland BBQ, the Mellow Mushroom and the Good People Brewing Company.
There are a number of lodging options to choose from during your stay in the Magic City. Hotels within a few blocks of UAB include the Courtyard Marriott, the Doubletree Birmingham, the Westin and the SpringHill Suites.
Football may be king in the state of Alabama, but basketball is tops in Birmingham. Coach Gene Bartow made sure of that during his more than 23 year tenure at UAB. The string of successful seasons and postseason play have led to a very passionate fan base. The student body receives free admission to all Blazer games and with the residence halls only a few blocks away they turn up in large numbers. The citizens of Birmingham have also claimed the UAB basketball program as its own, as the only professional franchise in town is the AA Birmingham Barons, whose season begins towards the end of the academic year. It is not unusual to see Birmingham businessmen head over to Bartow Arena after work to catch a Blazers game.
The easiest and most direct way to access Bartow Arena is via I-65. Coming from the north you exit at 4th Avenue South, turn left, and at the second red light turn right onto 13th Street South. From the south, you would take the University Drive exit, turn right and go the third red light, turning left onto 13th Street South. Though there is no specific parking deck for the arena there are numerous parking structures within a block or two of the Bartow Arena. Once at the arena the accessibility is excellent as there are more than adequate ticket windows, concession stands, restrooms and entry points into the arena.
Return on Investment 3
The pricing structure is very straightforward for Blazers games as lower level seats are $22 and upper level seats are $17. Premium games such as the Auburn or the University of Alabama contests are $3 more. Parking for athletic contests in UAB lots is $5, while non-university lots in the area may charge more. Hotels in downtown Birmingham fall in the $100-$125 range, which is much lower than you would typically find in a city of more than one million people. The concession prices are very reasonable with quality food from McAlister’s Deli.
Birmingham realizes it played a rather violent and ignominious part in the Civil Rights era and knows it cannot ignore it. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was established to recognize the past, but also to celebrate the accomplishments of the Civil Rights in bringing massive change to the South and the nation. It is well worth a visit.
Birmingham was built upon the steel and iron industry. To recognize this, a statue of Vulcan, the God of Strength, was placed atop Red Mountain. The statue and the park surrounding it provide a stunning overlook of the city.
The Blazers are not known for being a dunking team. However they are prodigious shot blockers. The athletic department has built a “Welcome to Blockingham” promotional campaign for the team and the head coach makes a donation to charity for each shot blocked.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham has a done a good job with their brand and arena.