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  • Lance Sutehall

Bartow Arena – UAB Blazers

Photos by Lloyd Brown and Lance Sutehall, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

Bartow Arena 617 13th Street S Birmingham, AL 35204

Year Opened: 1988

Capacity: 8,508


Birmingham's Team

I once heard a saying “If you want to follow college football in Alabama, support either Alabama or Auburn. If you want to follow college basketball in Alabama, support UAB.”

Located in downtown Birmingham, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is the third largest university in the state with over 21,000 students.

The school started its athletics program in 1978 and within its first four seasons the Blazers basketball program made back to back Sweet 16 appearances and in 1982 made the Elite 8. The head coach for the Blazers basketball program was Gene Bartow who coached until 1996 and also served as UAB’s athletic director. Having earned the nickname “Father of UAB Athletics” the basketball arena was renamed in Bartow’s honor in 1996.

Bartow Arena, originally named UAB Arena, opened in 1988 and has a capacity of 8,508. Its tenant made another Sweet 16 appearance in 2004 and has made it to March Madness 16 times. Now in the American Athletic Conference the Blazers look to add to their proud legacy.

Food & Beverage 4

The food is the standard stadium fare including a burger ($7), pizza ($7), hot dogs ($5), nachos ($5), pretzel ($4), candy ($3), and chips ($3). Beverages include a souvenir cup with Pepsi products ($7) and bottled water ($4). The concession stands are cashless. Beer and wine are also sold inside the arena.

Atmosphere 4

When you enter Bartow Arena you immediately know this is the home of UAB Blazers Basketball. There is a bust of Gene Bartow by the entrance of the arena. There is also a trophy case with a couple of UAB’s conference championships on display.

A lot of green is in the arena. The seats are green, the out of bounds area is green, and the championship banners showcasing the Blazers postseason successes are green. There is a large dragon at mid-court and “UAB” is written in gold on each baseline.

The UAB band and cheerleaders keep the energy up the entire game. Blaze the Dragon interacts with the fans throughout the game.

Neighborhood 4

UAB’s campus is located in downtown Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama. Bartow Arena is just a few blocks from Railroad Park and Regions Field, home of the Birmingham Barons.

Bartow Arena is only a few miles away from the larger Legacy Arena. That is where UAB played for its first seasons as a program and where the NBA G-League’s Squadron currently play. You could also catch a concert at Legacy Arena. Legacy Arena is in the same complex as the new Protective Stadium, the home for UAB football and the Birmingham Bowl.

Restaurants to check out include Mellow Mushroom, Jim ‘N Nicks Bar-B-Q, and Highlands Bar & Grill. There are plenty of lodging accommodations within a short distance of the UAB campus including Hilton, Residence Inn, Courtyard, and SpringHill Suites.

Fans 4

Birmingham loves basketball. UAB was the first program in the state to make the Elite 8 and Birmingham appreciates the Blazers. Even if the arena isn’t full on a weeknight the fans that do show up get loud and 5,000 fans feel like 15,000 fans. Students get free admission to the games and they make some noise as well.

Access 4

Bartow Arena is close to I-65. If you are coming from the north, Tuscaloosa, or Atlanta you turn off on exit 259B on I-65 onto 4th avenue. You turn right on 13th Street and the arena is on your left but you will keep going to the 12th street parking deck for $10 parking or go down a couple of more blocks for free street parking after 6pm.

Coming from the south you’ll exit I-65 onto University Boulevard and the parking deck will be on your right as you turn onto 13th Street.

There are two entrances to Bartow Arena and plenty of concession stands and restrooms inside.

Return on Investment 3

Tickets start at $12 in the upper levels behind the baskets and go up to $45 for lower level center court seats. There is a $3 surcharge for tickets purchased online and I am not sure if there is an added fee for tickets purchased at the arena. If you buy a cheap ticket, food, a souvenir cup, and pay for parking you’d spend about $40 by yourself, $70 for a date/hangout, or about $130 for a family of four.

Extras 4

Bartow Arena has hosted the SWAC Basketball Tournament since 2021 and was the site of a heavyweight championship boxing bout between Deontay Wilder and Eric Molina in 2015.

Birmingham has been on the rise for the past decade. There is a minor league team for every sport in Birmingham. The city hosted The World Games in 2022.

Nearby attractions worth visiting include the McWane Science Center, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Birmingham Museum of Art, and Vulcan Park.

If you are a baseball fan and can head a couple of miles west you can check out Rickwood Field. It was the home field for the Black Barons and is scheduled to host the MLB Field of Dreams game in 2024.

Final Thoughts

The University of Alabama at Birmingham is a perfect metaphor for the city of Birmingham. It is on the rise!

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