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  • Writer's pictureDavid Welch

Pelham Civic Complex - Birmingham Bulls



Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

Pelham Civic Complex 500 Amphitheater Road Pelham, AL 35124

Year Opened: 1997 Capacity: 4,100

 

Pelham Civic Complex – Birmingham Bulls

Approximately 20 miles south of Birmingham, Alabama is the suburban city of Pelham, home of Pelham Civic Complex and the Birmingham Bulls.


There has been some form of hockey under the name Birmingham Bulls off and on since 1976, with teams playing in the World Hockey Association (1976-79), the Central Hockey League (1979-81), the ECHL (1997–2001). These versions of the Bulls would play at the now Legacy Arena.


Hockey would make just a one-year return to the Birmingham area for the 2003-04 season, this time in Pelham with the Alabama Slammers of the World Hockey Association 2. Following a thirteen-year hockey hiatus the current incarnation of the Birmingham Bulls would come to fruition in the Southern Professional Hockey League at Pelham Civic Complex in 2017.


Food & Beverage 5

The food available at Pelham Civic Complex might be the deepest in all minor league sports, and quite possibly could stand up against just about any major league franchise.


From burgers to dogs and sausages, to wings and pizza, entrée options are almost endless. Snacks include the usual chips and candy, but dive deep into fried pickles, fried okra, hush puppies, and even mini corn dogs. Combo meals including catfish nuggets, BBQ sandwiches, or a Cuban sandwich.


Beer and liquor are plentiful as well, but beer options are more centered around domestic brands, with not much of a craft beer selection. Also, having three primary concession stands and four bars spaced around the arena helps keep lines and wait times down.


Atmosphere 3

With its low roof line, it’s hard to picture a four thousand seat hockey arena inside Pelham Civic Complex.

Within the playing area black seats encircle the rink, but do not make the playing area feel too small, but rather give it more of a cozy feel. The size of the arena is just about the perfect size for the Bulls and their fans.


A four-sided scoreboard hangs above center ice, but given the low roof, the panels on each side are shorter than most scoreboards, even those in smaller arenas. During play the scoreboard shows a live feed of the action on the ice, and gives time, score, and shots-on-goal totals, along with any time remaining on power plays. During breaks in the action it is also used for hype videos and advertisements.


There is plenty to keep fans entertained throughout the game, including fan cams, on-ice contests, and engaging music to keep fans entertained during stoppages in play. Also the team mascot, Toro, makes appearances around the arena and on ice.


There is not a bad seat in the house – when choosing a seat, sitting at the top of the sections help eliminate a semi-distorted view created by a portion of the ice having glass in front of it, as the rest is unobstructed. Fans with accessibility needs have a section dedicated to providing them with a full-length view of the ice, rather than sitting mostly below the sideboards.


Neighborhood 3

Pelham Civic Complex is tucked behind a row of gas stations, hotels, and regional and national chain restaurants that connect I-65 and Pelham Parkway. However, the arena has such a wide variety of choices on its concessions menu that a pre-game meal might not be necessary. If you are still looking to grab a bite before or after the game, though, nearby Creekside BBQ would be a good choice. Beer enthusiasts might also enjoy a visit to The Beer Hog with its two-hundred craft beers and sixty-five taps.


Nature lovers might enjoy exploring the nearby Oak Mountain State Park with its various outdoor activities. The arena is also neighbored by Oak Mountain Amphitheater, and sits across the street from a still in-progress, mixed-use development that will feature restaurants, retail shops, and apartments.


Fans 4

Fans start piling up at the arena’s metal detectors about an hour before the doors open. The inadvertent clatter of cowbells also rattles up and down the line in anticipation of being allowed in.


A group of rather rambunctious fans pick the seats at the far end of the rink, right behind the visiting goalie. They have dubbed themselves the “10H8 Rowdy Bunch” – this bunch is quick to heckle anyone on the ice who is not in a Bulls sweater, by comparing their performance to that of a vacuum.


Fans work themselves into a frenzy at the announcement of a power play. This is when the previously clattered cowbells are now paired with the sound of a vuvuzela, as the fans stomp and clap in hopes the Bulls are able to muster a power play goal.


Access 3

Pelham Civic Complex is located less than a mile off Interstate-65 heading into Birmingham. With Birmingham being the junction of four major interstate highways (I-20, I-22, I-59, and I-65), the area is accessible from several of the metropolitan areas in the southeast.


Once at the arena, most parking is to the right side of the building, and is just a short walk to the front entrance, which is the only entry point for non-season ticket holders. Season ticket holders have a VIP entrance on the main parking lot side of the building.


The main lobby fills quickly as fans file in to purchase apparel, Chuck-a-Puck opportunities, jersey raffles, and 50/50 tickets. It can take a bit of work to get through the lobby at first, but as fans start moving toward their seats the lobby empties out.


There are four main entry points into the rink – two doorways enter directly to a small area of seats on either side of the near end of the arena, while two other entry points are used to access seats on each side of the ice. To the left of the main entrance, fans will walk upstairs to an inner walkway that wraps two-thirds around the rink, and make their way down to their seats from there. To the right fans, walk below the stands and come through tunnels to get to the seating area; either side of the rink is easily accessible.


Return on Investment 3

Prices for tickets are not substantially expensive, but they might be a tick higher than expected for minor league hockey. Typical general admission tickets run $15 plus another $5 for parking, so fans are $20 in before walking through the doors.


Inside the arena, well-priced concessions do a good job balancing out the ticket and parking rates. Most snacks of substance are $6-$7, while baskets, such as entrées with fries, are $10.


Extras 2

The Birmingham Bulls app allows fans to take part in interactive in-game contests, as well as check game stats in real time.


In the SPHL, almost every night seemingly has a theme, gate giveaway, or jersey auction – there always seems to be something special going on at each game.


Final Thoughts

When you move away from the bright lights and thousands upon thousands of seats at the highest levels of professional hockey, you tend to find some of the most passionate fan bases in all sports. These levels allow fans to make personal connections with players and vice versa. Fans in these arenas care deeply about their teams, and that feeling bleeds through to the enjoyment of attending a Bulls hockey game.

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