- David Welch
Protective Stadium - Birmingham Bowl
Photos by David Welch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Protective Stadium 1101 22nd St N Birmingham, AL 35203
Birmingham Bowl website Protective Stadium website
Year Opened: 2021 Capacity: 45,000
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl - Protective Stadium
There is often talk that the college football bowl season has too many games, everyone goes to a bowl game, or that these games don’t matter. But while the games themselves are glorified exhibitions they are far from meaningless – the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl does a wonderful job making the game a memorable experience for both the players and the fans who turn out to support them.
Food & Beverage 4
Several factors contribute to great food experiences at stadiums; two of the top factors are a variety of choices and a local touch to those options. While the price and quality of the food are definitely contributing factors, the first two are good starting points.
Protective Stadium delivers on the food front and is enhanced by the pre-game options around the stadium. The handful of restaurants that make up the Uptown Birmingham development (more on this in a moment), provide food for a multitude of taste buds.
Within the stadium, concessions stands are abundant around the concourse and offer many options. The area's history in the iron industry is recognized with Sloss Smokehouse offering BBQ choices, all for under $11. Crossroads Chicken Co. features a spicy chicken sandwich or an “Alabama White Corn Dog”, which is a typical corn dog but with white Alabama BBQ sauce. The Anvil Grill serves up more typical stadium fare with burgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders as their highlighted choices, and non-meat eaters will be pleased to know Beyond Burgers are available.
Alcohol sales are available throughout the stadium – domestic beers start at $8 with premiums going for $11, which include many local craft brews. Also, wine by the glass for $9 and mixed drinks starting at $13 are offered at Lady Electra's.
Protective Stadium is a cashless facility; visitors will either need to pay by credit/debit card or buy a cash-to-card gift card to load funds on at one of the various locations around the stadium.
Protective Stadium is a modern facility which provides magnificent views of downtown Birmingham. It is the crown of the Uptown Birmingham “eat-play-stay" development.
The bowl organizers have done an excellent job in using the Uptown Development to create a fun atmosphere for fans prior to the game. From 4 hours prior to the start of the game, fans are treated to concerts leading up to game time, and also have several tents, games, and activities set up in that area leading up to kickoff.
The bowl has a tie-in with the Southeastern Conference, but is hurt significantly if the SEC does not qualify enough teams for bowl participation – the 2021 game that included nearby Auburn University saw 41,000+ fans attend, while the 2022 contest between East Carolina and Coastal Carolina only drew close to 16,000 fans. However, while the lack of a Power 5 conference team does significantly hurt the overall attendance numbers, it doesn’t hurt the excitement of the game; there are enough storylines with the smaller conferences to drive the passion of the fans in the game.
Located in the Druid Hills neighborhood of Birmingham, Uptown and Protective Stadium are a few blocks from downtown. The downtown area is home to the Birmingham Institute of Civil Rights and Kelly Ingram Park, which features statues of many civil rights leaders and iconic scenes from Birmingham’s civil rights movement.
Uptown Birmingham consists of 6 to 8 restaurants, two major hotels, a dog park, and pickleball courts. As alluded to previously, the restaurants provide fans with several different choices of food with Texas de Brazil, Uptown Cantina, Eugene's Hot Chicken, or Mug Shots Grille and Bar, just to name a few. From meats to Mexican, hot chicken to pub-grub, there is something for everyone.
The area around Uptown and Protective Stadium offers many entertainment options, from Topgolf which is a driver and a wedge away, to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. However, no trip to Birmingham would be complete for stadium enthusiasts without visiting historic Rickwood Field – built in 1910 as the home of the Birmingham Black Barons of the Negro League, the stadium is still in use today and offers weekday tours.
Birmingham is also home to a handful of professional teams who are in the middle of their seasons during the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl. Legacy Arena, just a half-mile from Protective Stadium is home to the Birmingham Squadron of the G-League. Also the Birmingham Bulls , members of the Southern Professional Hockey League play just south of the city in Pelham.
If coming from out of town for the bowl experience, Uptown Birmingham includes two hotels, Westin and Sheraton Birmingham. As would be expected, staying in the heart of it all comes at a premium price. If looking to save a bit on a hotel room, however, there are many 3-to-4-star hotels in the neighboring communities that come at a much more economical rate.
When it comes to bowl games it can be difficult to drive interest from casual fans outside of the fanbases with a rooting interest in the game. As previously mentioned, the bowl’s tie-in with the SEC does a lot to drive ticket sales, but if the SEC does not have enough bowl eligible teams, it can really hurt the turnout for this bowl. The discrepancy lies in the fact that the smaller schools just do not have as large of a fan base to pull from – when drawing teams from more than 500 miles away, the ability to fill the stadium can be difficult.
If anything can be said about the fans who are at the game, though, regardless of the stadium being at capacity or only one-third full, it is difficult not to get caught up in the excitement of the fans in the stands.
Given Protective Stadium’s location in Birmingham, getting there is rather easy. Those driving to town will see Protective Stadium directly off the Interstate 20-59 ramp, and fans flying in will find themselves less than 5 miles away. Many of the hotels in the area provide a shuttle from the airport, so a rental vehicle is not a necessity for a 2-3-day stay.
Parking can be found all around the stadium, but the northern lots have better tailgating options. There are a also handful of parking garages on the southern side of the stadium, but getting out of parking garages following the game can be challenging. No matter the parking lot, prices range from $20 to $25.
Lastly, there is a shuttle that runs from the Uptown district to one of the suburbs of Birmingham that is heavily populated by quality 3 and 4-star hotels.
Return on Investment 4
Overall prices for tickets, food, and merchandise appear to be on par with what you would expect to see at most major college football games. The merchandise is a bit pricier than you would pay on campus or at retail stores, but given the one-of-a-kind nature of these bowl game keepsakes, the inflated price does not come as a shock.
Ticket prices for the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl come at a price that is comparable to most college football games – tickets start at $34 for upper-level seating and end zone seats. Club seats start at $200 with access to the bar and food buffet. With an average ticket price of approximately $80, tickets for any of these types of seating are available at reasonable rates.
The bowl organizers go out of their way to provide visitors with the ability to experience the city of Birmingham, outside of just the area around the bowl site. The free shuttles from the Uptown district to some partnered hotels and various locations of interest around the city makes navigating Birmingham convenient for visitors from out-of-town.
Protective Stadium also considers sensory sensitive fans – Kulturecity is designed for those with sensory processing needs to be able to utilize if needed. In addition, sensory kits with headphones, fidgets, and other sensory input items are also available to check out, free of charge.
While some bowl games typically have a difficult time appealing to the casual football fan, the TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl organizers do a wonderful job of creating a memorable experience for bowl-goers – from the pep-rallies and fireworks the night before the game to the ease of being able to find entertainment around the stadium, to the pre-game concert stage and tailgating leading up to the game itself, all is done with fans in mind. If you’re an alum or fan of one of the schools taking part, or just a fan of college football, a trip to Birmingham is bound to be enjoyable.