Birmingham 2025: The future of arts and entertainment

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — When it comes to the arts and entertainment side of Birmingham, experts say, the city has experienced an incredible amount of momentum and energy in recent years–and it doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

“We’re seeing the tip of the iceberg with attendance and nation interest,” explained Buddy Palmer, President of Create Birmingham. “Those will grow bigger and become even more premiere than they already are in terms of their national recognition.”

Create Birmingham is an organization that was originally founded in 2004 as the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham, but has existed for two years now as Create Birmingham. The group focuses on creative industry work on the commercial and nonprofit sides. In 2014, they did a creative industries study, seeking to quantify the change in Arts and Entertainment in Birmingham.

In predicting the future for CBS 42’s 2025 experiment, Palmer chose to look at the past for guidance. He believes that food and beverage have really led the way–followed by local music receiving national recognition. “With St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Alabama Shakes–we have new pride and recognition of the value of our local musicians, and my hope is certainly that we’re going to see more bands recognized on the national level.”

Palmer also credited Birmingham’s new and revitalized venues for the surge in entertainment and attention. “I think Birmingham absolutely has a place now on the national scale in terms of tours and I think that’s for a couple of reasons,” he explained. “I think one is the quality of the venue, and when you’ve got places like the Lyric, the Alabama, Saturn, Iron City, the BJCC — the acoustics and the character of our concert halls, I think, are really unsurpassed.”

Palmer believes entertainment trends will follow the home entertainment niche — meaning more specific and smaller scale opportunities. “It’s not a one-size fits all environment. I think we’re going to see a lot of smaller scale festivals, performance venues and activities, exhibitions–that really target specific areas of interest, and that they’re going to find their markets.”

One example of this theory that’s already close to being realized could serve a population of golf enthusiasts. Top Golf is currently in due diligence to lease land from the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center and build on it. The proposal has been presented to the board, but a vote has not been taken at this time.

The Top Golf concept, however, has been called ‘a game-changer’ for Birmingham’s downtown revitalization. The company, which describes itself as a premiere golf entertainment complex, has 26 locations and this would be the first in Alabama. Players hit golf balls that contain microchips that track accuracy and distance. They are also awarded points for balls that hit targets in the facility’s ‘outfield.’

Speaking of the BJCC — there are also some changes proposed for the entertainment facility (specifically Legacy Arena) which is turning 40 this week. The BJCC’s proposed master plan includes additions and improvements in three focus areas. First, the renovation and expansion of Legacy Arena. Second, upgrades to the convention center’s entrances and exterior aesthetics, including a renovated piazza. Third, the new open-air, 45,000 to 55,000 seat stadium by Uptown. Officials told CBS 42 that their goal is the enhance the facility’s regional competitiveness over the next 20 years.

“It’s an exciting time to pull out the crystal ball and try and imagine,” concluded Palmer.

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