BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Industry insiders say never before in Birmingham’s history has the city been ready and willing to host big sporting events and entertainment acts, but is the city finally ready to become home to a major league sports team?

“We’ve never had an alignment of the facilities that we currently have with Protective Stadium, a renovated BJCC, CrossPlex, Barber Motor Sports, Hoover Met, Regions Field. When you look in the aggregate of all those facilities it bodes very well for our future,” said CEO of Eventive Sports Gene Hallman.

Hallman has brought big events to the Birmingham area for years and believes the newly renovated BJCC and new Protective Stadium will usher in even bigger events for the city.

Greater Birmingham is home to 1.2 million people and is one of the largest markets in the country without a professional sports franchise at the major league level, but isn’t even on the list for possible NBA expansion teams.

“Alabama’s not gonna get a pro team. Zero chance of that. Zero ever, no,” said Charles Barkley on the prospect of Birmingham getting a major pro franchise anytime soon.

Perhaps the path to major league sports may not be the long-talked about way through the Squadron, Stallions, Barons or even the Bulls.

The one path where Hallman sees the possibility of a major league team? Soccer. It’s a though that’s crossed the mind of Jay Heaps, President and General Manager of Birmingham Legion FC.

Heaps said other cities like Cincinnati started small with 5,000 to 6,000 fans at games before eventually growing to a consistent 15,000. Heaps believes that could happen here in Birmingham.

“I think, looking on the horizon they’ll be another round of expansions in the next four to five years,” Heaps said.

While the Legion continues to score goals at Protective, Hallman along with city and county leaders have goals of their own. Not so much in bringing sports teams here, but in bringing sporting events.

Fresh off hosting the World Games 2022, NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and continuing to bring annual traditions like Indy Car in May, and the SEC Baseball Tournament there is a focus on upping the ante.

To make big things happen for Birmingham, Hallman knows all too well, you have to think big and look to the future.

“I keep going back in time to Charlotte and Nashville and Jacksonville. They never 30-40 years ago envisioned they could be what they are and look at them now,” Hallman said.