BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Art Clarkson, the legendary sports promoter and former owner of the Birmingham Barons and Birmingham Bulls, died Monday. He was 78 years old.
Clarkson was the owner and general manager of the Birmingham Barons for 10 years and was inducted into the Barons Hall of Fame in 2006. Facilitating the Barons’ move from Rickwood Field to the Hoover Met in 1981, Clarkson is responsible for baseball’s return to Birmingham after a five-season furlough.
In 1991, Clarkson redirected his focus to hockey when he founded the Birmingham Bulls in the East Coast Hockey League. He managed the team for six seasons before moving to arena football, a career that took him around the country, from Huntsville to Green Bay.
After returning to Birmingham for retirement, in 2016, Clarkson decided on bringing the Bulls back to Birmingham.
“People kept asking me, ‘When are you going to start the Bulls back?’” Clarkson said in an interview with BirminghamWatch earlier this year. “I felt like I needed to do this. It was unfinished business.”
Here is what Clarkson told CBS 42 in 2017 regarding bringing the Bulls back to the city.
In November 2017, the team returned to the rink in front of a sold-out crowd at the Pelham Civic Complex.
In May 2019, Clarkson retired from his role as managing partner of the Bulls due to health issues. He passed away quietly at his home Monday, just 11 days from Opening Night.
“The Sports world lost a pioneer today. Art prided himself on being the PT Barnum of minor league sports and he lived every minute of every day being the heartbeat of his team,” Birmingham Bull President Joe Stroud said in a statement.
Jamey Hicks, head coach of the Birmingham Bulls, said Clarkson was a friend as much as a boss and that he couldn’t thank him enough for the opportunity to be a part of the team.
“In my eyes, he is Mr. Hockey of Birmingham but he will always be known as a pioneer of minor league sports,” Hicks said in a statement. “Our thoughts are with Kathy, the kids and the extended family.”
The Birmingham Bulls provided the following:
If you have ever been to a ball game in Birmingham on any day in that last 40 years, your trip to the ball park would not have been possible without Art Clarkson. If you have ever bundled up to watch a hockey game (or giant Coke Can Race) in the last 30 years in the Magic City, your night at the rink would not have happened without Art Clarkson.
Art touched a lot of lives. He helped start careers for young athletes on the field, then gave them opportunities off the field when their playing days were over. He was the king of the promotion and his name will always be synonymous with pro sports in Birmingham.
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