BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — For the first time in four years, Birmingham has set the stage for two professional basketball teams.
On Friday, the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans Pelicans were front and center bringing national attention to the Magic City.
City leaders say momentum and interest from events like this help for the potential for a professional team to arrive one day, especially with a sold-out game like Friday night’s.
Birmingham has done a lot to help with the process by pumping millions of dollars into the Legacy Arena and launching the Squadron G League last year.
Birmingham Squadron General Manager Leslie Claybrook is looking to make preseason games an annual tradition.
“It’s truly been an honor to have them here and to trust us with this event,” Claybrook said. “Birmingham’s a basketball city and they love it.”
That could be seen as fans started filing in three hours before the game.
Russell McClinton says it’s a chance for Birmingham to showcase all that it has.
“The crowd is building up out here, it’s only going to get better,” McClinton said. “I think we’ve got a great opportunity for that type of sports industry here.”
City Councilman Hunter Williams said continued interest from the sports community nationwide is essential to bring a pro team to the Magic City.
“We have to set the groundwork and show that the residents of Birmingham and everyone in Central Alabama is willing to support what we have,” Williams said.
Mark Parker and his family traveled from Knoxville during their fall break to cheer on the Hawks. He said the interest is there because it was a hard ticket to get.
“It just shows you that Birmingham will support something like this so hopefully it will work out for them,” Parker said. “We do like to go to games and we considered going to a G League game because sometimes it’s a lot cheaper than going to an NBA game and it’s a fairly easy drive for us to get down here.”
The key is keeping the momentum up.
“We be a minor league town right now, but here in the long run you may as well crank up the intensity,” Squadron fan Ashtian O’Neal said.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament will be coming Birmingham this spring, which is another reason why the Legacy Arena got that facelift. The Squadron’s season tips off here on November 6.