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 Will Birmingham join Major League Soccer?

 
  

July 2009

  
         
    In a surprise 5-2 vote, Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex board members approve a contract allowing a lead architect to begin designing a domed stadium for Birmingham.

"It's done. I'm ready to get started," Mayor Larry Langford said shortly after the board approved the measure.

The vote allows the lead architect to start the process of putting together a team of local architects to assist it on a project that will cost more than $550 million and take five years to build. The 57,500-seat stadium would be expandable to 70,000 seats in the future.

Langford told the board he has been in talks with several companies interested in paying up to $1 million a year to have their name connected to the dome. He didn't name the companies.

"We have fought too long to get to this point. For those wondering when we would start to get private money, we couldn't take that step until we had funding in place. Major League Soccer is looking for a site for a new team. I think Birmingham could now get them here," the mayor said.

The 15-team soccer league, started in 1996, currently has expansion teams expected to debut by 2010 in Philadelphia, Portland and Vancouver. The league has favored smaller, soccer-specific stadiums for its teams.

  
         
    Dan Courtemanche, an official with Major League Soccer, says that while no formal discussions are under way, the MLS would give Birmingham consideration for future expansion.

"We are very well aware of the passion in Birmingham for soccer events and the big crowds you've seen," Courtemanche said.

However, cities that didn't make the cut for expansion in 2010 would get first consideration. Two such cities are Atlanta and St. Louis. We are always open to discussions with cities interested in our league," Courtemanche said.

Courtemanche indicated the dome's artificial turf would not be a strike against it saying, "We have a few teams that play on turf, such as Seattle, which plays indoors."

  
         
 
 

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Last Update: July 19, 2009