The Pelham City Council agree to a lease of the
Pelham Civic Complex and Ice Arena for a new
Southern Professional Hockey League team that
will begin play in October 2017.
lease is pending final approval by the city’s
An application to the SPHL has
been submitted and approval should be received
in around 30 days, Clarkson said. SPHL President
Jim Combs said he appreciates the history of
hockey in Birmingham and is currently reviewing
the proposal for the new team to join his
league. "Birmingham is a great market. I'm very
familiar with the town and very familiar with
Birmingham hockey," Combs said. He is in the
process of reviewing the team's ownership and
checking out the business plan and Pelham's
arena. "We have to check out all those things
before approval can be given. I'm very familiar
with all that they're doing, and they seem to be
heading in the right direction," Combs said.
City council members called the move “a
logical next step” for the city, which has
experienced significant growth in its youth and
adult hockey leagues over the past few years.
Alabama and UAB hockey clubs also play all of
their home games at the arena. City Council
President Rick Hayes said the city has been
working toward getting a professional hockey
team for about two years.
initially he wanted the new hockey team to play
at the BJCC's Legacy Arena, which is where the
ECHL Bulls played. "Our initial thought was to
go to the BJCC and were in contact with them
back in May. We wanted to get into the building,
but we were not getting any response. We were
given every reason in the book that we couldn't
do it," Clarkson said. According to BJCC
Director of Communications Cindy Crawford, the
arena did discuss the possibility of bringing
hockey back to the downtown area. "The BJCC
discussed on several occasions with Mr. Clarkson
the possibility of hockey returning to Legacy
Arena at the BJCC, which has a long and proud
hockey history, including being the venue in
which Gordie Howe scored his 1000th goal.
Following initial discussions culminating with
decisions necessary by Mr. Clarkson, the BJCC
did not receive any further communication. While
many steps remained to fully evaluate the
opportunity, discussions could not progress
without communication from Mr. Clarkson,"
Crawford provided in a statement.
team, likely to be named the Birmingham Bulls,
will be owned by Art Clarkson. His ties to
Birmingham sports date back many years.
Previously, Clarkson brought back professional
baseball to Birmingham in 1981 when he secured
the Southern League's Montgomery Rebels
franchise and relocated them to Rickwood Field
Birmingham Barons. After selling his
ownership in the Barons in 1989, he brought
hockey back in 1992 with the
Birmingham Bulls, a member of the East Coast
Hockey League. Clarkson sells his interest in
the Bulls in 1998.
“We will make this
successful. There’s no doubt about it," Clarkson
But to be successful, some
upgrades will need to be made to the Ice Arena.
Pelham Civic Complex facilities manager Danny
Tate agreed that the facility has been in need
of upgrades for some time now. Hayes presented
ideas about expanding the seating within the
main arena and possibly incorporating corporate
boxes. With the main arena having a seating
capacity of about 3,000 people, Hayes said about
800 additional seats are needed. “The
professional hockey team is not the only reason
for needing to add more seats,” Mayor Gary
Waters said. “With the annual tree lighting and
graduation we don’t have enough seats. With more
seating we won’t have to limit the number of
people students can invite to graduation as
strictly.” In addition to adding more seating,
the some upgrades would need to be made to the
interior of the building also. With the endeavor
still being in its early stages, the council
doesn’t know how much the upgrades might cost.
“This is a great addition to our facility,” said
Erik Hudson, Pelham Civic Complex hockey
Pelham Mayor Gary Waters says
the city is dedicated to the venture. "We don't
have a sufficient number of dressing rooms or
concessions stands, and will need to add
approximately 250 more seats to the main arena.
We've been assured that we would have hockey by
the fall of 2017, and I'm counting on that. I'm
100 percent behind it," Waters said.
Pelham Ice Arena was home to three other
professional hockey teams, the
Alabama Gunners (1998), the
Pelham Prowlers (1999), and the
Alabama Slammers (2003). The Prowlers were
the most successful, and won the Southern Elite
Hockey League championship.