November 2, 2021 • Athletic AdministrationFacilitiesFootballTechnology

UAB Forms New Traditions in Protective Stadium

It had been nearly a year since the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) football team played a home game. In fact, it was 344 days. The fight for a new stadium has been ongoing for far longer — for decades to be more specific. 

Though the battle-tested Blazers fared well on their extended road trip — sporting a 5-2 record and earning the 2020 Conference USA Championship against Marshall — it was time for the team to get a taste of some home cooking. Luckily, the university had whipped up a state-of-the-art stadium — putting an end to its decades-long dispute — to welcome its football team on October 2, 2021. 

uabProtective Stadium, an open-air stadium north of Birmingham’s Uptown District with a seating capacity of 45,000 and the possibility of adding an extra 10,000, is not only a home fit for a conference champion that was briefly terminated in 2014 but the surrounding community that supports them. 

“I think for so many reasons. We could be up here all day just talking about all the reasons it’s special for our program. You know the history of what’s happened to us. To bring the program back and really having the dream of building the stadium for our city,” Blazers head football coach Bill Clark said. “For all the things we all had to go through to make it happen, I’m really excited.”

The new $180 million home brings a new host of traditions to the program and its 45,000 fans that show up on gameday. Located on the L-shaped grass plaza just south of The Southern Kitchen and the Uptown entertainment district, the fan-favorite Blazer Village is a convenient place to stop on gameday. The fan-fest area opens four hours prior to kickoff and closes 30 minutes prior to kickoff, to allow time for fans to get into the stadium. In UAB’s home opener against Liberty, Blazer Village was the site for a pre-game show that treated fans to the raising of the 2020 C-USA championship flag. The Marching Blazers put on a show before the athletics department recognized football alumni on the field at halftime. 

On typical gamedays, fans can enjoy free interactive games for kids, face painting, music, a UAB Bookstore pop-up shop, and more.

“[This stadium] serves as an incredible platform for our city and university that many of us have been working hard to bring to fruition,” Mark Ingram, UAB Director of Athletics, said.

uabAnother new tradition is the Blazer Walk, which occurs two hours prior to kick-off where the team walks through the downtown tailgate area to “rally the troops” to the stadium for the game. 

“It’s going to be a great experience out there. It’s going to be food trucks and a lot of fun. You know you got all that stuff, but we’ve got to get everybody in the stadium for the kickoff and we’re going to need them,” Clark said. “That’s going to be a great Blazer Walk tradition that we start.”

Fans can get inside Protective Stadium for single-game access for as low as $20 with suite options featuring catered options, chairback seats, TVs, and outdoor seating. The Stadium Club, located on the west side of the field, offers amenities that include private restrooms, complimentary in-game food, and soft beverages within an indoor climate-controlled hospitality area. Gameday cabanas, located on the north endzone, provide an exceptional outdoor experience for fans as well. 

“I have said this many times, and I truly believe that Protective Stadium is the nicest college football stadium in America. The fan amenities are incredible, and we are excited to provide the best experience possible throughout the season,” Ingram said. 

But Protective Stadium will serve other purposes for the area aside from hosting gameday activities for UAB. The new space will return to the rotation of hosting the Alabama High School Athletics Association’s football championships and will additionally host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2022 World Games.

“It has so many other great benefits for our program and the city. It’s just really that special,” Clark said.