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UAB’s move to AAC conference could benefit regional economy

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 10:25 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2021 at 11:01 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s being called a monumental day for UAB athletics as the university officially joins to the American Athletic Conference.

“It’s really surreal. It’s a different program that what we had in 2014 and before,” Justin Craft, former UAB player said.

Former UAB player Justin Craft is one of the people behind the rebirth of the football program after it was shut down in 2014. He’s with the UAB Athletics Foundation and spearheaded a number of campaigns to get the program back. He feels the move to a new conference is another big step for the Blazers.

“The amount of eyes that are going to be on UAB and Birmingham is really, really, exciting and I know its something that is well deserved by all those coaches and players that came before this day,” Craft said.

Craft, who is also a financial expert, believes the move to the AAC along with the new Protective Stadium will pay dividends for the region. Gene Hallman with the Bruno Event team, who is heavily involved in the local sports scene, agrees.

“You’ve got the traditional rivalry with Memphis. You’ve got schools like Tulane and SMU that are very solid, academic institutions that have alums all over this region that I think will create a lot of travel in for these games,” Hallman said.

Which means a win for hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

“It’s going to continue to create revenue for the area around Protective Stadium, the downtown area, and it will spur the revitalization that’s taking place,” Craft added.

Craft tells us the move to the AAC also puts Birmingham more in a national spotlight. That could help with enrollment at UAB and have a direct impact on the economy.

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