Monday, January 31, 2011

Birmingham Is Hopping

I got this off a newsletter I receive from the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. Whoever claims nothing happens in Birmingham is crazy.

The $70 Million Groundbreaking
Birmingham Mayor William A. Bell Sr. led groundbreaking festivities in late January for a $70 million hotel and entertainment district. The ceremonies marked beginning of construction on a 300-room Westin Hotel to be built adjacent to the 757-room Sheraton Birmingham Hotel and the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Also included in the project is an entertainment district which will house 16 to 20 shops, nightclubs and restaurants. Construction is expected to be complete in about 22 months.

"This is a great step for Birmingham's hospitality industry," said James H. Smither, president of the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. "The addition of first class guest rooms and a high-end entertainment district significantly increases the appeal of the city for meetings and conventions in the downtown area."

With 220,000 square feet of exhibition space, the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is the state's largest meeting facility. The complex also houses an 18,000-seat Arena, a 2,800-seat Concert Hall and a 1,000-seat Theatre. The facility has 74 meeting rooms in 100,000 square feet. The adjoining Medical Forum is outfitted with a wet lab, telecommunications facilities and a full service production studio.

New $46 Million Track and Aquatic Facility Well Underway
The hits just keep on coming. By the end of summer, construction is expected to be complete on an indoor track and an Olympic-size pool at Fair Park on the western side of Birmingham. The $46 million undertaking is the first phase of a project that will include a retail center and commercial development on 30 acres adjacent to the athletic facilities. The Alabama High School Athletic Association recently announced it will reinstate indoor track as a championship sport with competition being held at the Fair Park track. The facility could also host AHSAA events such as swimming and volleyball.

Films to Celebrate Black History Month
Films set to screen at the Birmingham Museum of Art and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute look at Apartheid, music, conflict and forgiveness. The wide-ranging topics are part of the award-winning documentary series Have You Heard from Johannesburg? Screenings at the Civil Rights Institute chronicle the history of the global anti-Apartheid movement. They are:
• Hell of a Job and the New Generation - February 4
• Fair Play and the Bottom Line - February 25
• Free at Last - March 11
At the Birmingham Museum of Art:
• From Selma to Soweto - February 10
• Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony - February 24
• Long Night's Journey Into Day - March 10 and

Abalabip to Bring 'Boundless Fun' to Alabama Theatre
Rolling Stone magazine calls Alabama's Secret Sisters "boundless fun." And fun is what they will bring to the stage as one of the featured groups performing at the "Abalabip" concert February 5 at Birmingham's historic Alabama Theatre. "Abalabip" is the first in a series of concerts being planned by the Alabama Tourism Department and Oxford American magazine in celebration of the Year of Alabama Music. Special guests are Alabama soul icon Mary Gresham and jazz saxophonist/cult hero Arthur Doyle. Also on the ticket are The Sex Clark Five, a brainy alt act from Huntsville. Tickets include an after party at Birmingham's popular Bottletree.

Vulcan Park and Museum to Reveal Stories
There's something about the word revealing that's just...well...enticing. And that well describes the schedule for Vulcan Park and Museum's "Birmingham Revealed! 2011 Winter Series." This series of programs offers revealing insight into the people, places and events that helped shape Birmingham. Here's what's coming up:
• February 3 - Too Many Questions: An Evening with Virginia Durr - Starring Ginny Loggins, this compelling script is based on the life and times of Birmingham native Virginia Durr. Born in 1903, Durr's childhood was immersed in the conventions of the segregated South. She broke with accepted tradition and went on to become one of the country's most passionate voices for civil rights. Sure to be a great performance....
• March 3 - The Golden Age of Birmingham Broadcasting - Radio and TV programming in Birmingham in the 1960s and '70s abounded with homegrown talent for local tastes. Sgt. Jack and Cousin Cliff delighted audiences of children, while adults enjoyed the on-air antics of Fannie Flagg and Country Boy Eddie. This'll be fun....
• April 7 - Bobby Horton: The Stories of Alabama Folk Art - Among his many other accomplishments, historian, composer and multi-instrumentalist Bobby Horton provided music for Ken Burns' acclaimed PBS documentaries on the Civil War. In this session, Horton will explore connections between the region's music and its visual art. A treat for locals and visitors alike....


New York Times Features Lakeview District Plans
Birmingham native Catherine Sloss Crenshaw is a major community mover and shaker, as The New York Times notes in a recent feature article. Crenshaw, a descendent of one of Birmingham's founding fathers, has ambitious plans to invigorate a section of the city known as Lakeview by creating a design-centered destination. To read the entire article, go to

EWTN Acquires National Catholic Register
The international Catholic media empire, EWTN, based in Birmingham, announced recently that it has reached an agreement to take control of the National Catholic Register newspaper. EWTN was founded in 1981 by nun and former TV superstar Mother Angelica.

A New Record at the Civil Rights Institute
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute welcomed more than 4,000 visitors to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day last month. The attendance figure broke all previous records. The Civil Rights Institute is located in the heart of Birmingham's historic Civil Rights District.

Will Birmingham Bill See His Shadow?
We'll know February 2 whether we'll have six more weeks of winter or an early spring when the Birmingham Zoo's groundhog makes his appearance. Punxsutawney Phil's got nothing on Birmingham Bill when it comes to an accurate prediction. Stay tuned...or better yet, go to the zoo and see for yourself.

Alabama Adventure Buzzing About New Ride
Buzzsaw Falls is under construction at Alabama Adventure theme park and is expected to be operational when the park opens for the spring season. The water thrill ride is a boat that plunges down a 50-foot drop, leaving passengers and spectators soaked and delighted.

Sometimes one word is all that's necessary to impart a vision. So it is with the passionate ballet Giselle, which the Alabama Ballet will perform February 18-20. The tale of jilted lovers, remorse and forgiveness, this work was the birth of a genre of classical ballet.

Why We Come to Work: Activities at the Convention & Visitors Bureau
The Convention Sales Department has two top tradeshows on the travel schedule for February. First up is the Society of Government Meeting Planners in Huntsville. SGMP is the professional association of planners of governmental meetings and conventions, a lucrative market for the Birmingham area. With nearly 4,000 members, SGMP is the only national organization in the country dedicated exclusively to government meetings. On the heels of that show comes Destination Showcase in Washington, DC. This event is sponsored by Destination Marketing Associations International, the professional association for convention and visitor bureaus. Destination Showcase is the industry's largest forum, bringing corporate, government, association and independent meeting professionals together with exhibiting destinations from around the world.

In the Sports Sales & Marketing Department, plans are being put in place for the Mercedes Marathon and the Birmingham Volleyball Club's Valentine's Day Bash Tournament. Now in its 10th year, Mercedes Marathon events are set for February 11-13. The volleyball tournament takes place February 12-13. Also on the sports event roster for February 11-13 is the All-Alabama Softball Classic. Nine Alabama Division I softball teams will vie for the championship in this new tournament, which is expected to become an annual event.

Top news from the Tourism Department is that Cynthia McHeard has been promoted to Tourism Sales Manager. And the news comes at a good time with so much territory to cover in February. Early in the month, representatives will attend the North Carolina Motorcoach Association in Wilmington, NC. Then it's on to the Bank Travel tradeshow in Baton Rouge. Bank Travel gives Birmingham tourism staff an opportunity to meet with dozens of tour planners who schedule group travel for banking institutions around the country. In Atlanta this month is Travel South Showcase, where the Alabama Tourism Department will host the "Alabama Munch & Mingle Breakfast" with entertainment by Birmingham musician and composer Eric Essix.

The Tourism Department also is working with the Birmingham-based Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame on their "Legends Panel" which will promote the Year of Alabama Music. Panel participants include Cleve Eaton, Dr. Frank Adams, Ray Reach and other giants of Alabama jazz who will discuss the roots of jazz in Alabama on February 4 at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. The department is further promoting the Year of Alabama Music by assisting Oxford American magazine and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on the Abalabip series of concerts mentioned above. Kudos to the department's Sharon Brown, who just completed her Certified Travel Industry Specialist certification through the American Bus Association.

Everything old is new again in the Marketing & Communications Department. That is to say the department is working closely with the CVB ad agency to develop the evolution of the highly successful "IN Birmingham" ad campaign. The new series of ads is direct, playful and frankly some nice eye candy. Ads include QR codes with accompanying videos that can be viewed by using an app on smart phones. In conjunction with the new advertising, the department is also redesigning the CVB Website to compliment the campaign. The new site will be more active and interactive with a fresh look and feel, as well as additions to direct visitors more easily around the site. In the world of travel writing, Vickie Ashford, director of travel media, recently hosted a journalist with The American Statesman (Austin, TX), who was in town to write about Civil Rights history. The Tutwiler provided complimentary lodging. Vickie also hosted a writer for the UK publication The Guardian, who was researching a feature article on dining, golf and hotel amenities. Renaissance Ross Bridge provided complimentary lodging for this journalist. Vickie also worked closely with the Alabama Tourism Department to arrange the successful Year of Alabama Music news conference and kickoff at the Jazz Hall of Fame. She presently is developing itineraries for a Year of Alabama Music media tour and an Indy media tour.

Company's Coming: Conventions, Meetings and Events in Birmingham in February

Staff Development for Educators, Inc. February 2-4
Home Care Association of Alabama February 3-4
National Forensic League February 4-6
Cheer Tech February 5
Deep South Center for Occupational Health & Safety February 7-8
Episcopal Diocese of Alabama February 11-12
Birmingham Volleyball Club February 11-13
All-Alabama Softball Classic February 11-13
Mercedes Marathon February 11-13
Personnel Board of Jefferson County February 13-18
Government Finance Officers Association February 16-18
Alabama Society of Physician's Assistants February 17-20
University of Alabama Medical Alumni Assn. February 18-19
Lakeshore Shootout Soccer Tournament February 18-20
UAB Department of Pediatrics February 20-23
Re/MAX Dixie Region February 22-24
North American Wholesales Lumber Association February 23-25
ESP Ultrasound February 23-27
UAB Continuing Medical Education February 24-25
UAB Softball February 25-27
Alabama Baptist Convention February 28 - March 1
Destinations February 28 - March 1

What's News in Birmingham is the monthly newsletter of the
Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Dilcy Windham Hilley, Editor