Birmingham, AL: A Successful Meetings Destination Report - 2006-07-19


What other city can claim not one but two American Idol champions? None but Birmingham, a former industrial town that has reinvented itself as a medical and financial hub. With its convention center complex nearing the completion of a five-year renovation, this Southern city offers all the modern conveniences, set alongside historical relevance and diverse culture. It may once have been a best-kept secret, but with all the attention and some of the country's top-rated restaurants and entertainers, the secret is out on Birmingham.

Essential Tool Box

Convention Facilities
Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, 220,000 sf of exhibit space, 74 meeting rooms, largest accommodates 13,750 theater style.
Total hotel room inventory: 14,600
Rooms within .25 miles of the convention center: 2,350
Designated convention center hotel: The 770-room Sheraton Birmingham
For more listings, visit Facility Quick Search at
Daily Business Costs*:
Hotel $138.22 F&B $70.46 Car Rental $64.27
For More Info:
Greater Birmingham CVB
*Business Travel News 2006 Corporate Travel Index

The Big News

The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is in the fourth year of a five-year, $39-million renovation that, when finalized in 2007, will include a complete $12-million renovation of the 770-room Sheraton; a Phase II renovation of the BJCC's concert hall; a $2.6-million investment in ADA compliance; and more. In addition, the arena has a new roof and a new divider curtain that transforms it into a separate 3,500- to 8,000-seat venue called the "Magic City Theater." Expansion plans are also in the works. In May, the $2.2-million, 4,900-sf Arena Club opened at the arena; the new space features a large bar with several TV screens displaying the live performance taking place; a concession area; a full-service kitchen; a box office, and an outdoor patio area. Hallways at either end of the room lead directly onto the BJCC arena floor.

* The 166-room Tutwiler began a $7.2-million renovation in June that, when completed in Sept, will reflag the property as a Hampton Inn with refreshed guest rooms, free Wi-Fi throughout, a new business center, and a signature, fine-dining restaurant.

* The former Visionland theme park reopened in April as Alabama Adventure, following a $20-million renovation of the 200-acre venue. A new master plan calls for a hotel with an indoor water park, a sports complex, and a stock car racing zone.

Groups Should Consider
Groups should consider these recommendations from Successful Meetings Home Team* experts. Top choices include the 259-room Marriott Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. Recommended off-site venues include Vulcan Park; the Birmingham Museum of Art; Barber Motorsports Park and Vintage Auto Museum; Highland's Bar and Grill; Dreamland Barbecue Ribs; and the Five Points and Mountain Brooks areas.

*Contributors who informed this section include Home Team members Gerri Grant Gipson and Ninon H. Parker. Contact them at [email protected]

Home of the Soul Patrol
This May, more than 36 million viewers watched as Taylor Hicks not only became the fifth American Idol, but the second "Idol" to hail from Birmingham, AL. (Ruben Studdard, whose contest with Clay Aiken had more than 38 million on the edge of their couches, was the other.) Successful Meetings spoke to Jim Smither, president, Greater Birmingham CVB, regarding Hicks' stellar rise and what it means for Birmingham.

Successful Meetings: So, what's in the water there?
Jim Smither: I don't know if there is any accounting for it-just that people in the South love to sing, and they hone their singing over the years, whether it's at home or in church or in a bar. Birmingham has a lot of live music. We certainly do not bill ourselves as having an "Austin scene," but in this community, there is an awful lot of live music in restaurants and bars and nightclubs.

SM: Have you gotten any leads from all the media coverage?
Smither: We've gotten lots of comments. On American Idol they show Taylor Hicks coming to his hometown on a beautiful sunny day. Everybody who was watching American Idol saw these very positive things about Birmingham.

We're a good alternative city for some of the traditional places that people look. When they're thinking of coming down to the southern part of the U.S., they might start at New Orleans, Nashville, Orlando, Miami, or Charlotte. But when they discover Birmingham, they realize that we are a very good venue for meetings and trade shows. We have really good facilities, good airline access, and a price that can't be beat. We do a lot of religious and a lot of educational meetings, but we also do a lot of medical meetings because of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center, the sixth-largest medical center in the U.S. In fact, medical and financial meetings have been pretty prominent for the last 10 years.