Black Meetings and Tourism

Nov/Dec 2011

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SPORTS TOURISM ball classics take center stage. Leading the pack in attendance, which across the board continues to rise, is The Magic City Classic, a 69-year-old battle betweenAlabamaA&MandAlabama State. "Alabama A&M and Alabama In StateUniversities firstmet on the grid- iron in 1924. After alternating sites between Montgomery, Alabama and Huntsville, Alabama, the game was moved to Birmingham's Legion Field in 1940, and theMagic City Classic was born," explains FayeOates ofAlabama Sports Foundation/Bruno Event Team —organizers of themega event. "The two schools have since met annually, except for 1943 and 1944 because ofWorldWar II. Attendance has grown from the 20,000 fans that witnessed the 1940 game, to the 61,879 spectators that packed Legion Field for the 2010 contest, making it the largest Black football classic in the country." To 2010's 61,879 attendees, Oates adds another 40,000 representing tail- gaters camped on the outside perime- ter before, during and after the game. For greater Birmingham, these num- bers represent an approximate total of 6,500 room nights, out of a bank of 14,000 rooms total. It is estimated that the event has a $15 million economic impact on the city and surrounding areas. the arena of Black col- lege sports, fall is the season where the foot- BY MICHAEL ANDRE ADAMS The ability to reach suchmass num- bers of consumers represents a huge marketing opportunity for corpora- tions. "Corporate support is at an all time high, which will generate a record set- ting disbursement to both the Universities," says Oates. For the past three years, State Farm has been the title sponsor,with a recent renewal for another three. Prior to taking on the top position, State Farm was consid- ered byOates as amajor event sponsor for eight consecutive years. "Our pre- senting sponsor is Coca Cola. Other sponsors include the City of Birmingham, Coors Light, Regions Bank,Alabama Power, US Army, and AT&T." Smack dab in the middle of all the action is the host hotel for the event – Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, which tends to sell out fast every year.That's when theBirminghamConvention and Visitors Authority kicks-in to make sure there's plenty of roomcitywide to handle every request. "The Classic spreads out across the Birmingham area and beyond, and all communities benefit," explains Vickie S. Ashford, TMP, director of Travel Media at the Greater Birmingham Convention andVisitors Bureau. For many, the 20-minute escape from the hoopla to Renaissance Birmingham's FourDiamond awarded Ross BridgeGolfResort&Spa, is well worth the trek. "Between the parade, pep rallies, tailgating,parties and the football game itself, Magic City Classic weekend is full of activities," explains generalman- ager, Steve Miller. "Guests of Ross Bridge tend to arrive a bit early to enjoy quality time with friends in the days leading up to the Classic." Leisurely social advantages include a round of golf on the 4th longest course in the world, a morning bike ride, an afternoon in the world class spa, sublime gastronomy with or with- out wine pairings and more, at Birmingham's one and only resort, which also happens to be the host hotel for the Porsche Driving School. Now in its 70th year, this year's State Farm Magic City Classic, pre- sented by Coca Cola, is poised to have the lovely Lisa Raye McCoy as the celebrity ambassador, with former America Idol winner and Alabama A&Malumni – Ruben Studdard, per- forming the National Anthem. Past ambassadors included Vivica Fox, LL Cool J, Magic Johnson, and Charles Barkley. National radio personalities Tom Joyner, Ricky Smiley, and Steve Harvey come to leave indelible marks on the crowd as well, with live shows and other talking points before, during and/or after themain event. For more information on the 70th Annual State FarmMagic City Classic, visit and Black Meetings & Tourism November/December 2011: 63

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