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  • Lloyd Brown

Pelham Civic Complex - Birmingham Bulls

Photos by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

Pelham Civic Complex 500 Amphitheater Road Pelham, AL 35124

Birmingham Bulls website Pelham Civic Complex website

Year Opened: 1996 Capacity: 3,500


The Bulls Rink

The Birmingham Bulls are the newest member of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) and were founded in 2017. The team has shown rapid improvement in their first three seasons, as they went from next to last in their inaugural season to making the league’s Championship Series in just their second year. In a closely contested series, they were defeated by the defending champions, the Huntsville Havoc.

The Bulls chose the 4,100-seat Pelham Civic Complex Arena over the downtown Birmingham-Jefferson County Civic Center for several reasons: 1) Birmingham’s center has a heavy events schedule with conventions and other shows, making it very difficult to fit in a full season of hockey games, 2) The Pelham area is home to a very active youth hockey program, 3) the Pelham Civic Center is much more appropriately sized for the average SPHL crowds at a seating capacity of 6,000, and 4) The operating cost is much less at the suburban facility.

In addition to the main rink complex, there is a second NHL-sized rink that is used by the youth hockey programs in the area. More than 27,000 participants are involved with this second rink on an annual basis. The University of Alabama-Birmingham also plays out of the arena and when hockey is not in play, the rink can be used for public skating.

The team’s nickname harnesses back to when the Birmingham Bulls of the World Hockey Association began operations as the Toronto Toros before making the move to the south. The team kept the bull logo but Anglicized they also created alliteration with the city name.

Bulls Logo Center Ice, Photo by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey

The club operated for after the WHA ceased operations in 1979 in the Central Hockey League for another two seasons. The Bulls moniker returned in 1992 in the ECHL and operated in the Magic City until 2001, that current franchise exists today as the Adirondack Thunder.

Food & Beverage 4

The Civic Complex Arena has three concession stands and one bar that sells alcoholic beverages. For a small venue, the arena sells a wide variety of items. They include hamburgers ($6), hot dogs ($4), chicken tenders ($8), and nachos ($7). Snacks include cotton candy ($4), popcorn ($4), pretzels ($5), French fries ($3), and chips of candy ($2). Beverages available at these stands include Coca-Cola sodas for $4, bottled water for $3, and coffee or tea for $3. Domestic beers are $6 and premium brands go for $7.

Atmosphere 4

The Bulls have created an excellent atmosphere for fans in the Birmingham area. They have made clever use of the “Bull” term integrated into a hockey vernacular. The seating bowl and game ice are referred to as the “Bull rink,” the goal horn on home goals is known as the Bull horn, and when fisticuffs break out on the ice it is called a “Bullfight.” When a visitor is sent to the penalty box, the fans serenade them with a Bully, Bully instead of the usual Dilly, Dilly.

The coziness of the stands to the ice also adds to the atmosphere. There are bleachers the length of the rink, on both sides of the ice, but end zone seating at only one end of the ice. The rink area has a relatively low ceiling, capturing and amplifying the noise. Seating only goes through A-T, so no seat is far from the action.

During lulls in the action, the Bulls staff conducts a variety of contests, giveaways, and special recognition of large groups attending the game that night. Toro the Bull, the team’s mascot, mingles with the crowd throughout the game.

Neighborhood 3

The Bull’s pen is in the Birmingham suburb of Pelham, Alabama. It is approximately 20 minutes south of downtown Birmingham, just off I-65. It is a small community of around 14,00 people, many of which commute to nearby Birmingham for work.

There is a cluster of restaurants and hotels in and around the Civic Complex. We have found that both the Hampton Inn and the Fairfield Inn and Suites offer quality service and reasonable rates. Two restaurants we have sampled and are close by are Nino’s Italian Restaurant and the Margarita Grill.

If you are interested in wildlife, Pelham is the home to the Alabama Wildlife Center. Birmingham is a short drive up I-65 if you want to sample the many sports activities and nightclubs in the Magic City.

Fans 4

The Pelham area was chosen as the home of the Bulls over Birmingham due to its extremely large youth skating and youth hockey programs. You may be in the Deep South, but these fans are well-versed in hockey. The stands are filled with fans in the various colors of their respective youth team, as well as the bright red hockey jerseys of the Bulls.

The one end of the arena with bleachers behind the goal is reserved for the Birmingham Bulls Booster Club members. They are well known for their creative cheers, the ringing of cowbells, and the singing of songs you would typically find at soccer games. After the opposition allows a goal, the poor goaltender is teased unmercifully.

Access 4

The Pelham Civic Complex Arena is easily reached via I-65 about 20 miles south of Birmingham. From I-65 take Exit# 246 (Highway 119) and turn left. You will then turn left onto Oak Mountain Road. Turn right at Amphitheater Road and the arena will be on your right.

Entry into the Pelham Civic Complex is through the main lobby at one end of the building. You then proceed left or right depending on the location of your seats. The seats on the west side of the arena are reached via a concourse at the top of the bleachers, while the east side features a concourse underneath the seating bowl, with entry through portals at the mid-point of the seating area. Concessions are equally distributed throughout the arena.

Return on Investment 4

The Bulls offer tickets at three price levels. Seats along the glass go for $30, seats along the sides of the rink are $22 and seats located at the end of the rink behind the nets are $15. Parking for Bulls games is $5. The concession prices at the Pelham Civic Center are quite reasonable.

Extras 2

The Pelham Civic Complex Arena also serves as the home for the club ice hockey teams from both the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. University of Alabama fans will hear a very familiar voice at Bulls games. Eli Gold, the legendary radio voice of Crimson Tide football, also serves as the announcer at the Bulls games.

Final Thoughts

The Southern Professional Hockey League is a feeder league for the larger ECHL and AHL. This creates a more competitive atmosphere on the ice as players are working their way up the ladder to the big leagues. The fan experience offered by the Pelham Civic Complex and the Bulls organization proves that you can offer a quality product even in a small market. You might say we are Bullish on this stock!

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