Photo by Jon Anderson
The BAM hats
Hoover Councilmen Joe Rives and Jack Wright sport hats given to them with the name "The Bam" during a Hoover City Council meeting on Monday, Oct. 3, 2016. That was the proposed nickname for the $80 million sports complex being built next to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, but officials now are reconsidering that name.
After a huge public backlash, Hoover city officials today said they are reconsidering the name that was announced last week for the new $80 million sports complex being built next to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
City officials on Oct. 3 announced they would officially call the complex the Alabama Sports and Event Center and unofficially use the nickname “The Bam.”
The Bam and the Hoover Met together would be part of the Hoover Met Sports District, said Ashley Whitaker, the marketing director for Sports Facilities Management, the company hired by the city to manage both the Met and the new complex.
But “the city had a huge backlash from the public with the name The Bam,” new Hoover Councilman Casey Middlebrooks said today.
Council President Jack Wright has approved the creation of an ad hoc committee that will revisit the naming of the complex, get public suggestions and likely have a public vote on a new name.
Middlebrooks, chairman of the committee, said the public is invited to come to a meeting at the Hoover Municipal Center at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 17, and give suggestions for a new name. People also may submit ideas via email to firstname.lastname@example.org until noon on Thursday, Oct. 20.
The rest of the naming process is still fluid at this point, but the current idea is for the committee to choose five finalists and conduct a public survey before recommending a name for the City Council to approve, Middlebrooks said.
“I think it’s important we have community buy-in from the get-go,” Middlebrooks said. “This whole Sportsplex ordeal came about with a lot of animosity toward it when they originally voted on it.”
When the first vote to move forward on the sports complex was taken in December, people were upset that the public was not given more advance notice of the plans and more of a chance to offer public input about an $80 million expenditure.
Then, people didn’t like having a name pushed on them without public input as well, Middlebrooks said.
“This way, this facility can start being a positive thing for the city instead of everybody having animosity toward it,” he said.
The committee that will decide the finalists likely will be made up of at least one council member, a park board member, a school system employee or school board member, a city employee, a high school student from each of Hoover's two public high schools, and three other people who are Hoover residents, Middlebrooks said.
Wright, who initially said city officials were excited and proud to announce the names that were chosen, said today that no one seemed to have any problem with the names until after they were announced. He noted that the City Council never voted on a name and said he is open to considering a new name.
“We’re just totally receptive to whatever people want to do,” Wright said.
Councilman Gene Smith said he thinks it’s a good idea to solicit ideas from the public as well because it will give residents some ownership in what the complex is called.
Jason Clement, the founding partner and CEO of Sports Facilities Management, issued a statement saying that his company is encouraged that the community has shown energy and interest in arriving at the right name.
“We believe the process outlined with the council will engage the community for input in order to arrive at a name that will be successful for the development,” Clement said in the statement. “Ultimately, we aim to have the brand name and activities be something the community is proud of and excited to participate in.”
When the original names were announced, SFM officials said naming the overall area the Hoover Met Sports District reflected the overall community’s influence and ownership of the project.
However, SFM officials felt it was important to get the name “Alabama” in the facility to elevate it and make it easier to identify at the national level for people who may not be familiar with Hoover. They chose “The Bam” because it’s a shorter nickname that people — including kids — would be able to remember easier, Whittaker said.
Wright said last week he thought it was catchy, but the nickname received the brunt of the criticism. Some people didn’t understand what it was supposed to mean, and others called it childish and immature.
Others pointed out that it could easily be confused with Books-A-Million, which also goes by the name BAM!, or the BAM Sports Grill in Vestavia Hills.
Andy Parrish, a resident of The Abbey at Riverchase apartments, said he understands it’s a lot easier to criticize someone else’s idea than come up with one on your own, but he feels like the names recommended by the management company were poor decisions.
He thinks the primary name for the facility should have the word “Hoover” in it so that it will further promote the city and let people know where they are in Alabama when they are at the complex.
But the larger issue is one of transparency and public engagement, Parrish said.
Smith said the City Council wants to get the name picked in a couple of weeks because the city is losing time to book events for the sports complex next year.