Austin, TX (February 17, 2017) –
Blazer football is back at University of Alabama Birmingham after a three year absence and practice on the new Blazer synthetic turf field is starting soon. Hellas Construction’s installation of the new practice field with its Matrix turf with Cushdrain padding was completed last week just in time for Spring practices to begin. The Blazers will finally be playing football again this fall after their program was taken away in 2014, but reinstated after an outcry and donations from the community, alumni, coaches, and players.
Their first priority after reinstatement of the football program was getting a good practice field. Blazers Head Coach Bill Clark said, “The players came out and checked out the field. They said it’s the best they have been on.” He said the team is looking forward to practices on this field. They previously had two practice fields, both natural grass, but one didn’t drain well and the other was not even regulation size, so they had to practice at Legion Field most of the time.
“We were wasting too much money driving buses to Legion Field about 15 minutes away,” said Clark. Clark had been to a Dallas Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium and experienced their synthetic turf. He wanted that turf for their fields, which was made by Hellas Construction. So when the architects were hired, he told them that he would like Hellas Construction’s turf to be on the list of possibilities. Hellas was eventually selected and the Matrix® turf with Helix technology and a Cushdrain® padding was installed.
Back in 2014, the Blazer football team had just become bowl eligible for a second time, and it was Clark’s first year. Coaches, players, alumni and the community were devastated when the University Board of Trustees decided to end the football program. “There was a huge outcry from fans across the country and alumni. People rose up and fought,” said Clark. They decided to also take action by raising money to help bring the program back. They created the UAB Athletic Foundation,and citizens stepped in and made it happen.
After the fierce opposition and $13 million was raised to cover the football budget for five years, the university decided to reinstate the UAB Blazer football program in 2015, but it’s not until fall 2017 they actually get to start playing. Clark had his first recruiting class in 2015, and they had practices in spring and fall 2016. The amount raised has continued to rise until now it is up to $42 million, which will help cover the costs of the new facilities and upgrades the program has planned. One of the next additions will be an indoor practice field, which will also be installed with Hellas Construction’s turf system.
“I think it’s extremely deserving for these guys to have this facility on campus. Being a part of this is really special,” said Amy Champion, business development manager for Hellas Construction. “UAB is the centerpiece of Alabama to Hellas. I am excited to be a part of this,” said Champion. Champion was previously a former coach at UAB for ten years. She said, “To be back and a part of this historical event with football coming back to UAB and Hellas providing the facilities is very moving and personal for me.”
The team’s first game is September 2, 2017, against Alabama A&M. Go Blazers!