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AHSAA football: What Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Auburn pay to host Super 7 state championships

Three Alabama cities pay six figures for the right to host the Alabama High School Athletic Association Super 7 Championships each year.

Those three cities — Birmingham, Auburn-Opelika and Tuscaloosa — started the current AHSAA Super 7 football championships rotation in 2021, where it was first held in Birmingham. Under current agreements between each city and the AHSAA, the championships will continue to rotate between the three until 2032.

For the current rotations to work, each city and related entities entered into agreements with the AHSAA.

Under each agreement, those cities pay the AHSAA $200,000 each year the championship is held in that city. In addition, each city enters into a lease with the respective city and tourism entities for use of the stadium along with adjacent parking. However, the contracts call for the AHSAA to reimburse each entity for use of the stadium: $95,000 in Tuscaloosa and Auburn for use of Bryant-Denny Stadium and Jordan-Hare Stadium, respectively, and $75,000 in Birmingham for use of Protective Stadium.

After the second go-around of the rotation, the AHSAA and the cities have the opportunity to reevaluate the terms of their agreements. Any party can terminate the agreement with at least 30 days written notice. Birmingham is the first to have the opportunity to reevaluate in 2024, followed by Tuscaloosa in 2025. Auburn and Opelika, which work together to host the event on the Auburn University campus, have the last chance to reevaluate hosting in 2026.

How much does each group pay the AHSAA?

Entity

Amount paid to AHSAA

City of Auburn

$62,500

City of Opelika

$62,500

City of Birmingham

$125,000

City of Tuscaloosa

$175,000

Auburn Opelika Tourism

$75,000

Greater Birmingham Visitor and Convention Bureau

$75,000

Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports

$25,000

What are the Super 7 Championships?

The Super 7 Championships bring together the top two AHSAA football teams in each seven classifications from Classes 1A-7A and crowns state champions. The championship event now also includes the flag football state championship, bringing together top contenders from the state to compete for that title.

Before the Super 7 came into existence, state championships were hosted by schools at their home stadiums from 1966-95, with the AHSAA holding large-school championships at Birmingham's Legion Field from 1971-96. In 1996, the state championships were brought together at one location for the first time, where it became known as the Super 6.

Originally, the Super 6 was held at Legion Field in Birmingham, but it moved to a rotation in 2009 between the Alabama's Bryant-Denny Stadium and Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Then, in 2014, the Super 6 became the Super 7 when the AHSAA expanded from six to seven classifications.

Birmingham was added to the rotation in 2021 after the city built Protective Stadium.

Where will the Super 7 be each year?

The Super 7's three-city rotation was announced in 2019.

Birmingham was the first to host in 2021 under the current agreement and will host in 2024, 2027 and 2030. Auburn hosted in 2022 and will also host in 2026, 2028 and 2032. Tuscaloosa is hosting for the first time during the cycle this year, along with hosting in 2025, 2029 and 2031.

Year

Super 7 Location

2023

Tuscaloosa

2024

Birmingham

2025

Tuscaloosa

2026

Auburn

2027

Birmingham

2028

Auburn

2029

Tuscaloosa

2030

Birmingham

2031

Tuscaloosa

2032

Auburn

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Impact of Super 7 Championships

There's a reason cities want to host the Super 7.

Stan Adams, executive director of sports at Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports, said the championships are expected to deliver an estimated $3 million dollars in economic impact to the city.

The economic impact is driven by attendance. In 2021, the Super 7 set a record with a total of 62,544 over three days at Birmingham’s Protective Stadium.

In 2022, the championships in Auburn drew 61,519, with the Friday's attendance topping the week at 23,837 for the 2A, 4A and 6A title games. Wednesday’s total, which included the flag football and Class 7A championship game, drew 23,464. Thursday’s total was 14,218 for classes 1A, 3A and 5A.

“In December, obviously, we don’t have (college) football anymore, so the hotels are really looking for that piece of business,” Adams said. “Obviously the students are about to leave, and football is not coming back. So really it’s just a dead period for the hotels, so it’s great for them."

For student-athletes, it gives them a chance to experience things many of them would never get to experience otherwise — getting to play in the largest stadiums in the state.

For the universities, the championships provide not just athletic recruiting, but also academic recruiting.

“My old boss saw (the championships) as a good time to get this first-class, big-name event to our communities and to leverage the communities for us,” Adams said. “Kind of using that as a, ‘Hey, a lot of these kids won’t ever be able to attend or play in these stadiums,’ so to give them that wow factor.

“The universities, especially the University of Alabama, saw (the Super 7) as an academic recruiting kind of benefit. You get all of these kids that are playing in the games, but you get the bands and the students to come as well. It gives these universities, from an academic standpoint, a lot more traffic on their campuses.”

There are a few differences between the contacts with the host sites. Here are the specifics for each agreement.

Workers clean up the stadium between games during the AHSAA Super 7 State Championship tournament at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.
Workers clean up the stadium between games during the AHSAA Super 7 State Championship tournament at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020.

Auburn and Opelika

Auburn first hosted the state football championships in 2010, joining the rotation with Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. In 2019, the city council approved the deal to host the Super 7 in 2022, 2026, 2028, and 2032, covering a 12-year time frame with the option to review after six years. This contract initially committed the city of Auburn to provide $75,000. In 2021, the current contract reduces the financial commitment to $62,500, with Opelika matching that amount.

Robyn Bridges, president and CEO of Auburn Opelika Tourism, sees the event as a chance to get high school students and their families to the cities and to the Auburn campus.

“The AHSAA decided that football would be best the sport to join in with Tuscaloosa and Birmingham for the Super 7, so the fans can have the experiences with traveling to another major college and play on their field,” Bridges said. “It’s all about creating the moment for the fans, and every year it continues to grow with the addition of girls flag football, and a unified games with participants that are special needs have been added to the Super 7 festivities in recent years.”

St. James' KJ Jackson (1) celebrates with his team during the AHSAA Super 7 football Class 3A state championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. St. James defeated Piedmont 45-28.
St. James' KJ Jackson (1) celebrates with his team during the AHSAA Super 7 football Class 3A state championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. St. James defeated Piedmont 45-28.

Birmingham

The AHSAA deal with the City of Birmingham, Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitor Bureau and the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Center brought the event back to the state's largest city on a rotating basis. The BJCC controls Protective Stadium.

Each year the games are in Birmingham, the city pays the AHSAA $125,000 by Oct. 1, with the convention and visitors bureau paying $75,000 by Dec. 10. The AHSAA sends a rental fee of $75,000 back to the BJCC after it provides a financial accounting of the event three days following the conclusion of the games. The City of Birmingham gets 150 free tickets to go with 20 parking passes.

The Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitor Bureau was not able to provide an amount for the economic impact of the 2021 event.

Tuscaloosa

In Tuscaloosa, the AHSAA entered into an agreement with Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports (TTS) along with the City of Tuscaloosa.

TTS is responsible for renting Bryant-Denny Stadium. Under TTS’s agreement with the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama, TTS pays $163,000 in rent. That payment includes use of the stadium and adjacent parking along with security personnel and other things.

The AHSAA reimburses $95,000 to TTS to offset the cost of renting the stadium.

St. James coach Jimmy Perry celebrates with the championship trophy during the AHSAA Super 7 football Class 3A state championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. St. James defeated Piedmont 45-28.
St. James coach Jimmy Perry celebrates with the championship trophy during the AHSAA Super 7 football Class 3A state championship at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala., on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. St. James defeated Piedmont 45-28.

In its agreement with the AHSAA, TTS agrees to provide stadium access/credentials, security, game operations staff, medical personnel, volunteers, a kickoff luncheon on the Wednesday afternoon prior to the championships, an AHSAA coaches breakfast and food for media/hospitality.

The AHSAA provides game operations staff, AHSAA staff members, trophies and awards, championship game balls and athletic training staff, and is is responsible for any additional costs incurred. In addition, the AHSAA provides 50 tickets per game and the use of 35 skyboxes to TTS and the city of Tuscaloosa and makes arrangements for a local hotel to serve as the official host hotel.

Who gets paid

Amount paid

AOT in Auburn

$95,000

TTS in Tuscaloosa

$95,000

BJCC in Birmingham

$75,000

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: AHSAA football: Cost of Super 7 championships for host cities