MONTGOMERY — After a $5 million bailout of Birmingham's World Games 2022 was left out of the educational budget supplemental passed by the Senate last week, state legislators are still getting requests to put the funding back in elsewhere.
Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said on the Senate floor on Thursday, "[W]e just welcomed the World Games that we're still trying to pay for through the legislature."
Singleton's comments occurred during discussion over legislation passed out of the Senate on Thursday dealing with health licensure exemptions for the 2025 World Police and Fire Games in Birmingham.
"I would hope that if we are proud to bring these games to the state that they can stand on their own financially and (be) fiscally responsible in terms of their management. We're looking at right now, even after the World Games, that we got into some of these budgets that we're still trying to pay for the World Games that keep coming up without the knowledge of knowing what it was," Singleton said. "I'm not saying anything against anybody particular, but I just hope that the management of it be better than what we did at that (World) Games because I want to welcome the world and I was behind the World Games 120%. When I look at how we continue to get more requests for funding to finish out something where we thought that big advertisements would be able to do and I know we did it in the midst of the edge of a pandemic. That's why we should've been very considerate of whether or not we went on and forward with it before we did that."
He continued, "I can support this, but I'd just caution to say to whoever is going to manage this that they do a great management job and that the state does not have to hold the bucket and that it would be something that's profitable or it breaks even for the state of Alabama and hopefully that the citizens of Jefferson County can be able to benefit."
"Not just Jefferson County, but the state of Alabama would benefit from this. We welcome this, but I just want to caution us that how we did the World Games that we learn from that and be able to move forward with something a little bit better," Singleton added.
State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) replied, "[W]e were at the mercy of the International Olympic Committee on the timing of the World Games here so they postponed a year (and) we had to then postpone a year and we still caught some of the side effects of that."
"Think of those that hosted the Olympics the year before. My guess that was a major fiscal note deficit for them doing that, but they decided to follow through anyway so that meant automatically World Games would be in Birmingham when it was," he added. "Your points are well-taken, sir. We're doing everything we can to make sure the management is top-notch and everything that your colleague right beside you and I have seen is that they are doing thus. We're simply dealing with the licensure here today, but your point is well-made, sir."
Birmingham hosted The World Games 2022 in July. About 3,500 athletes competed from 99 different countries in 34 sports. The games took place around 23 venues throughout the greater Birmingham area. According to a press release, 375,000 spectators watched the event. Those who did not watch the games in person could watch them on television in 80 countries.
However, the event racked up a $15 million deficit. Birmingham City Council approved a $5 million appropriation in August to cover some of the deficit. Jefferson County Commissioners approved $4 million of their federal American Rescue Plan Act allotment to go towards the shortfall. The Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau gave $1 million towards the debt in October.
State Sen. Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham) said on the Senate floor on Thursday, "[W]hat we're trying to do as well now is that we're trying to not number one put a, for lack of a better word, black eye on the city of Birmingham and Jefferson County…and the state as a whole."
"I'm not talking about this one, but I'm talking about the World Games," he added.
According to WVTM 13, an effort is underway to put the $5 million bailout of the World Games in the General Fund budget.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.