What do Journey, Taylor Swift, and the New Orleans Pelican’s NBA G-League basketball team all have in common? The Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center, of course. The newly renovated arena is set to host the inaugural season for the Birmingham Squadron, the New Orleans Pelicans G-League affiliate. The team announced its relocation to Birmingham from Erie, Pennsylvania, in 2018. After three long years, the former Erie Bayhawks now have a new city, name, and much more.
The Squadron’s inaugural season will consist of a 48-game regular season against fellow G-League opponents. The team’s relocation to Birmingham from Erie will be much more convenient for the organization’s player development process and Pelicans fans who want to see the team in action.
The Squadron’s roster includes some considerable talent, including former Pelican Zylan Cheatham.
The BJCC Legacy Arena was built in 1976 and has now traded its outdated, tan concrete exterior for a glass window shell, letting in natural light as well as being more cohesive with the aesthetic of Birmingham architecture. The project, which began in April of 2020, will enhance the experience of patrons coming to watch the Squadron. The renovations cost the city of Birmingham a whopping $125 million.
“You’ll have brand new seats, double the number of women’s restrooms, more men’s restrooms too, more points of sale, better food and beverage options,” BJCC executive director, Tad Snider, told ABC 33/40.
Luckily, the long wait is almost over for Squadron fans. On Dec. 5, the gates will open for the first time as they take on the Ciudad de México Capitanes, which will begin a six-game home stint.
The team is led by head coach Ryan Pannonne, a 36-year-old from Clearwater, Florida. His career began locally, coaching at his high school alma mater, Oldsmar Christian School and then at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. He then went on to coach in Germany and South Korea. Upon returning, he coached the summer league at the Memphis Grizzlies and with the Erie Bayhawks. He then became an assistant coach in Hapoel, Israel.
After three years in Israel, he returned to the states, taking a job with the Pelicans. Now relocating in Birmingham, he gets his shot as a head coach in the NBA G-League.
More information on the Squadron’s schedule, roster and ticket sales can be found on birmingham.gleague.nba.com.