Was Alabama’s Football Tank Idea Fumbled?

There are water tanks shaped like corn cobs, ketchup bottles, coffee pots, Mickey Mouse, peaches, Campbell soup cans, flying saucers and in many other forms. In China and other countries there are many water tanks shaped like round soccer balls. Imaginechina Limited had images of such tanks on residential apartment buildings in Guiyang city.

There is a history of uniquely shaped water tanks, as described in an account by Erin Schmitt in Treatment Plant Operation. Schmitt wrote about tanks that had “conical roofs that resemble the hats worn by sorcerers,” and tanks that looked like coffee pots and flashlights.

Mark Hughes Cobb reported on June 4, 2020, in the Tuscaloosa News that a water tank located near the University of Alabama would be under construction. Many folks in T-Town were looking forward to yet another paean to the National Championship winning Crimson Tide football team. Hughes wrote that the “UA Systems board of trustees” had approved “a design for the prominent spheroid water tower on the north side of campus.”

Hughes wrote: “A lofty souvenir-white football will soar 450 feet above the University of Alabama campus, adorned with a red script A.”

The University of Alabama had released information about the tank. A project summary of the tank in Water Distribution System Enhancements included artist renderings of the tank. The illustrations of the tank’s shape were more elongated than most spheroidal tanks, having a resemblance to the shape of a football.

As the water tank was under construction, it became apparent that the shape of the tank would not conform to that of the publicized design.

On September 24, 2021, Gary Cosby, Jr. reported in the Tuscaloosa News that: “Early drawings made the tank appear to be shaped like a football, but the actual tank is more of a traditional sphere, within viewing distance of fans outside Bryant-Denny Stadium.” Cosby wrote:

The water tower, according to an artist’s rendering presented by Matt Fajack, UA vice-president for financial affairs, at a 2020 Tuscaloosa City Council meeting, depicted the tower painted white with the university’s script “A” logo on the side. Though the tank is not shaped exactly like a football, the paint scheme will give Bama football fans a visual reminder of the popular Alabama football road uniforms.

After the initial public announcement, the internet exploded with jokes about the tower, which appeared in the artist’s renderings to have a shape similar to that of a football. Given its closeness to Bryant-Denny Stadium, some people on social media took the misunderstanding seriously.

After the initial announcement about the water tank, Al.com’s Michael Casagrande wrote about the subsequent jokes on Twitter. “It took just one picture on Twitter to create a debate, a few rebukes and a bunch of Photoshopped alternatives.”

The idea that the tank’s spheroid shape would resemble a football could easily be understood. Certainly throughout the globe, an incredible variety of water tank designs existed. Why shouldn’t T-Town, the home of the Crimson Tide, have a football shaped water tank? Or was it ever intended to have been a football shaped tank? Was the football tank idea fumbled? Probably not. After all, people in T-Town seem to always have footballs on their minds. There was a whole cottage industry that produced football shaped cookies. Every self respecting bakery offered them. Although one such bakery, as Patrick Rupinski reported in the Tuscaloosa News, got into hot water because of the use of the “A” logo. The bakery then got a reprieve, as reported by Al.com‘s Ben Flanagan.

Although the new water tank may never have been intended to be built as a football shaped tank, it would definitely be the source of the hot water that many people shower with in T-Town.

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