BANGOR, Maine — Los Angeles native Melissa Kim said Maine “will always have a special place in my heart.”

But the WLBZ Channel 2 sports anchor/reporter has decided to leave Bangor’s NBC affiliate to take a sports reporter job at WIAT CBS 42 in Birmingham, Ala. She will start there Sept. 16, and her last day at WLBZ is Friday.

“It’s definitely going to be a huge change. But I’m really excited,” said the 29-year-old Kim, who has spent 3 1/2 years in Bangor.

“This was an opportunity I couldn’t say no to … getting a chance to cover football at the University of Alabama,” added Kim. “Football is one of my favorite sports. I love [University of Southern California] football. I got into it because my dad [Kwang Sik Kim] was a professor there.”

Alabama has won two consecutive NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision championships and three of the last four.

Kim said she will get a significant pay increase.

“It’s nice to make more money, but that’s not the reason I’m leaving,” Kim said. “This will give me an opportunity for growth.”

She expects to be covering a variety of different sports in addition to Crimson Tide football, including Auburn University.

“They’re involved in a lot of pregame and postgame coverage. They also cover high school sports. And they have a minor league [Class AA] baseball team in Birmingham — the Birmingham Barons,” pointed out Kim. “They put a lot of resources into their sports coverage.”

Kim was the only female television sports reporter and anchor in the Bangor area until Brittany Devane joined the staff at WVII-WFVX (ABC) 13 months ago.

Female TV sports anchors have been rare in Eastern Maine.

“She was great,” said Mike Redding, the news director for WLBZ and WCSH (Channel 6, Portland). “She was always eager to do great sports stories and she connected with people and infused the human part into each story. It came naturally to her.”

Redding said they will begin advertising for a replacement shortly.

Kim said one of her biggest rewards involved having “mothers and grandmothers come to me and tell me their daughters or granddaughters wanted to be like me [a sports reporter].”

Kim immersed herself in the community and taught lacrosse to youngsters, a sport she played in high school.

She said former Maine men’s hockey coach Tim Whitehead once told her girls looked up to her, and she was really making a difference in their lives by coaching lacrosse.

Kim grew up in Los Angeles but left for Baltimore after her junior year in high school because her father took a teaching job at Johns Hopkins University. Kim attended Johns Hopkins and graduated with a degree in political science in 2006.

She did some sports reporting for News 12, a cable-exclusive service covering the tri-state areas (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) before landing the job at WLBZ-TV.

“I didn’t know a soul before I came to Maine. I had never been north of Boston,” said Kim. “But people embraced me here with open arms. Even people at the other stations were helpful. That has made my experience here so great.

“People would just come up and talk to me at Hannaford. It’s so nice to be loved in this community. And I tried to get involved in a lot of things,” said Kim.

“I couldn’t have picked a better place to get started [as a sports anchor],” she added.