The Mobile City Council recently rejected a partnership with the University of South Alabama to help cover its debt service on a new stadium. The deal would have meant that the city pay the university $500,000 per year for twenty years. In exchange, South was going to give back $2.5 million to help secure a bright future for Ladd-Peebles Stadium and allow the signature games that are currently played there to move on campus at no charge.
I'm not sure if opponents, including the four "no" votes on the City Council*, thought that rejecting the deal would put a stop to South's plans for a new on-campus stadium or not. But those who supported the deal (myself included) were quick to point out that the university will build this new stadium with or without the city's involvement.
And that is exactly what's happening. On the eve of the Jags' tenth football season, the university has announced a new fundraising plan to get an on-campus stadium built by 2020.
So nothing has changed. Nothing! If all goes to plan, the stadium will still be ready for the 2020 football season. The Jags will play just twelve more games at Ladd before vacating.
In an earlier blog post on this subject, I asked readers to picture a date in 2020:
It's September 26, 2020; and the Jags are hosting UAB at their new home. Jags Stadium is state of the art, with everything from great seating and suites to good WiFi. Ladd Stadium had a Murphy High School game the day before, and as a venue for multiple schools, it may host another high school game on Saturday. But the big ticket events that would fill a stadium like Ladd-Peebles have mostly committed to the new Jags Stadium. The Dollar General Bowl will be there in December, while Ladd sits idle. The Senior Bowl will be there in January, while Ladd sits idle. A full Jags season will come and go, while Ladd sits idle; or at best, hosts a high school game in front of several hundred people. The Gulf Coast Challenge, which started in 2018, has also been offered a home at Jags Stadium.
So here we are. There are just a few games left before Ladd-Peebles Stadium loses its big events; and of course, it's already way too big for high school football games. It's not the right size for soccer at present, and there isn't much of anything on the horizon that could justify its size. Ann Davis chairs the Ladd Stadium board, and she tells NBC-15 that she'll ask the county to support the stadium, as well as looking into applying for grants. My question is: why would the county do that... and for what purpose would the stadium by awarded a grant?
By partnering with the university, the stadium board and the city would have had financial help to downsize Ladd Stadium, lower its maintenance costs, and create a facility that would be useful for smaller events -- such as minor league soccer, and the high school football games that are played at the stadium. Games which do not require 35,000 seats; or for that matter, even 10,000 seats.
The new on-campus stadium is being built, without the city's involvement. And that means Ladd-Peebles Stadium just became a dinosaur.
If you'd like to help the Jags "Get on Campus" by 2020, CLICK HERE to contribute.
* John Williams, Bess Rich, Levon Manzie and CJ Small all voted 'no.' Fred Richardson, Joel Daves, and Gina Gregory supported the deal.