The University of South Alabama is officially moving ahead with its plans for an on-campus stadium. On Saturday, the Board of Trustees voted to move ahead with Phase II of stadium construction, and it's full speed ahead for a scheduled opening on September 12, 2020 -- the Jags season opener with Grambling.
We knew this was coming.
When the university approached the city and county for some financial help with the stadium, we knew the Jags' days at Ladd-Peebles Stadium were numbered. And along with that, the Senior Bowl and the Dollar General Bowl. At some point, the city will have to figure out what a mostly unused Ladd-Peebles Stadium means for its coffers, and how much the city should spend to fund what will essentially be a 40,000-seat high school football stadium. (Although we've heard the Oakland Raiders might need a home next year).
The fate of Ladd-Peebles Stadium will have no bearing on the new on-campus stadium. The university didn't need the city's money so much as it was seeking validation from the city, in order to spur support from private entities. Mobile County has stepped up and pledged $2.5 million for the project, so there is some level of support at the local government level.
At this point, I'm looking forward to securing my seats at the new stadium. In the coming months, the University will release info on ticketing, parking and more. They'll continue their "Get On Campus" fundraising effort*
And South Alabama's National Alumni Association is also building the on-campus Julian and Kim MacQueen Alumni Center, which will be a gathering spot for alumni on game days and throughout the year. The center is expected to open in plenty of time for the stadium's first home game, and they are also fundraising right now.
[Full Disclosure: I am a donor to both the stadium and alumni center efforts, as well as a member of the Board of the USA National Alumni Association].
It's an exciting time to be a Jag, and it's an exciting time to be a Mobilian. The stadium is a game-changer. Our alumni will be able to return to campus on game day and see its tremendous growth. It should allow our city to secure the long-term future of the Senior Bowl and the Dollar General Bowl. Plus, concerts and other events that otherwise would never have come here.
Ladd-Peebles will remain an issue, but a stadium without major tenants is likely to push the city and stadium board to finally craft a solution for its future. In the meantime, let's celebrate what's happening... and let the countdown begin to 2020.
Just 7 home games left at Ladd-Peebles Stadium!