The city of Birmingham is in joint talks with the city of Tucson, Arizona and the NFL's Oakland Raiders to host the team during the 2019 season. The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas, but with no stadium available before 2020, they might need a home for a year. Birmingham has stepped into the void and is offering up Legion Field as a temporary venue. But here on the Gulf Coast, nothing appears to be happening at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
When the University of South Alabama announced its intentions to build a new on-campus stadium, the Ladd-Peebles Stadium Board quickly realized it would mean losing the stadium's primary tenant, and likely both the Dollar General Bowl and Reese's Senior Bowl. Thus, the Stadium Board opposed any city funding for what is now known as Hancock Whitney Stadium, even though the initial plan also involved the University giving back $2.5 million to help redevelop Ladd-Peebles as a smaller venue. Ann Davis, who chairs the Stadium Board, said that the $2.5 million was designed to prevent Ladd-Peebles Stadium from being a threat to the university's on-campus stadium.
Of course, competition was a laughable idea from the start.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium is already 70 years old and cannot hope to compete with the new stadium at South. There have been a few improvements over the years, but none offer serious competition to the amenities that will be available at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Sure, Ladd-Peebles has a bigger seating capacity than Hancock Whitney Stadium. But that selling point is not enough to keep the Dollar General Bowl. That selling point is not enough to keep the Reese's Senior Bowl. And despite its larger capacity, Ladd-Peebles Stadium isn't big enough to host.... say, the Oakland Raiders. So despite my tongue in cheek suggestion that the Stadium Board bid to get the Raiders in 2019, it's an idea that doesn't really work.
What about other sports, like soccer? Nope, the field isn't wide enough to host soccer matches. But South Alabama's Hancock Whitney Stadium can accommodate soccer.
Concerts? I can't remember the last time Ladd-Peebles Stadium hosted a major concert. I've lived here for 19 years and don't remember even one. It's worth noting that the new stadium at South will have a stage and is being built with its potential as a concert venue in mind.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium Debate Goes Off the Rails
So what is the future of Ladd-Peebles Stadium? In a story from NBC-15 last August, Ann Davis suggested they'd ask the county for financial help, and would "look into writing grants." But as for plans to secure any events that justify its size, we've heard nothing. Crickets.
As of today, the Ladd-Peebles Stadium events calendar is completely empty. There will be six South Alabama football games added to the schedule for 2019, and high schools will continue to play games in the cavernous 40,000-seat stadium. But we're still waiting for the Ladd-Peebles Stadium Board to share a vision for how the stadium can move forward during the next several years. If they were to put together a common sense plan, I'd like to think our community would listen. But right now, Ladd-Peebles Stadium seems like a dinosaur. Unless someone has a better idea, it's time to redevelopment the stadium, to a smaller size that fits the needs of our community.