Photo | Mobile County
The city’s budget discussions, already hampered by pending legal issues, will likely include some back and forth about whether to contribute to Mobile County’s multimillion-dollar soccer complex.
Last month, the Mobile County Commission agreed to include in its budget a $500,000 allocation to the Mobile County Soccer Complex, which began its first phase of construction in May to the tune of $4 million. The new appropriation is intended to help start the construction of additional fields.
The later phases of the project are expected to create up to 10 fields, including a “championship field” with stadium seating and other amenities that could help the facility attract larger tournaments.
However, Commissioner Connie Hudson is hoping the city of Mobile is willing to help out.
In an Aug. 5 letter to Mayor Sandy Stimpson and the Mobile City Council, Hudson asked the city to contribute to the project — specifically through a $1.7 million allocation to build the championship field. She said the complex is located in the city, which is also expected to generate revenue from it.
“I have high hopes that somebody will include this item as a budget allocation, but I don’t know. I never got any feedback from the mayor, but I’m hopeful the [Mobile City] Council might see fit to include that,” Hudson told Lagniappe. “By year four, they’ll be making well over a half million in tax revenue off of this facility, and I just think it’s reasonable for them to contribute to the project.”
Councilwoman Bess Rich, who has worked with Hudson on a number of issues, confirmed to Lagniappe this week that she will introduce a budget amendment asking the city to chip in on the county project.
Rich said her amendment would only be for a $500,000 allocation. She said she was originally going to ask for $250,000, but decided to increase it, in part, due to the county’s recent decision to allocate $500,000 to support future upgrades Ladd–Peebles Stadium — a facility that’s owned by the city.
Like Hudson, Rich said she believes the complex will benefit the city financially and has found in the past that tax revenue generated through youth sports tends to be recession-proof.
Councilman John Williams, whose district encompasses the property where the proposed county complex will sit, said he’s been happy to see support for soccer grow throughout the city. However, he cautioned against spending city money on a county complex, especially with the city’s own parks and recreation facilities in a “constant state of disrepair.”
At this point it’s unclear how the idea is sitting with other members of the council, though some have supported contributions to the project in the past. When the soccer complex was initially being discussed in 2015, the council set aside $1.5 million to help the county purchase the land needed to build it.
However, that money was eventually returned to the city after the county’s plan was sidelined in 2016 because of concerns about the amount of debt it would create. Hudson went on to repackage her proposal as a less-expensive, three-part project that has since been supported by the commission.
Yet, as of today, the city has not contributed anything monetarily to the current version of the project.
City spokesperson Jen Zoghby said Stimpson’s office received Hudson’s letter but has yet to see any kind of formal proposal for a budget amendment that would redirect money to the county’s soccer complex.
“Creating a budget proposal for the city of Mobile is a complex, months-long process. The mayor did receive Commissioner Hudson’s letter Aug. 5, a few weeks before the budget was due to the city council,” she wrote. “To date, the mayor has yet to receive Councilwoman Rich’s budget amendment.”
The Mobile City Council has placed consideration of its FY (fiscal year) 2020 budget on the agenda for an Oct. 8 meeting. However, that could be delayed due to a pending legal battle between the council and Stimpson’s administration related to how non-merit employees can be paid by the city.
A hearing is currently scheduled in that lawsuit before Judge Michael Youngpeter on Oct. 18, and it’s possible the city could delay the passage of its next budget until those issues are resolved.
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