The city’s investment into the University of South Alabama’s proposed on-campus stadium would compare favorably to other college stadium deals in the state, proponents told members of the Mobile City Council Tuesday.
Nick Lawkis, USA’s associate director of governmental affairs, told councilors that $10 million paid over a 20-year period is much less than the $90 million the city of Birmingham contributed to the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s new stadium earlier this year.
Instead, Lawkis compared Mobile’s situation to the $4.5 million the city of Troy contributed to help build out Veterans Memorial Stadium in 1998. He said a refinancing of the bond by the southeast Alabama city last year gave the school an additional $3.5 million.
The Birmingham deal represents 51 percent of the stadium’s total price tag, but as Councilman Levon Manzie pointed out, the Magic City owns the facility. In Mobile’s case, USA would own its new stadium.
“UAB got a sweetheart deal,” Lawkis told councilors.
In contrast, the amount USA is asking the city to contribute makes up roughly 14 percent of the total project. USA is also offering $2.5 million upfront to help the city repurpose Ladd-Peebles Stadium in the Maysville community. Lawkis said USA’s only stipulation for that contribution would be that if the city doesn’t spend it within three years, it would be returned.
University President Tony Waldrop told councillors they didn’t have to rush to make a decision on what to do with Ladd, adding that addressing the 69-year-old facility would be completely up to the city, council and citizens.
Though USA would like a commitment from the city on the $10 million contribution, it still has plans to use Ladd and pay rent there until 2020, when the new stadium is built.
Waldrop told the councilors the city’s buy-in is important because the university “ does not have the resources to build a stadium” without the city and county’s support. However, Waldrop said the $72 million stadium would produce an economic impact of $113 million for Mobile.
“It’s a win for the city, it’s a win for the university and it’s a win for the community,” he said.
However, some members of the community aren’t quite sure. Cedric Myles, a USA graduate and Maysville native, said Ladd means a lot to the community as well.
“Growing up there, we would walk to the Senior Bowl,” Myles said. “As a kid, I never missed one. I lived three blocks from the stadium.”
Myles said he believes the city should pay for improvements at Ladd instead of repurposing it. He said games like the Gulf Coast Challenge mean more to his community than those near USA.
Manzie said while he supports USA’s endeavors to build its own stadium, he understands the concerns of those who want Ladd to remain.
“I believe South needs a stadium, but we need to know what the community will get in return and when we’ll get it,” Manzie said.
Manzie said he is planning a community meeting on the subject in the next few weeks.
Councilman Fred Richardson, who seems to support the proposal, said he would not vote to have Ladd torn down.