The Mobile City Council will assess rival proposals for the future use of Hank Aaron Stadium during a meeting of an ad-hoc committee slated for Monday, Dec. 2.
The city-owned stadium has been vacant since the Mobile BayBears left for Madison, Alabama at the end of last season and two groups have come forward with plans to manage the stadium into the future.
The Mobile Sports and Entertainment Group came to councilors with a proposal weeks ago. That group, including former BayBears’ front office members, wants to reopen the stadium to host high school tournaments, concerts and more events.
A rival group, led by Minor League Baseball owner Tim Bennett, is looking to relocate an Atlantic League team to the stadium at the start of the 2021 season. Both groups claim to have the blessing of Mobile native, hall-of-famer and stadium namesake Hank Aaron.
Council President Levon Manzie said members have a “variety of questions” as it relates to use of the stadium and want to try to answer them at the committee meeting slated for 9 a.m.
“There’s no reason to make a hasty or rash decision,” Manzie said. “I hope we’ll all attend these meetings.”
John Williams, whose district includes the stadium, was named chairman of the committee, while Councilman Fred Richardson and Councilwoman Bess Rich will join as committee members.
Williams asked for councilors to submit questions by the end of Tuesday, in order to give administration staff time to get answers. There are still some outstanding questions council attorney Wanda Cochran said she is seeking from administration officials as well.
In other business, the council plans to further discuss a proposal from Manzie to form a citizen commission on housing to address an apparent affordable housing shortage in the city.
The commission would be made up of two appointees from districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 as well as one appointee each from districts 5, 6 and 7, Manzie said. Community Development Director Jaime Roberts and Mobile Housing Board Executive Director Michael Pierce would serve as ex-officio members.
Manzie said the point of calling a committee meeting to discuss the issue is to “massage” it in order to get both councilors and administration officials on board with the proposal. In comments last week, Mayor Sandy Stimpson acknowledged an eagerness to find a solution. At a meeting of the National League of Cities last week, Richardson said many members were discussing the shortage of affordable housing, noting it as a nationwide issue.
The commission’s main purpose as outlined in a statement announcing its possible creation is to promote, incentivize and improve affordable housing, revitalize and stabilize neighborhoods, and to achieve equity among all citizens and neighborhoods in the city as it pertains to housing and housing structures.
Manzie has proposed the commission just one week after councilors denied a bid that would have allowed residents of West Mobile to vote to become part of the city. One of the concerns from those opposed to annexation was a lack of affordable housing. The timing of this proposal and Manzie’s comments appear to be a reaction to that concern.
“Over the past few weeks it has become clear that we must do all that we can to address the issues and challenges keeping us from growing the communities and city we have,” Manzie said in the statement. “We must address the growing lack of affordable housing, displacement of our residents and do more to stabilize our current neighborhoods struggling to move forward.”
In the next year or so, the Mobile Housing Board is planning to follow a directive from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to tear down three of its oldest facilities and give the residents in those communities the option to move to alternative public housing, or let them use a housing choice voucher. The communities impacted by the decision include: Boykin Tower, Thomas James Place and R.V. Taylor Plaza.
In order to avoid displacing some 500 or so residents from that area, the city will have to have 500 affordable units in the Michigan Avenue corridor ready by the end of next year.
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