At halftime, when the University of South Alabama Jaguars were down 17-0 this past Saturday, I made some offhanded comment to my husband like, “Oh I just hope they can at least get on the board, so it’s not too big of a blowout.”
About 30 minutes later, we were jumping up and down and screaming so loudly, our kids started crying real tears they were so terrified of us. Talk about getting some “South in your Mouth.”
It took another half hour for the chill bumps on my arms to go away after the game had ended.
We must have watched “the leap” by QB Dallas Davis five times. And in some ways it was quite metaphorical, as Saturday’s win will do nothing but advance the program and almost certainly help the university realize its dream of building a stadium on campus.
President Tony Waldrop recently updated the USA Community on that endeavor, saying a committee that has been working on the logistics concluded it was “feasible” but would require “external financial partnerships and significant philanthropic support.” In other words, ladies and gentlemen, get out your checkbooks.
But hey, people are a lot more likely to write those checks when they have chill bumps on their arms or if they can envision “the leap” playing out on a field bearing their great grandpappy’s name.
Though I am sure there will never be any touchdowns scored on Trice Field, during the post-game afterglow I did think, “Hmmmm, I don’t think I have renewed my alumni membership yet. I need to get on that. We should really take the kids to a game this year. And maybe I should get Ellen a little cheerleader outfit.”
I imagine those thoughts or ones similar played out at varying levels among all of the alumni and donors across the city and country. Maybe even by some who can scratch out a check for a field or a locker room. Let’s hope so!
I’m sure some economist may even try to actually quantify what that win did for the school one day, but until then let’s just say it’s unquantifiable.
Isn’t it crazy what a little pigskin can do for a school?
But all that aside, it did get me to thinking more about Ladd-Peebles and its future, as the Jags will mostly certainly be moving away in the coming years, as they should. I get the desire for an on-campus stadium. Even if Ladd was as grand as, say, Cowboys Stadium, it is still a bit of a hike from the campus, both for the players and the students. Athletics Director Joel Erdmann said it was almost the equivalent of an away game because of the logistics involved, even though it is only a few miles away.
And a stadium becomes a part of the campus culture and its outline will be as emblematic for the school as Moulton Tower. It just makes good sense.
But as far as Ladd goes, there will always be a need for the stadium as long as there is high school football, the Senior Bowl and Dollar General Bowl (aka, the bowl formerly known as GoDaddy and Under Armour).
The 68-year-old stadium survived long before Jaguar football and has a storied history, but South leaving will no doubt be a huge blow and loss of revenue for the city-owned facility. And even though the city has made upgrades to it in recent years and it has looked really nice on television, we all know it could use a lot more love.
The Senior Bowl is one of the major annual city events that make Mobilians proud to be Mobilians. But yet, I don’t feel like we treat it as such at times. The country’s premier college football all-star game deserves a stadium befitting such an event. And we should make sure that happens.
I don’t want people from out of town to come in for the Senior Bowl and the DG Bowl and walk away saying, “Mobile is such a great little town and we had such a good time but their stadium is kind of bobo.” And let’s face it, they are already doing that.
(By the way: I love you, Ladd, but other people are comparing you to their college and pro stadiums, which I know isn’t fair, but we just need to gussy you up a little, girl. That’s all I’m saying.)
My fear is that with the impending loss of USA, some of the powers that be may be less likely to put more money into it. But I think that is the exact opposite of what should happen.
Earlier this year, the county nixed plans for a $40 million soccer and aquatic complex after they couldn’t agree on how to fund it. The city had committed a pretty big chunk of change to that project as well.
I know that brand new projects like this are white-hot sexy, especially those with natatoriums (RRRRRROOOOOWWWW!!!), but after seeing all of the improvements to our existing roads, sidewalks and municipal parks the city has recently made, it has made me realize just how sexy a fixer-upper can be too. Just ask Chip and JoJo. (Lord, those two are so overexposed, Ryan Adams is tweeting about them and I just worked them into a column about improving municipal sports facilities in Mobile, Alabama. But yet I’m ready to see their next “Fixer Upper.” Damn them! They are like crack!)
HGTV stars from Waco aside, it just seems to me that we need to decide which sports facilities we want to support indefinitely in this city, from Ladd to the Mobile Tennis Center to Hank Aaron Stadium to Azalea City Golf Course, the disc golf course, whatever, and we need to make them the very best they can be. If some of those don’t make the cut, then so be it, we need to relinquish them. But if they are going to be city owned with our seal stamped on them, we want them to be snazzy, not dinky. And there is a lot of dink that could be fixed at all of those aforementioned structures.
The bottom line is before we move on to something shinier and new, we just need to make sure our existing facilities’ milkshakes are calling all of the boys to the yard.
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