Despite a recent debate about its future, the board of Ladd-Peebles Stadium and the facility’s management company will receive level funding through a performance contract in Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s proposed 2019 budget.
Ann Davis, chairwoman of the Public Parks and Recreation Board, believes the Mobile City Council would give the group more funding as budget negotiations begin.
“We hope council will support us,” she said. “We’re hoping they will move money around.”
In nine years, the board went from having almost no money in stadium coffers to having $500,000, Davis said, which demonstrates it’s a good investment.
Recent debate focused on a proposal pushed by Stimpson to contribute $10 million over 20 years, or $500,000 per year, to a planned stadium on the campus of the University of South Alabama. The Jaguars football team currently plays at Ladd, along with four high school teams.
During the debates, supporters of the 70-year-old stadium suggested putting the $500,000 per year into Ladd. The council recently defeated the funding proposal for the new stadium and speculation has grown that more could be headed to Ladd.
Davis said with $700,000 the board could begin a renovation project.
“A lot of the issues are cosmetic,” she said.
With just $50,000, the board could begin painting corridors and bathrooms at the facility, Davis said.
While the stadium is receiving level funding in the budget, a number of nonprofits received a 10 percent cut. In fact, the cuts were almost across the board, Executive Director of Finance and acting Chief of Staff Paul Wesch said in a previous interview.
The reductions came with two exceptions, Wesch said — for multiyear contracts and for groups with missions closely aligned with the city’s work.
Like Davis, many of Mobile’s nonprofit leaders are hopeful the council will amend Stimpson’s budget to increase their organizations’ funding. Some made their pitches at a public hearing on the budget Tuesday, Sept. 4.
Members and officials of midtown’s Via Health, Fitness and Enrichment Center asked the council to restore the organization’s $160,000. Stimpson has proposed a cut of $16,000 to $144,000 from its performance contract.
Executive Director DeAnna Murphy said the center has 1,200 total members from each of the council’s seven districts. The members use the center for health and senior services.
Council Vice President Levon Manzie, who represents the area including Via, said he has heard the calls.
“There will not be a stronger advocate for Via than Levon Charles Manzie,” he said. “It’s the premier senior facility in the city of Mobile and we need to support it. I will be fighting for the funding for Via.”
Councilman Fred Richardson joined Manzie.
“I want Councilman Manzie to know he will not be in the ring by himself,” Richardson said.
Users of the Connie Hudson Regional Senior Center also asked the council for more city funding. Specifically, Councilwoman Bess Rich said while it appears the senior center’s budget line item increased, that funding came from the SAIL program. She said the center needs a part-time bus driver and an art instructor.
Kevin Ball, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Coast Challenge, requested funding for the annual football game between two Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The game was not included in the budget this year. In previous years, the game was given $200,000.
Specifically, Ball asked for funding for the challenge game to equal that of the Dollar General Bowl and the Senior Bowl. Ball said the game would bring tourism dollars to the city.
“All we’re asking is to treat us the same as those other games,” Ball said. “That’s it.”
City attorney Ricardo Woods said in its initial proposal, the challenge included a $175,000 promoter fee and the city didn’t feel comfortable giving funds to the group. Ball called that misleading and said the fee was part of a budget and the city funding would go to the nonprofit.
The Mobile Sports Authority has given $126,000 for the Sept. 22 game. Ball said the game is expected to attract 20,000 fans.
Richardson asked the city to treat the games the same. He added councilors don’t bat an eye at giving $200,000 to the Senior Bowl..
“Find it somewhere,” he said. “Cut somebody.”
Councilman John Williams said the city should determine the difference between the funding given by the Sports Authority, which funnels public money to the game. Williams also said every game has a management fee similar to the promoter fee Woods discussed.
Woods said the administration supports the classic game and helped push for the Sports Authority funding. He said the game was not funded in the budget because the “new” game has yet to develop a track record.
Stimpson said the city initially got back almost all of its funding to the then-GoDaddy.com Bowl, save $200,000. Recently, though, under the same agreement signed before the current administration took office, the city doesn’t receive as much because sponsorships have declined. The difference now leaves the city paying a total of $700,000 for the bowl game.
The Mobile Public Library was cut by $500,000. Director Scott Kinney and board treasurer John Browning asked the council for level funding. Browning said the cut represents a “significant hit.”
The funding cuts have nothing to do with any planned event at the library, Wesch said.
MPL is the largest public library in the state, Kinney told councilors, and serves a population of more than 300,000 residents.
The proposed cut will be “catastrophic,” Kinney said. He said the library would have to reduce staff to make up the difference. Cuts to staff would affect library branches’ hours of operation.
Libraries in Huntsville and Montgomery operate with less funding from their respective cities, Councilman Joel Daves said. In the proposed budget, Mobile would provide more than $3 million more than Huntsville or Montgomery, he said.
Kinney said Mobile’s library serves 146,000 more residents than those libraries. The per capita spending in Montgomery is roughly the same as in Mobile, he said.
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