BY SHARMAN EGAN/Contributing Writer
Whew! I’ve been busy as a corn dog truck on Fat Tuesday just trying to keep up with all the “Mobility” news this past month. I had a half-dozen different ideas for this column, but finally decided it was time for a gumbo of news from all over the city.
With March Madness, the Senior Bowl and the Dollar General Bowl behind us, it may seem quiet on the sports front. But things are happening to make Mobile more of a regional sports center. Starting this summer, Mobile will host a United States Soccer Federation-sanctioned team for the first time since 1997 as AFC Mobile joins the Gulf Coast Premier League for the 2017 summer season. The season opener is May 14 at the Lipscomb Athletic Complex on Michael Boulevard.
There’s buzz Mobile may be getting a professional basketball team for the first time since 2003 (does anyone remember the Mobile Revelers?). Mobile is vying with five other cities to host a Development League team affiliated with the New Orleans Pelicans. Rumor has it NBA officials toured Mobile and the Civic Center in April. I wonder where that leaves Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s plans to demolish the center in 2018?
The world’s largest tennis tournament is coming to the Mobile Tennis Center in July, hosting 2,000 players from nine Southern states. The tournament will return in 2018 and 2019, bringing with it almost $900,000 per year in city and county tax revenues and an estimated $40 million in economic impact to the area.
Mobile hosted the 2017 USA Gymnastics Region 8 Championships for Levels 6, 7 and 8 at the Convention Center in April. The three-day competition brought more than 1,000 young gymnasts and 600 coaches from eight southeastern states to the city. They competed to participate in the national championships in Milwaukee.
Unfortunately all the recent “Mobility” news isn’t good. Funding for some of the city’s projects is in the crosshairs of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, including the Tiger Grant for the redo of Broad Street. According to Assistant City Attorney Keri Coumanis, who spoke to the April meeting of the Old Dauphin Way Association, if you want to see that project realized (slated to roll out in the fall), you need to get on the phone with our congressional representatives.
Burger King is opening at the former Arby’s at 659 Government St. And I’m told down the road, at Dexter Avenue, a group has applied for a variance to put in a Krispy Kreme with a drive-thru.
The city presented its proposed 2018 Capital Improvement Plan in April. There’s good news for walkers, bikers, paddlers and auto suspensions. That extra penny in sales tax you fork over every time you buy something will go toward $21 million in improvements, including over $6 million for parks, $5 million for road projects and $1 million for sidewalks. Bike and pedestrian projects and the Mobile Greenway Initiative are slated to receive $550,000.
If you’re wondering what your 2017 CIP has done for you today, the new basketball court opened at Sage Park on May 3. Rickarby Park will soon be getting a new court as well, as part of a major renovation. Other improvements will include repaired sidewalks, interior and exterior painting of the recreation center building, new baseball benches and enhanced security.
I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see the Mobile Greenway in my lifetime. The proposed walking and biking trail along Three Mile Creek has been discussed for years. Now, it is finally becoming a reality. The powers that be got out their shovels on May 8 and broke ground on the first phase of the project, a 10-foot-wide concrete trail that will run for .8 miles along the north side of Three Mile Creek, from Tricentennial Park to West Ridge Road. It will include a fitness zone, landscaping, solar lighting, benches and a kayak launch.
The schedule calls for it to be completed in 10 months. Future plans call for an extended trail allowing you to walk or bike from Langan Park to downtown Mobile. Now wouldn’t that be something?
The ceremonial shovels have been busy. The midtown Publix groundbreaking was held in late April (well after actual construction began). If the recent rains ease off, we will be shopping by the end of the year. Worst-case scenario is early 2018.
And finally, who’d have thought you’d see Mobile touted in the national press as a “smart city”? But indeed, a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Rise of the Smart City,” highlighted the city’s Innovation Team and its efforts to fight blight using smartphones and Instagram’s photo-sharing app.
Then, in early May, The New York Times Magazine took “A Look Inside Airbus’ Epic Assembly Line.” The feature is more photo essay than text, with stunning pictures of the assembly process. If you doubt you’ll ever see inside the factory in person, it’s worth checking out online.
Mobility is a monthly column of development news in and around downtown Mobile.