While the move appears to be legal, the Mobile City Council’s action to officially rename Mobile’s oldest stadium has raised questions related to the state’s Memorial Preservation Act.
The council voted on a recommendation by the stadium’s board to rename it Ladd-Peebles Sports and Entertainment Complex from Ladd-Peebles Stadium. However, a memorandum sent to Republican State Rep. Chris Pringle questioned the legality of the move, given a state law that prohibits alterations to certain public structures more than 40 years old. The letter, written by Legislative Services Agency attorney J. Luke Kiszla, questions the move.
“The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act generally prohibits the alteration of certain structures or monuments to varying degrees based on the length of time that the structure or monument has been ‘so situated’ on public property,” Kiszla wrote. “The Ladd-Peebles Stadium may fall within the meanings of either of two defined terms covered by the act ….
“Under multiple potential applications of the Alabama Preservation Act, the act may wholly prohibit a renaming, might require a waiver from the Alabama Committee for Monument Preservation prior to the renaming, or may, although unlikely, not have any effect on the renaming of the stadium,” he continued. “Because the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act has largely not yet been interpreted by the courts, the specific application of that act of renaming of Ladd-Peebles Stadium is uncertain.”
In an email to Ladd-Peebles’ manager, Joe Mishkin, Alabama Department of Archives and History Director Steve Murray wrote the renaming of the stadium falls under a new rule change that went into effect this summer. The new rule would allow for the stadium’s renaming, he wrote.
The name change also received the legal blessing of local attorney Tommy Zieman, who wrote in an email to Mishkin it “fits nicely within the rules.” City Council attorney Chris Arledge wrote in an email to Mishkin Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office also signed off on the change.
Despite this, the legal ambiguity of the issue still concerns Pringle, who has advocated since its passage that the Memorial Preservation Act would need to be amended. Pringle voted for the act.
“There are some proposals that seek to try and clarify it,” Pringle said. “It’s legislative Whac-A-Mole; we have to always look at it after we pass it.”
At issue in addition to the name change are plans to remove a portion of the end-zone seating to add a stage. Pringle said he supports the move, but understands it would be complicated legally, considering it would be a major change to a historic building. However, Ladd Board Chairwoman Ann Davis said the management team has moved away from those plans.
“We have changed our focus so much in the last four to five months,” she said. “I don’t know about the stage. We don’t know which way to go.”
The entertainment center board is moving forward with plans for a $200,000 walking trail around the stadium, Davis said. The mile-long pathway will include benches, but the board has also discussed adding water fountains to the design.
“We are excited,” she said. “They’re supposed to start doing the walking trail sometime this month.”
The city, this summer, was at odds with the state over the removal of a statue of Confederate Adm. Raphael Semmes. The city was fined $25,000 for the breach of the memorials law. The fine has been paid in full and the funds were all donated, city spokeswoman Anitra Henderson said.
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