Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson will pull the deal to support the University of South Alabama’s proposed on-campus stadium if the City Council doesn’t vote on it at the next council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 21.
Stimpson told a group of reporters Wednesday afternoon that he and USA President Tony Waldrop met Tuesday evening and agreed that neither would sign a letter of intent if the council refused to take a vote at its next meeting.
“We’ve been dealing with this issue since June 22,” he said. “It’s time for the council to vote. Actually, it’s past time for the council to vote.”
Since the end of June the council has been debating the merits of a plan to give USA $500,000 per year for 20 years for the stadium. In return, USA would give the city $2.5 million to refurbish or renovate Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Stimpson has been supportive of the plan since it was announced, believing that the deal would give city the resources to fix maintenance issues with the 70-year-old stadium in Maysville. For Stimpson, it’s the city giving a total of $7.5 million to USA to help head off costs his office has estimated at about $33 million over the next 20 years.
“This is an investment … ,” he said this afternoon. “The original deal was a win, win, win, win.”
Since the deal’s introduction though, Stimpson said there have been attempts by councilors to make the agreement more politically acceptable. Most recently, he said, was a promise to pump at least $10 million in grant and other funds into neighborhoods impacted by the stadium’s move.
Stimpson said pumping an equal amount of funding into the communities in question would make the stadium deal a bad one.
“It tuns what was an affordable deal not only into a bad deal, but one that is not affordable,” he said. “Mobile has had its share of bad deals in the past.”
Council Vice President Levon Manzie said the plan for community funding only came about after a meeting where Stimpson asked what it would take to get five votes for the stadium proposal. Manzie added that it was the administration who helped designate the resources for the community funding in the form of housing repairs, sidewalk projects and other initiatives..
“We came up with a package of resources — most outlined by the mayor’s office — for commitments,” Manzie said today. “These are things the city gets resources to do anyway. These are things we should be doing.”
However, Stimpson acknowledged that both Maysville and Hillsdale deserved funding, but not at the expense of other neighborhoods.
“I understand the need for money for Maysville and Hillsdale, but there’s a need for money in every community,” he said. “If we spend more money in those places, we’re taking it from somewhere else.”
During the press event, Stimpson asked the council to vote on the stadium funding plan without any attached funding for specific neighborhoods. After Tuesday’s vote, Stimpson said, the administration and council could work together on solutions for Ladd. He has previously suggested using an unbiased facilitator to help the affected communities come up with a plan.
However, he cautioned that a “no” vote could lead to problems for the city, which is already dealing with more than $200 million in deferred maintenance costs in all of its facilities.
In a joint statement, Manzie and Councilwoman Gina Gregory said they believe there is still hope the deal can be approved.
“It is disappointing that the mayor chose not to communicate with us prior to today’s press conference and instead has taken the route he has,” the statement reads. “Despite that and his comments this afternoon, there is still hope that in the coming days a reasonable compromise can be reached and we truly can have a win for the university, (a) win for those communities and (a) win for our city.”