In the wake of an expedited exodus from Ladd-Peebles Sports and Entertainment Complex, Mobile County School officials are pushing forward its projects for new on-campus stadiums.
The Mobile County Board of Education voted Monday to accept bids for Vigor and LeFlore high schools, with each carrying a price tag of more than $5 million.
Ben M. Radcliff Construction Company of Mobile was the low bidder for the Vigor stadium at a price of $5,497,771. Youngblood-Barrett Construction and Engineering bid $5.62 million for the work. Gaillard Builders Inc. of Mobile bid $5.89 million.
LeFlore’s stadium was bid at $5,038,800 to Youngblood-Barrett, beating out Radcliff Construction who bid $5.73 million and Gaillard Builders who bid $5.62 million.
Both projects will be paid for using the district’s Alabama Public School and College Authority (PSCA) allocation. It received $61.7 million in PSCA funds through the Alabama Department of Education’s 2020 bond issue for $1.2 billion in capital improvements.
The cost of the construction is widely more expensive than anticipated, with the system’s project bid sheets indicating it was hoping to spend around $3.5 million for each of the new facilities.
School officials have expressed hope these stadiums will be ready to host games, fans and visitors by the beginning of the 2022 football season.
MCPSS Superintendent of Education Chresal Threadgill spoke to reporters following Monday’s meeting. “We felt the need for those schools to have that pride, to have equity.”
Threadgill acknowledged the higher price approved from the stadiums. He said initial estimates put the stadiums between $2.5 million and $3 million each and the increase in costs are due to rising costs of materials and additional turf.
The superintendent said it remains unclear when contractors can begin construction, but noted soil tests have already been performed.
“Hopefully, we’ll get started pretty soon,” Threadgill said. “With the way the contractors are right now — it’s hard to find them, hard to get started, hard to find materials.”
MCPSS Director of Communications Rena Philips told a reporter Monday contracts indicate these facilities will be completed by August 2022, but this timeline could be pushed back for a number of circumstances.
Vigor High School in Prichard has never hosted an on-campus football game since it opened its doors in 1944. LeFlore, which is a magnet school based in the Toulminville community, hasn’t either.
“We feel nothing but pride,” said Vigor High Principal Gerald Cunningham. “Pride for the community, for the school. We’ve never held a football game on our campus because we’ve never had a football stadium.”
Cunningham told Lagniappe buzz about the new stadium is all over the Vigor community. He said students, alumni and stakeholders are all talking about it, and everyone is excited.
The new stadium will be constructed adjacent to the school’s baseball field on the southern end of the campus property.
The Vigor High School Wolves are 11-1 this season. They had to host a home game against American Christian Academy on Nov. 19 at Blount High School’s football stadium because of MCPSS’ decision to nix Ladd.
Both Vigor and LeFlore have depended on the use of Ladd stadium for their home games. However, after a second shooting incident in two years at the stadium in October, MCPSS Superintendent Chresal Threadgill made the call to immediately stop using the facility. County school officials believe Ladd stadium officials did not provide adequate security for their events.
The closure affected all four MCPSS high schools that patronized the facility, including Vigor, LeFlore, Murphy and Williamson. Plans for new stadiums for Vigor, LeFlore, Williamson and B.C. Rain were announced earlier this year.
The Vigor principal said he has not been given a timeline for when construction will begin or when the school will be able to host its first game.
He deflected questions about increased security at an on-campus stadium to MCPSS Director of Safety and Security Andy Gatewood and to MCPSS Communications Director Rena Philips.
School Board commissioner Reginald Crenshaw said the new stadium will also be a “shot in the arm” economically, noting revenues will be generated through parking, gate access and concessions.
“There’s nothing like having your own stadium,” Crenshaw said. “It brings a sense of pride and school spirit to a community.”
During Monday’s meeting, Crenshaw publicly recognized Vigor on its successful season up to this point and commended system officials for being able to push the stadium project forward.
Philips confirmed LeFlore’s new stadium will impact Just 4 Developmental Lab’s playground which sits between both properties. She said the system will rebuild the playground.
Threadgill told Lagniappe Monday he believes LeFlore’s stadium will be built in the space directly behind the Mobile Police Department precinct building on St. Stephens Road.
When contacted with questions about the facility and the future of LeFlore’s football team, Shon Burney informed the newspaper he had been relieved of his coaching duties on Friday morning. However, he said the new stadium will be crucial to the program.
The LeFlore Rattlers were 0-10 this past season, the 11th consecutive losing season for the program. Burney wasn’t hired until mid-July and was relieved of his duties on Nov. 19.
Philips told the newspaper Burney retains his position as a physical education teacher with MCPSS. She said the school will be hosting interviews to fill the head football coach spot, and Burney has been invited to re-interview.
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