Since its inception in 1950, the Senior Bowl has been played away from Ladd-Peebles Stadium only once. Starting next season, the college all-star game will move for only the third time ever.
The Mobile Arts and Sports Association (MASA), the board that oversees the Senior Bowl, voted unanimously March 4 to move the game from the 70-year-old stadium in Maysville to the new Hancock Whitney Stadium on the campus of the University of South Alabama (USA).
In an official announcement posted to the Senior Bowl website, MASA Chairman and President Angus Cooper II confirmed the game had reached a multiyear deal with USA for use of the new, 25,000-seat stadium.
“For decades Ladd-Peebles Stadium served the Senior Bowl well and as we now write the next chapter in the game’s rich history at Hancock Whitney Stadium, we do so in a state-of-the-art facility that provides for the best fan experience for our community and the great NFL staff and players who make our game possible,” Cooper said in the statement.
The 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl will be played January 30, 2021 and televised nationally on NFL Network. Further updates regarding game tickets will be released in the near future at seniorbowl.com.
“We owe it to our community and players to host the nation’s premier college football all-star game in the region’s most advanced stadium and this transition to Hancock Whitney Stadium will best ensure our game resides in Mobile, Alabama, for decades to come,” Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy said in the statement.
“The new stadium at South Alabama will provide fans, sponsors and NFL personnel with great on-campus parking and tailgating, premier food and beverage options and a great overall experience that will be enhanced by unbeatable premium seating options and today’s newest stadium technologies,” he continued.
Ann Davis, chairwoman of the Ladd-Peebles Stadium board, wrote in a text message she wasn’t surprised by the decision, but wished the game luck going forward. She declined to comment further.
The move prompted questions from downtown business owners at a recent meeting with Mayor Sandy Stimpson. Stimpson said the move shouldn’t have a negative impact on restaurants, bars and hotels in the city’s central business district because many of the activities associated with the game, including a players’ parade and outdoor concert, will still take place downtown.
“The teams will still stay downtown and every night there will be an event downtown,” Stimpson said. “I don’t think it’ll impact what you have downtown.”
In a statement, USA Athletics Director Joel Erdmann said the school is excited to host the next Reese’s Senior Bowl.
“This historic game will provide an opportunity for people from all over the country to visit our beautiful campus and enjoy a great day of college football,” he said in the statement. “South Alabama football season ticket holders will have a window of opportunity to secure their seats and parking for the Senior Bowl. Details concerning that process will be released in the near future.”
Ladd will still host high school football games on Friday nights and, as of now, the LendingTree Bowl still plans to play there.
“We have not entered into any formal conversations,” LendingTree Bowl President Jerry Silverstein wrote in an email. “We respect the right of the Senior Bowl to do what they think is best for their game.”
Councilman Fred Richardson said the most important thing is that the game will stay in Mobile.
“I’m wishing them the best,” he said. “If the Senior Bowl believes it’s better for the game to move it, than it’s their decision.”
Meanwhile, improvements at Ladd are “in progress,” he said.
“I think they’re going to rev it up,” Richardson said.
Council President Levon Manzie also said he’s excited about Ladd’s future, despite the Senior Bowl leaving.
“While we’ve enjoyed having the game at Ladd, if it’s in the wisdom of the board of directors to move it than so be it,” he said. “I’m excited about the future I hear Ladd-Peebles Stadium will have as its transformation takes place.”
Like Richardson, Manzie felt it was most important that the game remained in Mobile.
“If they wanted to play at Faith Academy’s football stadium, I’d be all for it,” he said. “Let’s continue to grow it so it continues to be one of our shining stars.”
Sports columnist J. Mark Bryant contributed to this report.
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