A new public-private development is promising a $1 billion sports and entertainment venue for the city of Prichard, but while the structure of the public funding has been announced, information about private investors remains scarce.
Carletta Davis, CEO and registered agent of The Quilt Project, LLC, announced the plans Monday, July 1 at GulfQuest Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, alongside Prichard officials singing the development’s praises.
“We’re excited about what’s taking place in our region,” Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner said. “You’ve got to be excited. We can wrap all our citizens around what is being created out here on [Highway] 158.”
Renderings of the initial phase of the project weren’t available at Monday’s press conference, but organizers showed visitors and the press a flashy video presentation of future plans. The first phase is slated to include 20 baseball fields, as well as a 100-acre man-made lagoon with a 2-mile boardwalk representing Carribean islands every 200 feet, Davis said.
The buildout of the baseball fields in 2021 will coincide with a planned Amatuer Athletic Union (AAU) tournament. Davis said AAU has agreed to partner with The Quilt for other events in the future.
While the project is backed by “private equity investors,” the names of which Davis would not release, the project will be partially paid for through a bond made possible by an improvement zone and a memorandum of understanding with the city of Prichard. The agreement promises The Quilt a 50-percent rebate on all sales and lodging taxes it generates, according to Davis.
When asked by local reporters if the city could provide a copy of the MOU, Gardner said he didn’t have it on him. He also argued that similar agreements are made between other cities and entities, like Airbus, and nobody seems to question it.
“It’s not a question of if it happens, it’s going to happen,” Gardner said. “We need to focus on what’s positive about what’s getting ready to happen.”
In addition to the baseball fields, the project will include an indoor facility with space for track and field events, basketball and volleyball courts and a wave pool, Davis said. Under the current vision, the complex would also boast 25,000-to-30,000-seat soccer stadium that could be used for lacrosse and flag football competitions, Davis added.
Included in the video presentation was a “conference district.” Davis added that the development would have outparcels for sale, which could bring in future hotels and restaurants.
While additional phases of the project reach into Saraland, city officials were not present at the announcement and the city is not involved in the project. Davis said Mobile County, which is developing its own soccer complex, is aware of the project. As for possible competition with the county facility, Davis said she welcomes it.
“We’re excited that facility is being built because the more, the merrier,” she said.
The Quilt, which is named for the weaving of business and community groups coming together, will have fields that are open to the general public when not being used for organized sports, Davis said.
“That’s the unique thing about this project, it was both birthed and led by community people,” she said.
State Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile, and Prichard City Councilman Lorenzo Martin both praised Davis for her hard work in helping to bring the project to this stage in its development.
“These are exciting times,” Clarke said. “I can’t count the number of emails I’ve received from Carletta over the years on this project.”
Martin said he understands it has been tough at times for Davis to push this project through.
“Congratulations,” he said. “You stayed the course.”
The timetable for the complete buildout of the first phase is about three years, Davis said.
She promoted the project as being able to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Mobile County, which caught the attention of Visit Mobile CEO David Clarke. He said the agency would help in any way it could.
“Together we’re stronger,” he said. “We look forward to collaboration and helping you in any way possible.”
On average, Mobile County attracts 3.2 million visitors per year, David Clarke said.
The site in question, off of Highway 158, is just east of where former Mayor Mike Dow had previously proposed to build a race track. To prevent concerns over increased traffic at the location, Davis said they would bring in a traffic engineer to study the area.
Dow, who is now the GulfQuest executive director, praised tourism as the area’s economic driver of the future.
“We hit it out of the park with manufacturing,” he said, alluding to Airbus, Austal and others. “Tourism is now where we’re headed to anchor economic impact.”
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