The University of South Alabama (USA) football team had more to be thankful for Friday, Nov. 29 than a close win against Arkansas State.
For the Jaguars, the game was most likely the last one played at the city-owned Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which the team has called home since it started its football program. The school plans to open a new stadium on campus at the start of next season.
“I think primarily we need to be very gracious and thankful to the city and the people at Ladd for being our home,” USA Athletic Director Joel Erdmann, Ph.D., said. “That’s where we began.”
USA picked up its first win as a program overall and its first win as a Football Bowl Subdivision team at Ladd, Erdmann said. The team defeated its first ranked opponent — San Diego State — at Ladd, as well.
“There were a lot of good memories at that stadium,” he said. “The primary message is a message of gratefulness.”
The Jaguars’ departure does leave the stadium’s board without one of its top tenants, but Chairwoman Ann Davis said it also frees them up to host events in the fall they would not normally be able to host because of a slew of college football games.
Few plans have been confirmed at this time, but both Davis and stadium manager Joe Mishkin said there has been talk of placing a stage at one end of the stadium. Davis said the group behind promoting the Gulf Coast Challenge every year is interested in bringing performers to town for shows at Ladd. Mishkin seemed less enthusiastic about the idea.
“We’ve talked about a lot of different things, including a stage,” he said. “The issue is the group trying to take over [Hank Aaron Stadium] wants to build a stage, the Grounds has a stage and you can only have so many stages.”
Mishkin said it’s too early to speculate about what could fill the void left by the college football games. He said the group is “kicking around ideas” and would know more by the first of next year.
Although it’s losing USA football, Ladd will continue to host the home games of four Mobile high schools, Davis said. It will also host this season’s LendingTree Bowl and Reese’s Senior Bowl.
As for USA’s $76 million on-campus Hancock Whitney Stadium, Erdmann said it’s on time and on budget. If there are no significant delays and no weather issues, he said the new stadium would open on Sept. 12, 2020 as the Jaguars take on Grambling. The next home game, Erdmann said, would be against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Sept. 26.
“The first two games are pretty high-profile games,” he said. “Later in the fall we’ll host Troy.”
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