Mobile’s University of South Alabama first opened its doors in 1963, but it didn’t play a varsity football game until 2009.
In the span of the nine years since, the urgency for South Alabama Jaguar football has gone from decades to days – a message conveyed by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson. On Wednesday, Stimpson issued an ultimatum to the Mobile City Council: Vote of South Alabama stadium funding or the deal was off.
“At that point, [the University of] South Alabama withdraws their offer to put $2.5 million into Ladd[-Peebles Stadium],” Stimpson said on Mobile’s FM Talk 106.5, reiterating a point he made a day earlier in a press conference. “And neither [USA President] Dr. [Tony] Waldrop nor Sandy Stimpson will sign the letter of intent if it comes up in the future.”
As one might expect, that tack didn’t sit well with members of the council, who saw Stimpson’s gesture as burning a bridge.
“The mayor burned a bridge,” Mobile Councilman John Williams said Thursday on WNSP 105.5 according to Alabama Media Group’s Mark Heim. “And he did so at the lead of the South Alabama leadership. I think everyone misstepped on this one. This was not a time to kick us in the pants. They simply threw fuel on the fire.”
It’s a curious situation. The proposal first made it to the city council’s agenda on June 22 according to Stimpson. That’s about a two-month window for elected members of the council to consider not just funding for a stadium but to make a decision that could change the entire landscape of the city of Mobile.
If Ladd-Peebles Stadium ceases to be the primary venue for big events in Mobile, which it appears that will be the case whether the city gives to the University of South Alabama, then there is less of a focus on Mobile east of Interstate 65.
Perhaps the biggest question is if the University of South Alabama will be a responsible arbiter of the venue. If it is 2015 and we’re talking about Donald Trump coming to Alabama, does the University of South Alabama allow Trump to have a rally there?
Given how left-of-center academia is and the possibility of a revolt from the faculty if the institution granted permission (the University of South Alabama is no exception to the diehard liberal politics residing on college campuses), why should the public not be wary of this deal?
If Mobile reduces Ladd-Peebles Stadium to a facility geared for just high school football games, suddenly the City of Mobile has ceded a monopoly on big venues to the University of South Alabama. In addition to that, the taxpayers are subsidizing this monopoly.
This isn’t just about South Alabama football. To say opposition to this proposal means you are against the success of USA’s football program is a demagogic talking point.
The rush to do this is suspicious. If it were supposed to be easy to get $10 million from a municipal government, there would be some other questions about the fiscal responsibility of Mobile’s city government.
There are also questions about the surrounding infrastructure and if the roads can handle traffic for these events. The City of Mobile hasn’t exactly pulled it off with Ladd-Peebles. According to Stimpson, a request to widen nearby Cody Road, one of the major thoroughfares near the proposed site of the USA stadium, had not been requested to be on the list of the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long-range plan for significant infrastructure improvements until “four or five months ago.”
These obstacles can be overcome, but it takes some foresight. Asking these questions and others like it warrant more time if the council so desires it.
Threats from Mayor Stimpson and the University of South Alabama only stand to jeopardize cooperation between city government and the University of South Alabama on this project and future projects as well.
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, and is the editor of Breitbart TV.