MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Mobile City Council held a special meeting Monday afternoon discussing the future of the Civic Center.
The council met at 1:30, this was the first time the council had seen the two proposals. It was initially supposed to be an executive session, but the mayor and council opted to keep open the session so the public could see the plans. Council members and the mayor did go into executive session to discuss the economic development issues for about 10 minutes.
“The arena was going to be an expensive and difficult facility for us to keep full and competitive without major investment,” meeting presenters announced.
The Civic Center is 50 years old and in need of significant repair. The city says repairing the current facilities would cost $34 million, plus an additional $13 million over 10 years.
“The cost of renovating an old house, a lot of times, you can go build a new house cheaper than you can renovate the old house. And so, the jury’s still out on that,” said Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
One concept, made by Stirling, would keep an arena and potentially add in other facilities, like apartment buildings, or a grocery store. It would cost roughly $66 million.
These plans are just concepts and can be changed.
“It may not look anything like this by the time they get to development,” said council member John Williams.
The second proposal, made by Cordish, would be a more open-air concept. Restaurants and shopping would surround an entertainment district.
“I mean I think this is certainly fabulous, but this is also fabulous in really big cities, we’re a smaller city. This may be a little ambitious for us,” said council member Gina Gregory.
Cordish has not provided a cost of their plans yet, as it is still just a concept.
A main concern throughout is what would happen to Mardi Gras amid redevelopment.
“That’s why we’ve got to be very thoughtful with how do we address that Mardi Gras need with some type of arena, at what kind of cost. And we’re just not there yet,” said Mayor Stimpson.
There is a petition opposed to any redevelopment of the Civic Center site that does not include a restored arena or new facility that can accommodate Mardi Gras.
Several Mystic Society members are expected to go to Tuesday’s council meeting to discuss their concerns over the future of Mardi Gras balls.